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How to Build a Balanced Lunch

Need help planning a nutritious midday meal? Lunch is easy with these simple tips on how to put together a balanced on-the-go meal with easy, satisfying, and diabetes-friendly ingredients. Plus, you'll love our six tasty lunch suggestions.

The Importance of Lunch for People with Diabetes

Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger, and weight. Lunch is a chance to fill up on healthful fuel for the rest of the day and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including satisfying fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.

Even when you're in a time crunch, you can make and take these quick and healthful lunches. If you have more calories and carbohydrate grams to spend, simply add a serving of fruit and/or low-fat dairy to the meals below. Need ideas? This slide show will give you the basics on how to put together a simple lunch in a snap, along with meal ideas that are already done for you. Each one even includes the nutrition information to make meal planning easier.

Build a Balanced Lunch

Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully, and spend less, too! With a simple formula and these dietitian-recommended foods, packing a healthful lunch can be as easy as 1 + 2 + 3.

When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula:

whole grain + dairy/protein + vegetables = healthy lunch

Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You'll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.

The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrate, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch.

Vegetables add color, flavor, and antioxidants to your meal.

Each of the following lunches includes 26-47 grams of carbohydrate and is a good source of fiber and protein. And they're all easily portable if you're on the go.

Tip: If you have more calories and carbohydrate grams to spend, simply add a serving of fruit and/or low-fat dairy to the suggested meals.

Healthy Lunch #1: Turkey-and-Swiss Sandwich

Whole Grain:
--2 slices Pepperidge Farm Very Thin 100% Whole Wheat Bread
--2 teaspoons Kraft Reduced-Fat Chipotle Mayonnaise
(Spread mayonnaise on bread before adding turkey and cheese.)

Dairy/Protein:
--1.5 ounces reduced-sodium deli turkey breast
--1 thin slice (0.75 ounce) reduced-fat Swiss cheese

Veggies:
--1/2 cup Just Veggies freeze-dried vegetables
--1/2 cup fresh spinach
--1/2 cup grated carrot

Nutrition Information:

333 cal., 9 g total fat (2.5 g sat. fat), 37 mg chol., 525 mg sodium, 43 g carb. (6 g fiber, 14 g sugars), 24 g pro.

Healthy Lunch #2: Mixed Salad with Pretzel Sticks

Whole Grain:
--9 Snyder's of Hanover 8 Grains & Seeds Pretzel Sticks

Dairy/Protein:
--2/3 cup Cascadian Farm Organic Shelled Edamame, thawed
--2 tablespoons Athenos reduced-fat feta cheese

Veggies:
--3 cups romaine lettuce
--2 Melissa's Peeled & Steamed Ready-to-Eat Baby Beets
--2 tablespoons Bolthouse Farms Tropical Mango Vinaigrette

Nutrition Information:

361 cal., 11 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 5 mg chol., 475 mg sodium, 47 g carb. (10 g fiber, 17 g sugars), 20 g pro.

Tip: Have more carbs to spend? Fresh mango is tasty on this salad, too.

Healthy Lunch #3: Ham & Cheese Sandwich Wrap

Whole Grain:
--Smart & Delicious High-Fiber, Low-Carb Whole Wheat Tortilla
--1 tablespoon Koops' Honey Mustard
(Spread mustard on tortilla before adding ham, cheese, diced tomato, and sprouts.)

Dairy/Protein:
--1 slice lower-sodium ham lunch meat
--3 tablespoons reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Veggies:
--1/2 cup diced tomato
--1 cup Brocco Sprouts
--1 cup raw sugar snap peas

Nutrition Information:

234 cal., 7 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 30 mg chol., 559 mg sodium, 28 g carb. (11 g fiber, 7 g sugars), 20 g pro.

Healthy Lunch #4: Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

Whole Grain:
--1-1/4 cups cooked Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Veggie Wagon Wheels (1.6 ounces dry)

Dairy/Protein:
--2 ounces canned Hormel No-Salt-Added Chicken Breast, drained
--1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese

Veggies:
--1/3 cup Prego Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce
--1 cup blanched broccoli florets
(Microwave pasta, chicken, sauce, and broccoli. Add Parmesan as a garnish.)

Nutrition Information:

305 cal., 4.5 g total fat (1.5 g sat. fat), 44 mg chol., 425 mg sodium, 45 g carb. (9 g fiber, 9 g sugars), 21 g pro.

Tip: Keep blanched broccoli in your refrigerator to add to dishes or eat as a snack.

Healthy Lunch #5: Tuna Salad & Crackers

Whole Grain:
--6 Barbara's Wheatines Crackers, Original flavor

Dairy/Protein:
--2.6-ounce pouch StarKist Low-Sodium Chunk Light Tuna
--1 tablespoon Kraft Reduced-Fat Olive Oil Mayonnaise
(Mix tuna and mayonnaise, and spread on crackers.)

Veggies:
--1/2 cup red pepper strips
--1/2 cup cucumber slices
--single-serve Wild Garden Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus Dip

Nutrition Information:

297 cal., 9 g total fat (0 g sat. fat), 35 mg chol., 467 mg sodium, 26 g carb. (4 g fiber, 5 g sugars), 27 g pro.

Healthy Lunch #6: Vegetable Soup & Cheese Stick

Whole Grain:
--2 Doctor Kracker Pumpkin Seed Cheddar Flatbreads

Dairy/Protein:
--1 Sargento Reduced-Fat Colby Jack Cheese Stick

Veggies:
--1 cup Health Valley Organic No-Salt-Added Vegetable Soup

Nutrition Information:

360 cal., 15 g total fat (5.5 g sat. fat), 15 mg chol., 565 mg sodium, 40 g carb. (12 g fiber, 4 g sugars), 18 g pro.

More Easy-to-Make Lunch Ideas

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