The Best Foods to Grill for People with Diabetes

Updated: Jan. 11, 2021

Everyone in the family will love these diabetic-friendly foods hot off the grill.

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Skinless Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is low in calories, but loaded with nutrition like protein, B vitamins and iron. It absorbs marinades easily, so you can marinate for only an hour or two (like this Grilled Basil Chicken) and still add flavor (perfect for last-minute dinner plans). Grill extra chicken to use on lettuce salads or chicken salad sandwiches for an easy lunch or quick dinner. For more inspiration, check out these diabetic-friendly chicken recipes.

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Flank Steak

It only takes a few minutes to grill flank steak, making it a great choice for weeknight meals. It’s a lean cut of beef that’s rich in iron. Pair it with a food that’s a good source of vitamin C, like citrus, strawberries or bell peppers, to boost iron absorption. Watch out for sugary marinades that add empty calories. Instead, look for marinades with acidic ingredients to help tenderize the meat.

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Sometimes fish dinners can leave you feeling hungry, but that’s not the case with salmon. It’s rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which means you’ll feel full longer. Whether you prefer to grill your salmon in a foil packet or directly on the grill (shown above), cook just until it begins to flake easily with a fork to ensure it won’t be overcooked.

Looking for a side dish for this recipe? You’re sure to find a winner in this collection of smart sides for people with diabetes.

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Keep your kitchen cool in the summer by grilling a vegetable side along with your main dish. Grilling adds a subtle smoky flavor to summer favorites like beautiful planks of fresh zucchini. Delicate veggies take just a few minutes directly on the grill, while firmer veggies like potatoes benefit from being grilled in a foil packet. The packet creates steam that cooks the potatoes faster and more evenly.

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Pork Tenderloin

Meats with “loin” in the name are smart choices for people with diabetes because they are lean. Pork tenderloin, pork loin chops and beef sirloin steak are a few examples. It’s common for pork tenderloin to be marinated in or brushed with a sweet sauce, so keep your eyes out for hidden sugar like honey, jam and molasses. Recipes with just a few simple ingredients like pork with garlic paste and fresh herbs are usually safe bets.

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Skinless Chicken Thighs

For a long time, dark meat chicken got a bad rap for being high in fat. It’s true that dark meat chicken and turkey have more fat than breast meat, but they are still lean without the skin. A simple balsamic vinegar marinade will help tenderize the chicken and, since it has more fat than breast meat, it will stay juicy and flavorful on the grill.

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The healthiest desserts for people with diabetes get most of their sweetness from fruit. Instead of empty calories from added sugar, natural sugar comes with vitamins and fiber that our bodies need to stay healthy. Bonus: Grilling adds flavor and brings out the sweetness of the fruit. Try grilled melon kabobs (show above) or sliced grilled stone fruits for a refreshing after-dinner treat.

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Top Sirloin Steak

There are actually more than 20 lean cuts of beef, which creates a lot of healthy choices for people with diabetes. Sirloin steak is one of them at just 8 grams of fat per serving (3 ounces cooked). Whether you serve the steak with a side of potatoes or as part of a hearty salad, a meal with steak is sure to satisfy.

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Pork Loin Chops

Both bone-in and boneless pork loin chops are a lean source of protein. They stand up to marinating overnight, so they’re great options for making ahead and grilling on busy evenings. Try these Greek pork chops with your favorite tomato salad or grilled asparagus.

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Dinner on the grill doesn’t get faster than shrimp. In just a few minutes in a grill basket or on skewers (so they don’t fall through the grill grates), dinner will be served. They are low in fat and super versatile. Try grilled cilantro shrimp over a salad, tossed with pasta or on a bed of rice.