Diabetic Diet: Meat Choices | UAMS Health (2024)

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, that doesn’t usually mean that you have to give up eating meat. But it does mean that you need to be a little more careful about the meat that you choose to include in your diet. Some meats are higher in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories than others. These types of meat can raise blood cholesterol levels if eaten often, and can also be a factor in weight gain, which makes diabetes harder to control. Here’s our quick guide to choosing what kind of meat to eat when you have diabetes.

Quick Facts

Meat (1 ounce = 7 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrate, fat varies)

One ounce of meat is about the size of your thumb; 3 ounces is the size of a deck of cards. No more than 3 ounces of protein at a meal is recommended. (Try to eat meats from this page only; unfortunately, this means nothing fried.)

Very Lean Meat Choices (0-1g fat/ounce and 35 calories)

  • Poultry: Chicken or turkey (white meat, no skin), Cornish hen (no skin).
  • Fish: Fresh or frozen cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, trout, lox, tuna fresh or canned in water.
  • Shellfish: Clams, crab, lobster, scallops, shrimp.
  • Game: Duck or pheasant (no skin), venison, buffalo, ostrich.
  • Cheese: Fat-free (less than 1 gram of fat/ounce), low-fat cottage cheese.
  • Other: Processed sandwich meats with less than 1 gram fat or less/ounce, such as:
    • deli thin, shaved meats
    • chipped beef, turkey ham
    • egg whites (2)
    • egg substitutes, plain
    • hot dogs, fat-free
    • sausage, fat-free or less than 1 gram fat/ounce

Lean Meat Choices (3g fat/ounce and 55 calories)

  • Beef: USDA Select or Choice grades trimmed of fat such as round, sirloin, flank steak, tenderloin, roast (rib, chuck, rump); steak (T-bone, porterhouse, cubed); ground round.
  • Pork: Lean pork such as fresh ham, canned, cured, or boiled ham, Canadian bacon, tenderloin, center loin chop.
  • Lamb: Roast, chop or leg.
  • Veal: Leap chop, roast.
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey (dark meat, no skin), chicken (white meat, with skin), domestic duck or goose (well-drained of fat, no skin).
  • Fish: Herring (uncreamed or smoked), Oysters, Salmon (fresh or canned), catfish, Sardines (canned), tuna (canned in oil, drained).
  • Game: Goose (no skin, rabbit).
  • Cheese: 4.5% fat cottage cheese, grated parmesan, cheeses with 3 grams of fat or less/ounce.
  • Other:
    • Hot dogs with 3 grams of fat or less per ounce.
    • Processed sandwich meat with 3 grams of fat or less per ounce.

Medium Fat Meat Choices (5 grams of fat/ounce, 75 calories)

  • Beef: Most beef products fall into this category (ground beef, meatloaf, corned beef, short ribs, prime rib).
  • Pork: Top loin, chop, Boston butt, cutlet.
  • Lamb: Rib roast, ground.
  • Veal: Cutlet (ground or cubed, unbreaded).
  • Poultry: Chicken (dark meat, with skin), ground turkey or ground chicken, fried chicken.
  • Fish: Any fried fish product.
  • Cheese: Feta, mozzarella, ricotta, or any with 5 grams of fat or less/ounce.
  • Other:
    • Egg (high in cholesterol; limit 3/week)
    • Sausage with 5 grams of fat or less/ounce
    • Tofu (½ cup)

High-Fat Meat Choices (7 grams of fat/ounce, 100 calories)

Remember that these items are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories and may raise blood cholesterol levels if eaten on a regular basis.

  • Pork: Spareribs, ground pork, pork sausage.
  • Cheese: All regular cheeses, such as American, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss.
  • Other:
    • Processed sandwich meats with 8 grams of fat/ounce, such as bologna, pimento loaf, salami.
    • Sausage, such as bratwurst, Italian, knockwurst, Polish, smoked.
    • Hot dog (1)
    • Bacon (3 slices)
    • Peanut butter (1 Tbsp.)
Diabetic Diet: Meat Choices | UAMS Health (2024)


What is the healthiest meat for diabetics? ›

Very Lean Meat Choices (0-1g fat/ounce and 35 calories)

Game: Duck or pheasant (no skin), venison, buffalo, ostrich. Cheese: Fat-free (less than 1 gram of fat/ounce), low-fat cottage cheese. Other: Processed sandwich meats with less than 1 gram fat or less/ounce, such as: deli thin, shaved meats.

What meats should Type 2 diabetics avoid? ›

Limit the following less-healthy protein choices, such as: Red and processed meats, such as beef, pork, goat, lamb, hot dogs, sausages, brats, cured ham, cold cuts and packaged lunch meat. Foods with a lot of cholesterol, such as liver and other organ meats and egg yolks.

Can diabetics eat as much meat as they want? ›

According to the American Diabetes Association, decreasing the amount of red meat and processed meat in your diet because of the higher saturated fat and salt amounts is recommended. Try to choose the leanest variety of these meats if you decide to consume them.

What are the best protein meats for diabetics? ›

White-meat poultry, such as chicken or turkey breasts. Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna. Pork tenderloin. Lean or extra-lean cuts of beef such as sirloin or round cuts, greater than 93% lean ground beef.

What meat does not spike blood sugar? ›

Healthful meat options

Share on Pinterest Lean meats, including some cuts of beef, pork, and chicken, can be suitable food options for people with diabetes. People with diabetes should choose lean meats to limit their intake of unhealthful fats.

Can a diabetic eat a hamburger? ›

Burger: You can have a burger, but consider forgoing the bun. Top with lettuce, tomato and onion, and skip the condiments to avoid unnecessary sugars. Bean salad: Beans are a good option. While baked beans tend to be higher in sugar, a light bean salad is a great choice.

What is the one food that lowers blood sugar? ›

Nuts and nut butter

Research has shown that eating nuts may be an effective way to help regulate blood sugar levels. In a small study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes, consuming both peanuts and almonds throughout the day as part of a low carb diet reduced fasting and postmeal blood sugar levels ( 21 ).

What are the 5 worst foods for blood sugar? ›

Top foods and drinks to avoid with diabetes
  • Whole milk. ...
  • Hot dogs. ...
  • Pre-packaged lunch meat. ...
  • Sweetened cereals. ...
  • Regular pancake syrup. ...
  • Sherbet. ...
  • Loaded baked potatoes. A plain baked potato is a relatively healthy food choice. ...
  • Fried foods. Deep-fried food such as French fries and fried chicken are not healthy choices.
Sep 4, 2023

Which nuts should diabetics avoid? ›

Avoid nuts that are coated in salt — Dobbins notes that sodium is bad for your blood pressure — and sugar. More bad news if you love the sweet-and-savory combo: Chocolate-covered peanuts and honey-roasted cashews are high in carbs and not the best choice when you have diabetes, Dobbins says.

Is peanut butter good for diabetics? ›

Peanut butter contains essential nutrients, and it can be part of a healthful diet when a person has diabetes. However, it is important to eat it in moderation, as it contains a lot of calories. People should also make sure their brand of peanut butter is not high in added sugar, salt, or fat.

What kind of sandwich meat can a diabetic eat? ›

Lean chicken, turkey, fish, low-fat dairy products and plant-based protein options (like seitan, tempeh and soybean patties) are all great options. For lunch, a turkey and lettuce wrap perfectly combines protein (from the turkey and low-fat cheese) with lots of fiber (from the wrap and vegetables).

What breakfast meats are good for diabetics? ›

Instead, fry eggs in a little bit of olive oil, choose turkey bacon or chicken sausage instead of their pork counterparts, and incorporate healthy unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, and avocado. Include lean protein and fiber. One of the main goals of breakfast is to keep you full until lunchtime.

What food can diabetics eat freely? ›

Here are some examples of free foods for diabetics, as outlined by a committee of the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
  • Carbonated water.
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • Coffee or tea.
  • 1 cup raw cabbage.
  • Hard, sugar-free candy.
  • 1 cup raw cucumber.
  • 2 tablespoons whipped topping.
Jul 13, 2007

What is the best deli meat for type 2 diabetes? ›

Select lean, low-salt deli meats, such as roast turkey. Use low-fat mayonnaise, or replace it with other spreads, such as mustard, pesto, hummus, yogurt, or avocado.

What are the 5 best foods for diabetics? ›

The list of foods below are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that are good for overall health and may also help prevent disease.
  • Beans. ...
  • Dark green leafy vegetables. ...
  • Citrus fruit. ...
  • Berries. ...
  • Tomatoes. ...
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. ...
  • Nuts. ...
  • Whole grains.


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