Is your protein routine in a bit of a rut?

Breaking out and adding more variety to your diabetic meal planning is easier than you might think.

Protein foods include both animal and plant sources. For meat proteins, this includes meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. For plant proteins, this includes beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds.

We all need protein – but how much protein is enough?

Most people, ages 9 and older, should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein foods each day. This includes people living with diabetes, and amounts to about 10-35% of total calories.

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What counts as an ounce of protein foods?

  • One ounce of meat, poultry, or seafood, 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce

Instead of eating the same types of protein all the time, use these ten tips to add variety to your diabetic meal plan.

Vary your protein food choices

Eat a variety of foods from the Protein Foods Group each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy, and seafood.

Choose seafood twice a week

Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood — include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring.

Make meat and poultry lean or low fat

Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 92% lean. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.

Have an egg

One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.

Eat plant protein foods more often

Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts, and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

Nuts and seeds

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Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.

Keep it tasty and healthy

Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking — they don’t add extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender — try a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.

Make a healthy sandwich

Choose turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches. Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami, are high in fat and sodium—make them occasional treats only.

Think small when it comes to meat portions

Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion. Make or order a smaller turkey burger or a “petite” size steak.

Check the sodium

Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods — including soups, vegetables, beans, and meats. Many processed meats — such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs—are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey, and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

Warning to People with CKD: You Can Over-Do the Protein

For people suffering from chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may need to change what you eat – especially when it comes to proteins. It’s best to work with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that includes foods that you enjoy eating while maintaining your kidney health. When your body uses protein, it produces waste. Your kidneys remove this waste. Eating more protein than you need may make your kidneys work harder.

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Recipe search by popular protein foods: chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, nuts, eggs, seafood, salmon, turkey.

Here’s a collection of diabetic-friendly protein-rich dishes to try:

Curry-Lime Chicken with Tomato-Bean Salad

Curry-Lime Chicken with Tomato-Bean Salad Recipe Photo - Diabetic Gourmet Magazine Recipes

Here’s an exciting chicken recipe to serve for lunch or dinner. The tomato-bean salad offers a fantastic way to include lima beans in your diet. Lima beans a good source of fiber, which helps prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. Lima beans are also a good source of iron, providing almost 25% of the recommended daily amount per cup, along with about 15 grams of protein.

Recipe Yield: 4
Source: National Chicken Council


  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds chicken thighs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup red cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons pickling spices
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/8 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1-1/2 cup lima beans, cooked in water for 4 minutes, then drained and cooled
  • 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Combine yogurt, ginger, curry powder and lime juice.
  2. Add chicken thighs and turn to coat with yogurt mixture. Allow to marinate in refrigerator 1 to 4 hours.
  3. In small saucepan, combine vinegar and water; add pickling spices, 1/8 teaspoon salt, sugar, red pepper flakes and celery seed. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
  4. Place lima beans, tomatoes and onion in container. Using a fine mesh sieve, pour the warm vinegar mixture through it and into the vegetable mixture. Add cilantro. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
  5. Prepare grill or broiler.
  6. Remove chicken from marinade, draining excess, and discard remaining marinade. Season thighs on both sides with remaining teaspoon salt.
  7. Place chicken on grill or under broiler to sear. Turn over once until well browned, cooking for a total of 6-8 minutes. Continue to cook chicken, turning to avoid burning. Grill or broil chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 170F, about another 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, place about 1/3 cup salsa on each plate and place a grilled thigh next to the salsa.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 400
Fat: 19 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Sodium: 471 milligrams
Protein: 33 grams
Carbohydrates: 24 grams
Sugars: 10 grams

Parmesan-Crusted Tenderloin with Mushroom Sauce

Parmesan-Crusted Tenderloin with Mushroom Sauce Recipe Photo - Diabetic Gourmet Magazine Recipes

  • 1 beef Tenderloin Roast Center-Cut (2 to 3 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups finely diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup ready-to-serve beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and pepper


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  1. Heat oven to 425F. Combine cheese, 2 tablespoons thyme and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; roll roast in cheese mixture to cover all surfaces.
  2. Place roast on rack in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef. Do not add water or cover. Roast in 425F oven 35 to 45 minutes for medium rare; 45 to 50 minutes for medium doneness.
  3. Meanwhile heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add mushrooms; cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and browned. Add tomatoes, broth, wine and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until sauce is reduced to 2 cups and is a rich, brown color, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.
  4. Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135F for medium rare; 145F for medium. Transfer roast to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes. (Temperature will continue to rise about 10 to 15F to reach 145F for medium rare; 160F for medium.)
  5. Carve roast into slices. Season with salt, as desired. Serve with Savory Mushroom Sauce.
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Recipe Yield: 8 servings

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 226
Fat: 10 grams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Fiber: .9 grams
Sodium: 205 milligrams
Cholesterol: 69 milligrams
Protein: 27 grams
Carbohydrates: 4 grams

Apple-Mustard Meat Loaf

Apple-Mustard Meat Loaf Recipe Photo - Diabetic Gourmet Magazine Recipes

Be sure to not overmix. Complete this comfort meal with steamed green beans and mashed potatoes – or mock mashed potatoes.

Recipe Yield: 8


  • 2 Pounds Ground Pork
  • 1/2 Cup Applesauce
  • 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1-Oz Envelope Dry Onion Soup Mix
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon-Style Mustard
  • Black Pepper, To Taste


  1. In large mixing bowl, blend together ground pork, applesauce, breadcrumbs, onion soup mix, Dijon-style mustard and black pepper to taste.
  2. Turn mixture into loaf pan and bake in 375 degrees F oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, until meat thermometer inserted reads 160F.
  3. Let loaf rest 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 198
Fat: 6 grams
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Fiber: 1 grams
Sodium: 509 milligrams
Cholesterol: 57 milligrams
Protein: 24 grams
Carbohydrates: 11 grams

Salmon with Peanut Butter Sauce

Salmon with Peanut Butter Sauce Recipe Photo - Diabetic Gourmet Magazine Recipes

Recipe Yield: 4
Source: Georgia Peanuts

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  • 1 pound salmon
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 1/4 cup 100 percent orange juice


  1. Heat oven to 400F and line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place salmon on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with pepper, to taste.
  3. Bake salmon 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
  4. In small sauce pot over medium-low heat, whisk together peanut butter, chili garlic sauce and orange juice, and cook until warm.
  5. To serve, pour peanut butter sauce over salmon.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 334
Fat: 23 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Fiber: 1 grams
Sodium: 173 milligrams
Cholesterol: 50 milligrams
Protein: 27 grams
Carbohydrates: 5 grams
Sugars: 3 grams

Mexican Turkey Frittata

Mexican Turkey Frittata Recipe Photo - Diabetic Gourmet Magazine Recipes

This flavorful egg and turkey frittata recipe will wake up your taste buds.

Recipe Yield: Makes 9 servings
Source: Jennie-O


  • 1 (16-ounce) package JENNIE-O Extra Lean Ground Turkey Breast
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced small mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 3 cups egg substitute or 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded low-fat Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions


  1. Heat oven to 350F.
  2. Mist 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Cook ground turkey as specified on the package. Always cook to well-done, 165F as measured by a meat thermometer.
  4. Sprinkle with cumin; stir to mix.
  5. In large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil, green pepper, mushrooms and chipotle peppers.
  6. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are cooked.
  7. In large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and cilantro until well mixed.
  8. Stir in turkey, cheese, mushroom mixture and green onions.
  9. Spoon mixture into baking dish.
  10. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Always cook to an internal temperature of 165F

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 170
Fat: 6 grams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Sodium: 300 milligrams
Cholesterol: 40 milligrams
Protein: 24 grams
Carbohydrates: 4 grams
Sugars: 3 grams

To learn more about protein choices and diabetes, read: Protein Packed Low-Carb Batch Cooked Beef Pot Roast Meals; Learn How to Make Smart Protein Choices When Meal Planning for Diabetes; Nuts – A Health Food if Used Right. To browse our entire recipe collection, visit our Diabetic Recipe Archive.

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Additional sources: Beef recipes and images appear courtesy of Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Pork recipes and images appear courtesy National Pork Board.