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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
If you’re still not sure how to follow a diabetic diet, explore more resources related to health and nutrition here at UAMS.