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High-Protein Vegetarian Meals: 6 Diabetes-Friendly Options

A plant-based diet can be a smart choice for people with diabetes. These options are loaded with protein, contain healthy fats and nutritious carbohydrates. Try one for breakfast, lunch or dinner today!

If you have diabetes, a diet that limits or completely excludes animal products may help control blood glucose levels. But careful meal planning is still important to be make you choose the most nutritious carbohydrates and healthiest fats, and get as much protein as you need every day. Work from these basic, single-serving recipe ideas to create your own variations.

Getting Enough Protein

If you routinely eat some combination of eggs, dairy products, nuts, whole grains like quinoa, legumes (beans and lentils), soy products like tofu, soy-based veggie burgers, and pastas made from soy, you probably don’t have to worry about getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet. Filling your plate with small amounts of a wide variety of different food types is the best way to ensure you get enough high-quality protein and other essential nutrients in your diet. A quick formula for how many grams of protein you need each day: Multiply 0.36 g X your body weight in pounds.

creaming strawberry breakfast bowl

Creamy Strawberry Breakfast Bowl

Chop 2 Tbsp shelled pumpkin or sunflower seeds and place in the bottom of a breakfast bowl. Combine 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt, 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese and a drop or two of vanilla extract; spoon over seeds. Top with 1 cup strawberry halves. If you don’t eat any dairy products, you can omit the cheese and regular yogurt, and substitute 1 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk yogurt. You can also whirl the ingredients in a blender with a little ice water to make a smoothie instead.

404 calories, 36 g protein, 27 g carb, 5 g fiber, 18 g fat

Skinny Breakfast Burrito

When you don’t fold your ingredients into a big white floury tortilla, you can eliminate unnecessary carbs. Instead, cut ½ whole-grain tortilla into thin, 2-inch long strips and scatter on a breakfast plate. Top with ½ cup warmed, low-fat refried beans, ½ small sliced avocado, ½ cup cherry tomatoes, and ¼ cup plain lowfat Greek-style yogurt. Add ½ cup tofu cubes or top with a sunny-side up egg or ¼ cup grated low-fat cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro.

406 calories, 25 g protein, 40 g carb, 18 g fiber, 19 g fat.

Lettuce Wrap it Up

Lettuce Wrap It Up!

Next time you want to a wrap sandwich ingredients or scoop up a savory filling, skip the tortilla or flatbread wrapper, and use soft leaf or Boston lettuce leaves for a Thai-style wrap instead. Fill lettuce several large leaves with 2/3 cup soy crumbles or finely diced tofu, marinated then cooked in a mixture of 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp rice wine vinegar, and 1 tsp shredded gingerroot. Top with 1 cup shredded red cabbage, 1/3 cup shredded carrot, 2 ounces chopped dry-roasted peanuts and sprigs of cilantro.

465 calories, 26 g protein, 28 g carb, 11 g fiber, 31 g fat.

Chopped Greek Salad Platter

What could be easier (or tastier) than this classic combo? Combine 2 cups crisp lettuce, 1 chopped tomato, 1 small chopped sweet green or red pepper ½ cup sliced cucumbers and ¼ cup chopped red onion. Top with 4 pitted sliced kalamata olives, 2 oz reduced-fat feta cheese, and ½ cup butter beans or lima beans marinated in lemon juice (increase to 1 cup if you’re not using feta cheese). Sprinkle everything lightly with dried oregano, red wine vinegar, flavorful olive oil, salt, and pepper.

408 calories, 24 g protein, 36 g carb, 10 g fiber, 16 g fat.

Say Yes to Pesto Pasta and White Beans

You may think starchy carbs, especially processed carbs, like pasta are out of the question, but the American Diabetes Association says that’s simply not true. (1) Start with 1 ½ oz. uncooked multi-grain, high-fiber pasta. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Toss hot pasta with 2 Tbsp basil pesto, 1/3 cup roasted peppers, 1/2 cup sliced zucchini and ½ cup sliced onion. Serve with a side dish of 1/2 cup diced tomato with 1/3 cup white beans.

613 calories, 20 g protein, 60 g carb, 11 fiber, 33 g fat.

Getting Keen for Quinoa

Get Keen for Curried Quinoa Pilaf

The fiber in whole grains slows down digestion, which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream. Quinoa has the added bonus of a high protein profile. Prepare ¼ cup dry quinoa. For each serving, saute 2 cups chopped mixed vegetables, such as onions, carrot, sweet pepper and broccoli in 1 tsp light olive oil. Stir in ½ teaspoon curry powder, 2 tablespoons chopped almonds, cooked quinoa, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with 1/3 cup pineapple or mango cubes sprinkled with ¼ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

605 calories, 21 g protein, 65 g carb, 13 fiber, 34 g fat.

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