We often find ourselves wondering what to eat in the middle of the day. Life might throw us at the other end of the town, office, park, or traveling. But to maintain steady blood sugar levels, every person with diabetes needs to figure things out a little bit differently. It would be great to always have something to eat on hand during a busy day to make life feel easier. And we are here for it! Find out what are the easiest low-carb packed lunches for people with diabetes to throw in the bag and eat on the go.
Let’s start with the basics
Knowing what is recommended to eat and what is not has laid the foundation for how you build your meals. The general rule of thumb is that every serving has to have the least amount of carbohydrates that trigger your blood sugar levels. This is why low-carb dishes are generally recommended for people with diabetes.
Something else you need to consider is the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) of the foods you consume. What does this mean? GI shows the speed at which sugar enters the bloodstream whereas GL indicates how much food will raise a person‘s blood glucose levels after consuming it which gives you a more real-life picture of a food’s impact on your blood glucose levels. Download your free copy of the “Food factsheet for people with diabetes” whitepaper for more useful and practical information about your eating habits.
Prerequisites and prep work
Having cleared out the basics, it’s time to grab a pen and paper and make a meal plan for the week. Because planning is the work half done. This process also helps limit your food waste (read more about 10 Ways to Reduce your FoodPrint). Have in mind your food allergies and personal preferences towards animal products and also think about your schedule: when you have time to cook your lunches. You might consider some prep work time for precooking, pre-shredding, and pre-blanching some of the food you will cook.
The last thing we want to point out as important in this step is knowing how to read food labels. Some supermarket foods are marked as suitable for people with diabetes but in general, be cautious when going shopping. Carefully read the labels of packaged and canned foods to weigh the number of nutrients in every serving size.
What’s for lunch?
Getting to the core of it and asking the hard questions:
- “What’s for lunch?”
- “How do I balance my meals today?”
- “May I treat myself to a dessert?”
- “Will I consume enough calories to get me through this busy day?”
and most important of them all:
- “What foods won’t trigger my blood sugar levels?”
- “How to maintain steady blood glucose levels?”
- “How many doses of insulin do I need to balance my lunch?”
Lunchtime might be the most difficult to plan since it is in the middle of the day when life gets crazy sometimes. Around this time of the day our brain is occupied with so much that the thought of deciding what‘s for lunch today is usually swept under the rug until it is time to make a decision. One way to solve the problem is if you have taken the time to prepare yourself a lunch and only need to microwave it. Easy, right?
With this article, we want to give you ideas on some yummy diabetes-friendly lunches you can pack and take with you on the go. So here we are:
1. Salads – because our body needs the vitamins and minerals from all the veggies. But salads could be so much more versatile than just veggies. Even if you are a vegan, you can throw in some protein-rich beans, lentils, or quinoa, and just like that, you will have the needed calories to take you through the day.
Vegetarians could experiment with eggs and dairy products such as yogurt-based dressing or different cheeses (parmesan, cheddar, cottage, feta cheese, etc.). Eggs have a Glycemic Index of zero (meaning that they don’t affect your blood sugar levels) and so many additional benefits: protein, healthy fats, vitamins A, D, E, and K, antioxidants (lutein), iron, copper, and zinc.
Salads could be a perfect lunchtime meal when you add meat or fish to it. But a perfect dressing to round up the flavors of the salad ingredients might be the key to having a cohesive meal. Experiment with different ingredients or blend some diabetes-friendly foods for a delicious dressing. Just remember to put it in a different container because nobody likes a soggy salad.
2. One-pot meals – hearth warming, nutritious and so easy to throw together. Sometimes you want to make things easy on yourself and not think about side dishes, dressings, or some other additives to a meal. Soups and stews are the perfect filling lunches you can make. Try French lentil soup with veggies, butternut squash & turkey soup, roasted cauliflower & red pepper soup, meaty soups with meatballs, or some other creamy and delicious soups if they are your preferred option.
Throw some ingredients in your instant pot or crock pot and make yourself a hardy stew. Luckily, most of the meats are diabetes-friendly but avoid those high in saturated or trans fats to reduce the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Noodles can also be a one-pot meal but people with diabetes need to carefully choose their main ingredient since the typical pasta rich in carbohydrates is not recommended because it triggers blood sugar levels. Alternative options to reduce carb intake are whole wheat pasta, spaghetti squash, veggie spirals/ribbons from zucchini, yellow summer squash, carrots, peppers, cabbage, and more.
3. Stuffed veggies – healthy and delicious. Who doesn’t like a well-balanced and easy-to-make lunch? Choose a veggie and stuff it with your favorite ingredients. Just take into consideration that rice has a lot of starchy content in it and this is why people with diabetes need to be cautious about rice. Other than that, some veggie options that you can easily stuff are bell peppers, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, avocados, etc.
4. Things on bread (sandwich, wrap & toast) – because our soul craves them. Put some yummy things on a slice of bread and you are good to go. The so-called fast foods are loved by everyone but people with diabetes need to be extra careful with them. It is best to control the ingredients that go into a sandwich, so they will be diabetes-friendly and won’t cause blood glucose levels out of range. Before all, choose whole grain bread or 100 percent whole wheat bread for any of the sandwiches, wraps, or toasts you are planning to make. Other than that, some great spreads to make your sandwich not feel dry are hummus, avocado, yogurt and garlic, mayo, cottage cheese or some plain butter also works wonders.
5. Sweet things to enjoy – because who doesn’t like them? These are not the dishes that will give you the nutrients you need for lunch but are a great source of energy. Sweets usually put us in a good mood since they contain sugars that trigger dopamine (the hormone of happiness) which helps with concentration and motivation. But sugars are well-known to be blood glucose triggers and therefore people with diabetes need to avoid them.
The good news is that there are some guilt-free sweets to enjoy. Such are all kinds of fruits: apples, cherries, grapefruits, apricots, pears, bananas, oranges, mangos, grapes, blueberries, plumps, and many more. However, there are some fruits with high GI that should be avoided: kiwifruit, papaya, coconut, persimmon, raisin, pineapple, watermelon, pomelo, jackfruit, etc. It is super easy to grab fresh fruit and add it to your lunch box for extra vitamins and minerals – just be mindful when choosing one, so it won’t affect your blood sugar levels.
Having homecooked meals for lunch might be a blessing during a hectic week. Counting calories and thinking of your blood glucose levels on the other hand is more daunting and tiring. Save all your favorite meals and dishes in the Diabetes:M app, and the Bolus Advisor will help you with insulin doses. Keep a detailed log of your blood sugar levels to track your progress. Download Diabetes:M from here.