A List of Protein-Rich Foods for a Diabetic

A healthy, balanced diabetes diet includes protein. Choose healthy protein foods low in saturated fat and calories to help control your weight and reduce your risk for heart disease. You can include a variety of protein-rich foods in a nutritious diabetes meal plan, including protein from both animals and plants.

Fish and Meat

raw healthy red lentils in bowl
A bowl of dried red lentils on a table. (Image: OlgaMiltsova/iStock/Getty Images)

Fish provides an excellent source of lean protein on a diabetes diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends you have between 6 ounces and 9 ounces of fish per week. Choose fish that contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout or herring. To keep your fish diabetes-friendly, bake or grill it -- avoid breading and frying. In terms of poultry, choose skinless chicken or turkey. If you like beef, select lean cuts, such as top sirloin steak, bottom round roast or steak, top round roast or steak, sirloin tip side steak and eye of round roast or steak.

Dairy

Calcium-rich dairy products provide a good source of protein. To reduce calories and saturated fat, choose reduced-fat milk and plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt. Include two servings of milk or dairy in your daily diabetes meal plan. A single serving of milk -- 1 cup -- or a single serving of yogurt -- three-quarters cup -- each contains about 8 grams of protein. Low-fat cheese makes another good source of protein on a diabetes diet.

Plant Protein

Beans provide one of the best sources of plant-based protein on a diabetes diet. A one-half cup of beans contains just as much protein as 1 ounce of meat but without the unhealthy saturated fat. Legumes, such as lentils, black-eyed peas, split peas and chickpeas, as well as foods made from chickpeas, such as hummus and falafel, provide healthy sources of lean protein. Other plant sources of healthy protein on a diabetes diet include unsweetened and unsalted nuts and nut spreads and soy-based products, including tofu, soy milk, edamame, soy nuts, tempeh and meat-substitutes, like soy chicken.

Considerations

Meat protein does not contain carbohydrates and will not elevate your blood sugar levels. But many sources of protein contain carbohydrate as well as protein, so keep this in mind when planning your meals. Examples of protein that also contain carbohydrate include milk and milk products, beans and legumes and nuts. Consume about 45 grams to 60 grams of total carbohydrate per meal. You will find about 15 grams of carbohydrate in each of these protein sources: one-half cup of beans, two-thirds cup of plain nonfat yogurt or one-half cup of lentils. Three ounces of each of these protein foods also contain carbohydrates: 1 percent cottage cheese contains 2.3 grams, boiled green soybeans provide 10 grams and boiled black beans have 20 grams of carbohydrates.

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