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45 Diabetes-Friendly Lunch Ideas

Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN hand picked these diabetes-friendly lunch ideas that have less than 500 calories and 45 gram of carbs, plus at least 25 grams of protein.

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Curried Chicken Skillet Exps Sddj18 205196 D08 09 3b 13

Curried Chicken Skillet

Nutrition Facts
2 cups: 367 calories, 11g fat (2g saturated fat), 62mg cholesterol, 450mg sodium, 39g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 6g fiber), 29g protein. Diabetic exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2-1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

This chicken lunch is amped up with curry, which is the perfect blend of spices for an anti-inflammatory boost.

Learn more about the best foods for diabetics.

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Pork Tacos With Mango Salsa Exps Sddj17 198169 B08 11 3b Basedon 2

Pressure-Cooker Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa

Nutrition Facts
2 tacos: 284 calories, 6g fat (2g saturated fat), 64mg cholesterol, 678mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 5g fiber), 26g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch.

This is a tasty high-protein lunch with a vitamin C kick!

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Chicken with Peach-Avocado Salsa

Nutrition Facts
1 chicken breast half with 1/2 cup salsa: 265 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 94mg cholesterol, 536mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 3g fiber), 36g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 1 fat, 1/2 starch.

Try this lean protein lunch with a natural sweetness and healthy fat.

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Pressure Cooker Italian Shrimp N Pasta Exps207929 Hsc143552d08 01 3b 6

Pressure-Cooker Italian Shrimp 'n' Pasta

Nutrition Facts
1-1/2 cups: 418 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated fat), 165mg cholesterol, 611mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate (10g sugars, 4g fiber), 36g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2-1/2 starch, 1 fat.

Try this simple lunch to get a good amount of fiber and protein.

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Tuna Teriyaki Kabobs

Nutrition Facts
2 kabobs: 389 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated fat), 66mg cholesterol, 444mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 4g fiber), 45g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 2 fat.

You’ve got to love healthy omega-3 fats in this simple and tasty tuna lunch.

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Chicken & Spanish Cauliflower "Rice"

Nutrition Facts
1-1/2 cups: 227 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated fat), 63mg cholesterol, 492mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 5g fiber), 28g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 starch, 1/2 fat.

This low-carb lunch maxes out out on good-for-you ingredients with riced cauliflower.

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Grilled Chicken Chopped Salad

Nutrition Facts
3 cups: 239 calories, 5g fat (0 saturated fat), 56mg cholesterol, 276mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 5g fiber), 32g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

Simple salads make a great lunch with protein and veggies balanced in a bowl.

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Exps177472 Sd153321b01 29 7b 6

Fish Tacos with Berry Salsa

Nutrition Facts
2 tacos: 329 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated fat), 98mg cholesterol, 599mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 6g fiber), 38g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2 starch.

Bursting with healthy fats and antioxidant goodness, these tacos will energize your afternoon.

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Exps176932 Sd163617b01 29 1b 5

Chicken with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

Nutrition Facts
1 chicken breast half with 1 cup bean mixture: 294 calories, 10g fat (3g saturated fat), 102mg cholesterol, 681mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 4g fiber), 37g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 1 vegetable, 1 fat.

Try this lean protein lunch for some umami-rich, vitamin C goodness.

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Exps176237 Hck163687b07 08 3b 8

Grilled Pork Noodle Salad

Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 315 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 64mg cholesterol, 708mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 3g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 vegetable.

Pork tenderloin is a lean protein that goes well with noodles and vegetables in this lazy day lunch.

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Naked Fish Tacos Exps Sdas17 174646 D04 12 3b 2

Naked Fish Tacos

Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 293 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated fat), 83mg cholesterol, 663mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate (1g sugars, 3g fiber), 33g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 3 fat, 1 vegetable.

There’s nothing easier than these low-carb tacos made with omega-3 rich fish and vegetables, sans the taco shell.

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Simple Sesame Chicken With Couscous Exps153236 Sd143203c10 25 1bc Rms 9

Simple Sesame Chicken with Couscous

Nutrition Facts
1 cup couscous with 1/2 cup chicken mixture (calculated without peanuts): 320 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated fat), 54mg cholesterol, 442mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 5g fiber), 26g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 fat.

This simple lunch is loaded with lean protein and fiber to keep your appetite and blood sugar stable throughout the afternoon.

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Mediterranean Grilled Chicken & Greens

Nutrition Facts
1 breast half with 2-1/2 cups salad: 282 calories, 11g fat (3g saturated fat), 86mg cholesterol, 717mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 3g fiber), 33g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 fat.

Toss greens with lean protein in this lunchtime dish for the perfect balance to stabilize blood sugar throughout the day.

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Sesame Turkey Stir Fry Exps150560 Sd143203c10 25 5bc Rms 2

Sesame Turkey Stir-Fry

Nutrition Facts
3/4 cup stir-fry with 1/2 cup rice: 269 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 60mg cholesterol, 349mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 3g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1/2 fat.

Toss veggies into a wok with turkey breast and you’ve got a simple and nourishing lunch.

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Fish Tacos with Guacamole

Nutrition Facts
2 tacos: 308 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated fat), 56mg cholesterol, 299mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 6g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 2 fat.

This dish has healthy fats from fish and guac, which makes it a satisfying meal.

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Grilled Steak Salad With Tomatoes Avocado Exps147474 Th143192b02 06 2bc Rms

Grilled Steak Salad with Tomatoes & Avocado

Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 328 calories, 11g fat (3g saturated fat), 46mg cholesterol, 710mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 8g fiber), 31g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1-1/2 fat.

This lean red meat salad loaded with veggies gives you a good dose of iron, protein and fiber.

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Summer Garden Fish Tacos

Nutrition Facts
2 tacos: 278 calories, 10g fat (2g saturated fat), 55mg cholesterol, 214mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 5g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat.

Toss veggies and fish into a taco shell for a quick and nourishing on-the-go lunch.

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Tuna With Tuscan White Bean Salad Exps146914 Sd2401786b02 10 1bc Rms 5

Tuna with Tuscan White Bean Salad

Nutrition Facts
1 tuna steak with 1 cup salad: 409 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated fat), 77mg cholesterol, 517mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 6g fiber), 45g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 3 fat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable.

You can’t go wrong with this high fiber and healthy fat lunch to keep your blood sugar stable as you go about your day.

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Chicken & Goat Cheese Skillet

Nutrition Facts
1-1/2 cups chicken mixture: 251 calories, 11g fat (3g saturated fat), 74mg cholesterol, 447mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 3g fiber), 29g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat, 2 fat, 1 vegetable.

Whip up this simple lunch and pack it in a container for a meal that’s full of savory lean protein and vitamin C.

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Shrimp Orzo with Feta

Nutrition Facts
1 cup: 406 calories, 12g fat (3g saturated fat), 180mg cholesterol, 307mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 9g fiber), 33g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 fat.

This make a great next-day lunch, with a high-protein kick and high fiber to keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism humming along.

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Savory Braised Chicken with Vegetables

Nutrition Facts
1 chicken breast half with 1 cup vegetable mixture (calculated without baguette): 247 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat), 63mg cholesterol, 703mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 3g fiber), 28g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 fat, 1/2 starch.

You gotta love the ease of this chicken—plus you get protein and fiber to keep your appetite satisfied all afternoon.

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Garlic Tilapia with Spicy Kale

Nutrition Facts
1 fillet with 1 cup kale mixture: 359 calories, 13g fat (2g saturated fat), 83mg cholesterol, 645mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 6g fiber), 39g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2 fat, 1-1/2 starch.

This zippy kale dish is loaded with antioxidants and a good dose of fiber to nourish your brain and body.

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Exps148581 Sd153208b08 08 3b 5

Chicken Tacos with Avocado Salsa

Nutrition Facts
2 tacos: 354 calories, 15g fat (3g saturated fat), 63mg cholesterol, 474mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 6g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 fat.

Just add avocado to this salsa and you’ve got a lunch that’s loaded with potassium and healthy fat to keep your blood sugar stable for hours.

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Healthy Tuscan Chicken

Nutrition Facts
1 chicken breast half with 1 cup vegetable mixture: 304 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated fat), 100mg cholesterol, 389mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 3g fiber), 38g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 fat.

Color this energizing protein dish well with a mix of veggies to keep your brain and body happy all afternoon.

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Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 342 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated fat), 56mg cholesterol, 767mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 7g fiber), 35g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1-1/2 fat.

Spicy Turkey Tenderloin Exps Cf2bz19 30402 C12 19 2b 2

Spicy Turkey Tenderloin

Here's a full-flavored dish that will really wake up your taste buds.
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Exps79148 Sd153321d01 30 5b 3

Artichoke Ratatouille Chicken

Nutrition Facts
1-2/3 cups: 252 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 468mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 4g fiber), 28g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 starch, 1 fat.

Pack this chicken and veggie dish in a container for a nourishing lunchtime fix.

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Nutrition Facts
3 lettuce wraps: 259 calories, 12g fat (3g saturated fat), 78mg cholesterol, 503mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 3g fiber), 26g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 vegetable, 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

This recipe is as tasty as the lettuce wraps found in national restaurants, but it's healthier! — Linda Rowley, Richardson, Texas
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Nutrition Facts
2 cups: 340 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated fat), 138mg cholesterol, 716mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 7g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 3 lean meat, 1 vegetable, 1 fat.

Grilled Jerk Shrimp Orzo Salad Exps Cf2bz20 48862 B12 12 3b 4

Grilled Jerk Shrimp Orzo Salad

The heat, seasonings and appearance of this colorful main-dish salad are perfect for summer—or any time of year that you want to summon memories of sunshine. —Eileen Budnyk, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
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Nutrition Facts
2 cups salad with 3 ounces cooked tuna: 294 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated fat), 51mg cholesterol, 306mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 3g fiber), 32g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat, 2 fat, 1 vegetable, 1/2 starch.

Dee's Grilled Tuna with Greens

Slices of moist, tender tuna top this colorful combination of fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, corn and edamame (green soy beans). The tangy vinaigrette sparks the salad’s flavors. —Delawrence Reed, Durham, North Carolina
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Nutrition Facts
1 fillet with 1-1/4 cups vegetables: 329 calories, 15g fat (3g saturated fat), 67mg cholesterol, 283mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 4g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1-1/2 fat.

Lemon Lime Salmon With Veggie Saute Exps47386 Th2237243a10 06 1bc Rms 8

Lemon-Lime Salmon with Veggie Saute

A fresh squeeze of lemon juice brightens so many flavors—acid is one of the most important influencers in how a dish tastes. If one acid is good, two is stronger: Add lemon and lime juice when you bake salmon, cooking the supporting cast of vegetables separately until crisp-tender. —Brian Hill, West Hollywood, California
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Nutrition Facts
3 cups: 239 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated fat), 172mg cholesterol, 181mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 6g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1-1/2 fat, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fruit.

Refreshing Shrimp Salad

Avocado, strawberries and shrimp are wonderful together in this filling yet light salad. Balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette dressings go well with the salad, as do Asian-inspired dressings. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 229 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 63mg cholesterol, 274mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 3g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable.

Savory Pork Salad Exps Cf2bz19 35244 E12 13 2b 4

Savory Pork Salad

Make an easy-going meal in a bowl by tossing together healthful veggies, pork tenderloin, fresh herbs and spices with a warm soy dressing. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Nutrition Facts
1 wrap: 372 calories, 14g fat (3g saturated fat), 65mg cholesterol, 607mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 6g fiber), 29g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 fat.

Cobb Salad Wraps

A homemade dressing lightens up these refreshing tortilla wraps. The avocado, bacon, blue cheese and tomato deliver the flavors I enjoy most while keeping me on my healthy eating plan. -Lynne Van Wagenen of Salt Lake City, Utah
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Nutrition Facts
1-1/4 cups: 320 calories, 7g fat (2g saturated fat), 74mg cholesterol, 364mg sodium, 39g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 7g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 fruit, 1 vegetable.

Pork Grapefruit Stir-Fry

For a refreshing change of pace, try this easy sweet-and-sour stir-fry. — Edie DeSpain, Logan, Utah.
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Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 233 calories, 6g fat (2g saturated fat), 62mg cholesterol, 458mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 3g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 starch.

Exps11247 C153811b09 09 6b 4

Chicken Brunch Bake

Chunks of tender chicken add heartiness to this appealing brunch casserole. This was my son's favorite hot lunch meal from high school. —DeLee Jochum, Dubuque, Iowa
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Nutrition Facts
1 fillet with 3/4 cup sauce: 271 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat), 65mg cholesterol, 746mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 4g fiber), 29g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1-1/2 fat.

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Cod with Hearty Tomato Sauce

My father made up this sweet, flavorful recipe for my mother when he took over the cooking. We serve it with whole wheat pasta or brown rice. —Ann Marie Eberhart, Gig Harbor, Washington
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Nutrition Facts
1 cup shrimp mixture with 3/4 cup quinoa: 330 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated fat), 138mg cholesterol, 451mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate (6g sugars, 5g fiber), 26g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat.

Spicy Coconut Shrimp with Quinoa

Help yourself to a plate full—generous servings are still lower in calories and big on protein. —Keri Whitney, Castro Valley, California
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Nutrition Facts
1-3/4 cups: 332 calories, 14g fat (3g saturated fat), 75mg cholesterol, 500mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 6g fiber), 29g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 medium-fat meat, 2 vegetable, 1 starch, 1 fat.

Zippy Turkey Zoodles

Eating healthy doesn't mean sacrificing flavor—and these spiced-up zoodles prove it. If you don't have a spiralizer, simply slice the zucchini julienne-style. —Elizabeth Bramkamp, Gig Harbor, Washington
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Nutrition Facts
1 gyro: 248 calories, 4g fat (2g saturated fat), 66mg cholesterol, 251mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 3g fiber), 30g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

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Hearty Chicken Gyros

I love reinventing classic recipes to fit our taste and healthy lifestyle. You can add Greek olives, omit the onion, or even use cubed pork tenderloin for a new taste. —Kayla Douthitt, Elizabethtown, Kentucky
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Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 270 calories, 2g fat (1g saturated fat), 83mg cholesterol, 658mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 7g fiber), 38g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable.

Tuscan Fish Packets Exps Sdas18 185515 D03 30  5b 4

Tuscan Fish Packets

My husband does a lot of fishing, so I'm always looking for different ways to serve his catches. A professional chef was kind enough to share this recipe with me, and I played around with some different veggie combinations until I found the one my family liked best. —Kathy Morrow, Hubbard, Ohio
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Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 231 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated fat), 63mg cholesterol, 818mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 3g fiber), 28g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable.

Slow Cooked Italian Chicken Exps Qebz20 21061 E01 30 3b 7

Slow-Cooked Italian Chicken

With its nicely seasoned tomato sauce, this enticing chicken entree is good for lunch or dinner. “My father loved it when I made this,” writes Deanna D’Auria of Banning, California.
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Nutrition Facts
1 chicken breast half with 2/3 cup puree: 328 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated fat), 94mg cholesterol, 348mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate (10g sugars, 5g fiber), 37g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 2 starch, 1/2 fat.

Chicken with Celery Root Puree

Celeriac, or celery root, is a root veggie that combines well with other seasonal ingredients and adds nice texture and flavor to this puree. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Nutrition Facts
1 cup: 216 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated fat), 63mg cholesterol, 517mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate (1g sugars, 4g fiber), 28g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1 starch

Tuscan Chicken And Beans Exps94658 Thhc2377564c07 03 3bc Rms 2

Tuscan Chicken and Beans

Rosemary and beans make a nice rustic Italian meal in this flavorful dish. —Marie Rizzio, Interlochen, Michigan
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Nutrition Facts
2 tacos: 284 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated fat), 124mg cholesterol, 278mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 4g fiber), 35g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 5 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

The Ultimate Fish Tacos Exps Tham17 84687 D11 16 6b 7

The Ultimate Fish Tacos

This recipe is my favorite meal to prepare. Adding my own personal touch to the marinade makes my fish tacos pop with flavor. I warm corn tortillas on the grill and add salsa, cilantro, purple cabbage and fresh squeezed lime. —Yvonne Molina, Moreno Valley, California
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Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 323 calories, 13g fat (3g saturated fat), 77mg cholesterol, 612mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 4g fiber), 25g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 starch, 1 fat.

Indian Baked Chicken

Cumin and turmeric give this hearty entree just the right amount of Indian flavor while maintaining appeal for the picky eaters in the bunch. —Stephanie Kurin, Muncie, Indiana

Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN
A registered dietitian nutritionist, book author and speaker, Vicki has a passion for helping others embrace simple lifestyle habits that lead to health and happiness. When she is not in the kitchen whipping up tasty, nourishing meals for her family: two children, a husband and pet pug named Stella. Vicki enjoys a soothing face mask, Pilates and the occasional trip to their local sushi hotspot.

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