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High Protein Diabetes Meal Plan for Better Health

Navigating your life with diabetes can be challenging, especially with a constant search for healthy recipes, counting carbs, meal planning, and experimenting with multiple workouts. Statistics about diabetes says that 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. And half of them consider the medical condition as a dietary death sentence. However, diabetes management is all about making the right choices about your food, thereby bringing blood sugar levels to your target range. There are plenty of meal guides dedicated to diabetes patients, and one of them is the high protein meal plan. It is suitable for diabetes as it reduces post-meal blood sugar spikes.

The concept of high protein meal plans encourages adding protein-rich and low GI foods into the daily diet. It often means cutting carbohydrates and including protein in every meal. For instance, if a diabetic person consumes 2,000 calories daily, around 400 calories should be from protein.

A calorie tracking app like HealthifyMe can help check your daily protein intake and see an optimum protein ratio to carbohydrates and fat. Choose your proteins wisely.

Guide to a High Protein Meal Plan

A high-protein meal plan contains foods with exceptionally high protein and low carbohydrates. The idea behind the diet is to incorporate animal-based and planted based protein as much as possible, while carbohydrates are limited. On an average meal plan, diabetic people receive 15-20% of their calories from protein. Therefore, the main objective of a high protein diet is to ensure that 20% or more dietary energy comes from protein. In addition, the meal plan works by increasing the metabolic rate and satiety through the proteinous foods consumed. Therefore, it can help a diabetic person not overeat and manage their blood sugar levels. 

There is no expressly cutting calories or specific meal timing for a high protein diet. Your primary task here is to maintain the total calories in balance. Thus, consuming fewer calories from fats and carbohydrates, but at least 20% of calories from protein. One should eat protein-rich foods based on age, activity level, gender, and body size. For example, a person with diabetes should consume 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

Recent research suggests that following a high protein meal plan improves blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes patients. Above all, it did not cause any adverse effects on kidney function. Moreover, the research participants who followed a plant-based high protein diet showed better kidney function. However, when a diabetic switches to a high protein meal plan, the therapeutic effect is not solely from higher protein consumption. The difference in blood sugar levels is closely related to the concurrent reduction in carbohydrate intake. As a note of caution, people with any type of diabetes might require a personalised protein intake plan by taking their current health situation into account.

High Protein Meal Plan for Diabetes – Foods to Include

Protein Powder

Protein powder is an easy way to incorporate more protein into the diet. You can add it to some dishes or have it as an easy on-the-go protein shake. However, be careful to choose a brand with little to no added sugar or fat. Whey, plant-based, and casein are some of the available variations of protein powder.

Most protein powders contain no more than 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving, which is a pretty low carb value. As for protein content, 100 grams of whey protein offers anywhere between 78 to 88 grams. Nonetheless, protein shakes and powder are not a necessity. On the other hand, simple food products can supplement your diabetes care.

Tuna

Tuna can be a great snack or lunch option if you have diabetes. It is low in calories, carbs, and fats but provides a healthy dose of protein. Fresh tuna provides about 24.4 grams of protein per 100 grams serving.

Whether it’s canned tuna, raw tuna, or tuna steak, they’re laden with essential macronutrients for diabetes management. Alongside, the antioxidants and omega-3s in tuna could boost the insulin response. However, a word of caution- always read the label in the can. Some contain very high sodium (e.g. preserved in salt water), so do opt for tuna preserved in water.

Chicken Breast

A high protein meal plan is incomplete without chicken breast, considered a pure protein source. For example, 100 grams of chicken breast offers 22.5 grams of protein.

Chicken breast is one of the least expensive proteins that can turn into a healthy and nourishing diabetic-friendly meal. As long as you cook it without adding lots of salt, sugar, or oils, you’re good to go! Besides the valuable protein content, chicken breasts do not raise blood sugar levels.

Eggs

Eggs, particularly egg whites, is a popular lean protein component in a high protein meal. One large egg can give more than 6 grams of protein. Therefore, eating the entire egg is more beneficial than separating the whites and yolks.

For example, if an average egg has 7 grams of protein, 4 g is from egg white, and 3g is from the yolk. Furthermore, a study shows that egg consumption lowers cardiovascular diseases in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Tofu

Not everybody eats eggs or meat. Thus, tofu is an excellent option for vegans and vegetarians. It is a common substitute for meat in sandwiches, soups, and salads. It contains a lot of protein, with close to 9.4 grams per 100 grams serving. However, tofu is much lower in carbs than other non-meat protein sources.

In addition, since tofu is a soy product, it has multiple properties that can benefit people with diabetes. For instance, a study shows that fermented soybean products like tofu reduced insulin resistance and improved glucose tolerance.

Avocados

Avocados are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, making them ideal for snacking and cooking. One avocado has about four grams of protein in it.

Moreover, add them as either a morning or evening snack. You don’t have to worry about blood sugar spikes while eating avocados.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is ideal for diabetes and contain high protein, and is a boon for all seafood lovers. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein required for managing blood sugar.

For example, 100 grams of salmon provide 20–25 grams of protein. Therefore, eating salmon or other fatty fish at least twice a week is advisable.

Meal Plan for Diabetes – Foods to Avoid

Processed Foods

Processed foods contain unhealthy fats, added sugars, preservatives, and salts. It provides no dietary benefits as most processed foods have negligible nutrients.

These foods are also higher in calories, thereby causing weight gain. It can be detrimental as people with diabetes get constantly asked to keep their weight in check.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

As the name says, sugar-sweetened beverages are full of fructose and carbs. Fructose is a type of sugar that triggers insulin resistance. What’s more, sugar-sweetened beverages contain no valuable amount of proteins. Thus, it is the worst drink choice for diabetes and high protein diets.

Packaged Snacks

An ideal snack for a high protein diet should be less in carbs and rich in protein. Unfortunately, people make a common mistake by including packed snacks like crackers, pretzels, and biscuits.

They’re not proteinous foods. Instead, they have fast-digesting carbs that cause a rapid blood sugar spike.

7 Day High Protein Meal Plan for Diabetes

The seven-day high-protein meal plan is easy to follow and includes easy to find food items. It has incorporated three main meals and two snacks per day.

You can check how many calories and proteins you’ve consumed each day. If you need to adjust the calorie goals, you can remove or add snacks accordingly.

Day 1 Meal Plan

Breakfast (306 calories)

Apple (medium) – 1Omelette – 2 eggs

A.M Snacks (64 calories)

Raspberries – 1 cup

Lunch (338 calories)

Mexican spaghetti squash – 1 serving

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

Blackberries – 1 cup

Dinner (422 calories)

Sesame chicken and broccoli with scallion ginger sauce – 1 servingTotal calories of Day One: 1, 193 caloriesTotal protein consumed: 84 grams

Day 2 Meal Plan

Breakfast (239 calories)

Raspberries: 1 cupNonfat plain Greek yoghurt: 1 cupSliced almonds: 1 tablespoon

A.M. Snack (64 calories)

Raspberries: 1 cup

Lunch (519 calories)

Mediterranean chicken quinoa bowl: 1 serving

P.M. Snack (42 calories)

Kiwi: 1

Dinner (348 calories)

Asian noodles bowl with chicken: 1 servingTotal calories of day Two: 1,212 calories Total protein consumed: 87 grams

Day 3 Meal Plan

Breakfast (304 calories)

Berry and kefir smoothie: 1 serving

A.M. Snack (106 calories)

Baked omelette muffins: 1

Lunch (338 calories)

Spaghetti squash with black beans: 1 serving

P.M Snack (8 calories)

Sliced cucumber with salt and pepper: 1/2 cup

Dinner (461calories)

Turkey chilli with butternut squash: 1 servingMixed greens: 2 cupsSliced avocados: 1/4Lemon Juice with cracked black pepper: 1 servingTotal calories of Day Three: 1,217 caloriesTotal protein consumed: 77 grams

Day 4 Meal Plan

Breakfast (230 calories)

Egg salad avocado toast: 1 serving

A .M. Snack (84 calories) 

Kiwis: 2

Lunch (519 calories)

Mediterranean chicken quinoa bowl: 1 serving

P.M. Snack (64 calories)

Raspberries: 1 cup

Dinner (318 calories)

Zucchini Parmesan: 1 servingTotal calories for day four: 1,215 caloriesTotal protein consumed: 74 grams

Day 5 Meal Plan

Breakfast (212 calories)

Banana pancakes: 1 servingRaspberries: 1/2 cupMaple syrup: 1 tsp

A.M. Snack (97 calories)

Nonfat plain Greek yoghurt: 1/2 cupPlum (chopped): 1

Lunch (325 calories)

Green salad with beets and Edamame: 1 serving

P.M. Snack (151 calories)

Toasted whole wheat bread: 1 sliceMashed avocado: 1/4

Dinner (422 calories)

Salmon tacos with pineapple salsa: 1 servingBroiled mango: 1 servingTotal calories for Day five: 1,208 caloriesTotal protein consumed: 70 grams

Day 6 Meal Plan

Breakfast (304 calories)

Berry and kefir smoothie: 1 serving

A.M. Snack (35 calories)

Clementine: 1

Lunch (292 calories)

Egg salad avocado toast: 1 servingBlackberries: 1 cup

P.M. Snack (105 calories)

Nonfat plain Greek yoghurt: 1 cupRaspberries: 1/3 cup

Dinner (477 calories)

Baked salmon with roasted potatoes and mushrooms: 1 servingCauliflower risotto: 1 servingTotal calories for Day six: 1,212 caloriesTotal protein consumed: 75 grams

Day 7 Meal Plan

Breakfast (407 calories)

Broccoli and Parmesan cheese omelette: 1 serving

A.M. Snack (30 calories)

Plum (medium size): 1

Lunch (402 calories)

Butternut squash soup with chickpeas and avocado: 1 serving

P.M. Snack (42 calories)

Kiwi: 1

Dinner (319 calories)

Citrus poached salmon with asparagus: 1 servingBrown rice: 1/2 cupTotal calories for Day seven: 1,200 caloriesTotal protein consumed: 77 grams

Potential Drawbacks of High Protein Diet

Kidney Problems

Contrary to popular belief, a high protein meal plan doesn’t lead to severe kidney damage. However, there are always exceptions. For example, people with moderate to advanced kidney disease might need to stay clear of higher protein consumption. Unfortunately, this is because there are chances of worsening the condition and more stress on the remaining kidney function. Nonetheless, following a high protein meal plan does not cause any adverse effects on those with normal kidney function.

Fewer Micronutrients

Plant-based protein sources tend to offer fewer micronutrients. They fall short on selenium, iodine, magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron. Thus, there’s a probability of becoming nutrient deficient. It is more evident among vegans and vegetarians. Hence, if you solely depend on plant proteins, it’s essential to supplement the high protein diet with multivitamins.

Restricts Carbohydrate Intake

Believe it or not but carbohydrates are just as important as proteins. A traditional high protein diet limits carbohydrate intake, which has its downfalls. It can result in insufficient fibre in the diet, constipation, headaches, and bad breath. Additionally, it stimulates unplanned ketosis and nutrition imbalance.

Poor Heart Health

Overeating red meat is not good as it contains high sodium levels. In addition, it has saturated fats, which raise cholesterol levels. Thus, making a person vulnerable to heart diseases.

Conclusion

A high protein meal plan tends to be higher in protein levels and lower in carbohydrates. It is one of the expert-approved diets to change eating patterns for the better. As for overweight people with diabetes, a high protein diet prevents weight gain from overeating. It keeps the person full and satiated. It, in turn, improves their blood sugar control. Moreover, the eating pattern works wonders in lowering the post-meal blood sugar spikes. To maximise the health benefits, one should include lifestyle changes like performing regular exercises and following the prescribed medications.

A high protein diet is worth a try in the short term. However, one size doesn’t fit all, meaning that high-protein meals are not suitable for everyone out there. It’s best to speak with your doctor and nutritionsit before switching to high protein meal plans.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Can a diabetic eat cornmeal? 

A. Eating cornmeal is a risky move if you have diabetes. It has a glycemic index score of 69, which is a little on the higher side. Thus, cornmeal could cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels when eaten independently. You may eat a small portion occasionally. However, cornmeal is not an ideal food choice for diabetes.

Q. Does diabetes cause high protein in urine?

A. When high blood sugar are high, it exerts a force on the kidney to work harder and heavily filter the blood. As a result, it could damage the kidney, thereby causing leakage of protein into the urine. The result is proteinuria, a condition characterised by high protein levels in the urine.

Q. Can diabetes drink protein shakes? 

A. Yes, a diabetic person can drink protein shakes or consume protein powder. It helps in meeting the daily protein requirements. However, don’t overdo it and use the ones without any added sugars or fats. Also, the protein drink you’re having must be low in carbohydrates. The higher the number of carbs, the greater is the risk of having high blood sugar.

Q. What are the best proteins for diabetics?

A. A diabetic can consume both plant-based and animal-based proteins. The healthy choices are fewer carbs and fats—eggs, tofu, chicken breast, fatty fish, beans, and tuna. One can even include whey protein powder and shakes for a protein boost.

Q. How much protein should a diabetic eat a day?

A. Protein requirements depend on age, gender, and level of activity. However, for an average person with diabetes, the crude measurement is 0.8 to 1 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. Therefore, one can easily reach the given protein requirement without even being on a high-protein diet.

Q. Will eating protein help lower blood sugar?

A. Yes, eating protein-rich foods will help in blood sugar management. A high protein diet prevents post-meal blood sugar spikes. Plus, it induces a feeling of fullness, preventing a person from overeating. It, in turn, promotes weight loss and better blood sugar levels.

Q. What foods can diabetics eat freely?

A. Being diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean you ‘cannot have a tasty meal. With little caution on portion size and dietary choices, diabetic people could consume various foods. Some are fatty fish, a tofu sandwich, nuts, nonfat Greek yoghurt, scrambled eggs, overnight oatmeal, and green leafy vegetables.

Q. Does protein raise insulin levels?

A. Yes, dietary proteins exhibit an insulinotropic effect, which means that they can boost insulin secretion. Thus, raising insulin levels. For instance, consuming a meal rich in proteins and amino acids would increase insulin responses. However, do not consume too much protein as it might get counterproductive. 

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