Slideshow: Best and Worst Meals for Diabetes-Savvy Dining
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Diabetes-Savvy Meals in a Glance
When you're facing type 2 diabetes, eating a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is important. And some people find it helpful to count carbs, too. So what's a well-balanced dinner? A power breakfast? Browse our gallery to see in a glance which meals don't quite measure up and tasty, better bets. See a doctor for a custom meal plan based on your individual needs.
Worse Bet: Farm Breakfast
The Count: 2,060 calories, 276 g carbs
No food is off limits with diabetes, but this brunch will blow your carb and calorie budget in a hurry. Experts suggest that meals for people with diabetes should contain 45-75 grams of carbohydrates, depending on individual goals. Body weight, activity, and medications all play a role. This meal packs enough carbs for four to five meals.
Better Bet: New American Breakfast
The Count: 294 calories, 40 g carbs
This quick meal delivers protein in a scrambled egg and just 40 carbs, mostly from fiber-rich oatmeal and blueberries. Fiber slows digestion to help prevent blood sugar spikes. People with diabetes need to watch all types of carbs: cereal, bread, rice, pasta, starchy veggies, sweets, fruit, milk, and yogurt. Total carbs should be spread across the day.
Worse Bet: Mexican Mayhem
The Count: 1,760 calories, 183 g carbs
Before one bite of burrito, you can inhale 98 grams of carbs and 810 calories in a restaurant serving of chips and salsa. If you're trying to slim down and eat less sodium -- as many people with diabetes are -- the steak adds 950 calories to the dietary wreckage. The total sodium is twice the 1,500 mg daily limit for people with diabetes.
Better Bet: Beef and Bean Enchilada
The Count: 443 calories, 48 g carbs
Lean beef and black beans make this Mexican dish a good option for a diabetic diet. The fiber in the beans can help lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar. The recipe, from Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking, is full of veggies and light on cheese. Enjoy ten small corn chips (1 ounce) with a little guacamole.
Worse Bet: Southern Rib Plate
The Count: 2,510 calories, 83 g carbs
This classic Southern meal loads too many splurge foods onto one plate. Fatty pork ribs are dripping in sugary barbeque sauce and flanked by macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob. Corn is a high-carb vegetable, with about 32 grams of carbs in just one ear. The total calories exceed what many women, with or without diabetes, need for an entire day.
Better Bet: Pork Tenderloin Meal
The Count: 360 calories, 42 g carbs
Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest and most versatile cuts of meat. Here it's prepared in a Dijon mustard glaze, and served with steamed broccoli and mock mashed potatoes. Pureed cauliflower stands in beautifully for carb-heavy white potatoes. Round out the meal with a whole-wheat dinner roll.
Worse Bet: Shrimp Pasta Alfredo
The Count: 2,290 calories, 196 g carbs
A typical shrimp pasta alfredo in your local eatery can have huge portions and 73 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat. Diabetes boosts your risk for heart disease, so doctors advise limiting unhealthy, saturated fat to about 15 grams per day.
Better Bet: Shrimp, Feta Pasta
The Count: 369 calories, 48 g carbs
Low-fat shrimp and juicy, ripe tomatoes make this pasta dish a winner for everyone. Feta cheese has a tangy flavor with one-third less fat than hard cheese. Try pasta that is 50% to 100% whole grain to add the benefits of fiber: better blood sugar control and more satisfaction with fewer calories.
Worse Bet: Tuna Sandwich Meal
The Count: 1,050 calories, 183 g carbs
Lunch is just as important as other meals when you have diabetes, so don't grab just any sandwich or wrap. Ready-to-eat tuna-salad can be swimming in mayonnaise. Chips and a large sweetened drink push the total carbs to 183 grams -- six times the typical carb budget for a middle-aged woman with diabetes who is trying to slim down.
Better Bet: Turkey-Veggie Sandwich
The Count: 445 calories, 55 g carbs
A moist, tender turkey sandwich is widely available now -- on fresh, whole-grain bread, piled high with veggies. Make it a combo with fruit salad and a glass of low-fat milk for a terrific, diabetes-friendly meal. Six grams of fiber helps to control blood sugar. Milk, fruit, and veggies are all high in potassium to help lower blood pressure.
Worse Bet: Cajun Sausage Gumbo
The Count: 1,069 calories, 92 g carbs
Rotisserie chicken provides a reasonable start for a Cajun gumbo lunch, but the sausage, oily soup base, and giant corn muffin give this meal a junk food profile. Fat, saturated fat, and calories are sky high. The large corn muffin has 71 g of carbs. A mini-muffin would offer the same taste for only about nine carbs.
Better Bet: Trim Chicken Gumbo
The Count: 451 calories, 42 g carbs
Gumbos you make at home are more likely to fit within your meal plan. Louisiana cookbook author Holly Clegg offers one with reduced fat sausage, authentic Cajun flavors, brown rice, and lots of high fiber vegetables. Add a whole-grain salad medley with nuts, dried fruit, and chopped veggies.
Worse Bet: Fried Chicken Meal
The Count: 1,030 calories, 96 g carbs
Skip the fried chicken, mashed potato, and biscuit combo at your local chicken joint. Even if you order the white meat chicken breast, this carb and fat-heavy meal could wreak havoc with your blood sugar and your waistline. The sodium is more than double the daily limit for people with diabetes, which is 1,500 mg.
Better Bet: Roast Chicken Meal
The Count: 312 calories, 29 g carbs
Roast chicken is easy to make and easy on your health. Serve up 1/2 cup of breast meat, skin removed. Add sweet potatoes and asparagus for a super-nutritious meal. The potatoes are high in fiber and vitamin A, and so naturally sweet all they need is a sprinkle of cinnamon, a spice that may help control blood sugar.
Worse Bet: Hamburger Meal Deal
The Count: 2,700 calories, 309 g carbs
It's no surprise that a jumbo fast-food meal doesn't play well with your meal plan -- or any healthful diet. A bacon cheeseburger, large fries, and large soda contain more than a day's worth of carbs, 2,700 calories, and 44 grams of saturated fat. "Upsizing" and low prices make it hard to eat small portions in burger joints.
Better Bet: Asian Tuna Burger
The Count: 437 calories, 38 g carbs
This Asian Tuna Burger is a delicious burger alternative that's easy to make at home. Tuna provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, to help protect against heart disease. Add a whole-grain bun, 1/2 cup of broccoli-carrot slaw, and a few orange slices. Skip the bun to shave 23 grams of carbs from your plate. Turkey and veggie burgers can also be good alternatives, if you check the calorie count.
Worse Bet: Fish Fry Platter
The Count: 910 calories, 92 g carbs
Fish is a cornerstone of a heart-healthy diet -- generally low in calories and high in healthy omega fatty acids, and a terrific choice for anyone -- unless it happens to be fried. The breading, oil, and excessive calories tend to cancel out the health benefits of the fish itself. Beware of fried sides, too, as well as coleslaw slathered in sugary mayonnaise dressing.
Better Bet: Grilled Fish and Veggies
The Count: 456 calories, 48 g carbs
A super meal for people with diabetes, or anyone else, begins with grilled or baked fish. A grilled corn salsa and a beet, pear, and walnut salad round out the meal. The total carbs don't go overboard (48 grams), and there's a good balance of other key nutrients needed in a diabetes-friendly meal: protein, fiber, and fat.
Worse Bet: Chinese Combo
The Count: 1,433 calories, 125 g carbs
Deep-fried egg rolls, fried rice, and a main dish dripping in oily sauce makes this meal an unhealthy choice. The total sodium in this type of meal is more than most people with diabetes should have over three days. Beware the MSG (monosodium glutamate) -- a seasoning that sends the sodium content soaring.
Better Bet: Stir Fry Your Way
The Count: 474 calories, 39 g carbs
Make your own beef and broccoli stir-fry meal, so you can choose a lean cut of beef and low-sodium soy sauce. Skip the greasy noodles and fried rice -- both options are full of carbs, calories, and fat. Load up on stir-fried veggies instead. Choose steamed instead of fried pot stickers to shave fat calories. For even less sodium, skip the soy sauce.
1) Barry Wong,Craig van der Lende/Photographer’s Choice 2) Corbis, Spike Mafford/Photodisc 3) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 4) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 5) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 6) iStock 7) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 8) Hemera 9) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 10) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 11) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 12) Lisa Fain/FoodPix 13) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 14) Hemera 15) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 16) iStock 17) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 18) iStock 19) Steve Pomberg/WebMD 20) iStock 21) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
Akilen, R. Diabetic Medicine, Oct. 2010.
American Diabetes Association, Complete Guide to Diabetes, 2011.
American Heart Association: "Fish and Omega 3 Fatty Acids."
Buffalo Wild Wings.
Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant.
Harvard Medical School: "Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes."
Holly Clegg, Trim and Terrific Diabetic Cooking.
Hurley, J. Nutrition Action Healthletter: "Chinese Restaurant Food," March 2007.
Liebman, B. Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2011.
Long John Silver's.
Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery.
PF Chang's China Bistro.
Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.
Riggs-Brown, Constance, MSEd, RD, CDE, spokesperson, American Dietetic Association; author, The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes, New Page Books, July 2010.
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