Reinventing Lunch for Diabetics

Many of us plan our dinners, but lunch is all too often an afterthought. Like breakfast, lunch is a pretty simple meal to prepare.

Avocado sliced in halfPhoto: Shutterstock

If you follow sensible guidelines, it will take you a long way towards getting the foods that will help you to control your diabetes – and keep you full at least until it’s time for a small, midafternoon snack. Your goal: include plenty of fibre (from salads, bean soups or wholegrain sandwich bread), vegetables and at least one source of lean protein (such as tuna or grilled chicken).

Swap the full-fat cheese slices in your sandwich for avocado slices. Dairy foods are especially important if you have diabetes, but cheese is full of saturated fat, which makes blood-glucose control more difficult by making insulin sensitivity worse. Avocados, on the other hand, are high in mono unsaturated fats, which help you to protect your heart. Eat them in moderation and enjoy their creamy richness that mimics cheese. You don’t need to eliminate cheese, just choose lower-fat varieties, such as reduced-fat mozzarella. Eat avocado in moderation because it’s high in kilojoules.

Fill up sandwiches with vegetables. There’s nothing wrong with two slices of lean lunch meat such as roast turkey or ham in your sandwich, but most shop-bought sandwiches contain at least twice that much meat, not to mention all that mayonnaise and cheese. Make your sandwich at home (or go to a sandwich shop that will make it to your specifications), keep the meat lean (no salami or prosciutto) and modest, and pile on the vegetables. Don’t stop at lettuce and tomato. Other great sandwich ingredients include sliced cucumber, onion, bean sprouts and roasted red or yellow capsicums.

Add hummus. It’s another fantastic sandwich filler and a great way to eat your pulses. Spread it onto a salad or chicken sandwich for extra protein and fibre. To make your own hummus, pour a can of chickpeas into your blender or food processor and add a tablespoon of olive oil and two cloves of chopped garlic. Add lemon juice to taste. Blend and enjoy. Traditionally, hummus is made with tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds, but it’s not necessary (and it adds extra fat). Keep your portion size to about 2 or 3 tablespoons of hummus.

Use oily fish on salads and in sandwiches. Herrings, salmon and sardines contain all-important healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and help to prevent disease. But make sure you buy oily fish packed in brine, water or a tomato-based sauce, not oil. For example, 75g of herring fillets in tomato sauce contains 550kJ and 1.7g of saturated fat, whereas 75g of mackerel in an oil dressing contains 1000kJ and 3.5g saturated fat.

Spread some mustard, not mayonnaise. Mustard has none of the fat contained in mayonnaise. A tablespoon of mustard has about 42kJ compared to 420kJ in the same amount of mayonnaise.

Add fruit to greens. Sneak in a serving of fruit with your salad. Toss slices of oranges, grapefruit, nectarines, apples, straw berries or blueberries to salads dressed with a vinaigrette and sprinkle with toasted almonds for a protein boost.

Fill up on lentils. Among legumes, lentils are some of the richest in protein and they are low GI. If you’re not already eating them, open a can of lentil soup and enjoy a small bowl with your salad or sandwich. Or add a lentil salad to just about any lunch or dinner. Lentils cook quickly and you don’t need to soak them first. Their soluble fibre content allows them to be digested slowly, so they have a blunting effect on your blood glucose.

Have a salad topped with rinsed canned beans. A large salad at lunch can knock off several vegetable servings in one go, but don’t forget to add a low-GI carbohydrate to keep you feeling full longer. Beans add the perfect bulk – both protein and fibre – to your lunch. Try kidney beans, chickpeas or black beans (especially good if you’re adding a small amount of avocado to your salad).

Buy a toasted sandwich maker or panini press. Sometimes a hot sandwich is more satisfying than a cold one, even if it contains the same number of kilojoules. These grills toast sandwiches nicely and melt any cheese you’ve added. Try cooked chicken breast with tomato and spinach (add a little reduced-fat mozzarella if you like) or lean, reduced-salt ham and reduced-fat Brie. Buy a grill with removable nonstick grill plates to make cleaning easy.

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