Diabetes & Carb Counting For Dummies
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It's not a good idea to skip lunch, especially when you have diabetes, because doing so may lead to overeating at dinner. After you've made a few meals in your desired carb range, it becomes easier to develop similar menus of your own.

This weekly menu is designed to illustrate how to achieve variety in food choices, yet consistency in carb intake. You find seven themes for lunches with three carb-range options. Carb and calorie counts are noted for each menu. The main carb-containing foods are in bold font, and the grams of fiber have been subtracted from the total carb count. The portion sizes in the base menus provide 30–45 grams of carb per meal. Tips for incremental carb portion add-ons boost the carb count to achieve 45–60 grams of carb and 60–75 grams of carb. If you choose to eat more than 75 grams of carb, you can add items as needed.

Healthy food options are encouraged, such as choosing lean proteins and lower-fat cooking methods. When portioning your proteins, aim for a serving size that is about the same size as the palm of your own hand. If you desire bigger lunches, start your meal with a leafy green salad with your choice of cut, crunchy vegetables. If you're cutting down on your intake of fats, you can opt for reduced-fat salad dressings. Spritzing on salad oil with a spray bottle is another easy way to control how much oil you use. You can purchase separate bottles for vinegar and oil, or you can blend the two in the same bottle. Use herbs and spices as desired, but little or no salt (especially if you have high blood pressure).

Lunch Menus BASE MENU 30–45 Grams Carb per Meal 45–60 Grams Carb per Meal 60–75 Grams Carb per Meal Healthy Tips and Options

Middle Eastern falafel sandwich

1/2 whole-wheat pita bread

2 falafel patties

1 tablespoon hummus

Chopped lettuce, as desired

1 tablespoon diced tomato

1 tablespoon diced cucumber

1 tablespoon chopped onion

Drizzle with tahini dressing (see the far-right column)

Total: 32 grams carb

282 calories

To the base menu add:

3/4 cup tabbouleh

Total: 46 grams carb

406 calories

To the base menu add:

Double the ingredients in the base menu to make 1 whole pita.

Total: 64 grams carb

564 calories

Recipe for tahini dressing:

1 teaspoon tahini

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon tablespoon water

1/4 teaspoon garlic (minced or dry)

Use warm water to assist in blending.

Read labels for carb and calorie info as brands of tabbouleh vary. This example is 1/2 cup bulgur, 1/3 cup parsley, 1 teaspoon oil, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.


Nicoise salad

3 cups lettuce

1 hard-boiled egg

1/2 cup tuna

1/2 cup cooked green beans

1/2 cup boiled red potatoes

1 small tomato

4 black olives

Dressing: Blend 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar, herbs of choice, and black pepper

1 slice whole-grain bread (about 1 ounce)

Total: 35 grams carb

510 calories

To the base menu add:

17 small grapes (or 1 small peach)

Total: 50 grams carb

570 calories

To the base menu add:

17 small grapes (or 1 small peach)


1/2 cup garbanzo beans

Total: 66 grams carb

675 calories

Place the lettuce on a dinner-sized plate, cut up the remaining vegetables into bite-sized pieces and arrange them on top of the lettuce, add the tuna and egg, and then drizzle with the blended vinegar and oil, herbs, and black pepper.

Optional: Add sliced red onion, bell pepper, and radishes.

Optional: Add 1/4 teaspoon mustard to the dressing.

Buy tuna packed in water; drain before using.


Turkey wrap

1 medium 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortilla

2 tablespoons light cream cheese, softened

6 thin slices of deli turkey (2 ounces)

1/2 cup shredded carrot

2 lettuce leaves

1/4 cup minced tomato

1 green onion, sliced

Total: 32 grams carb

276 calories

To the base menu add:

2 clementines

Total: 47 grams carb

346 calories

To the base menu add:

2 clementines


1/2 cup canned three-bean salad

Total: 62 grams carb

426 calories

Spread the cream cheese over the entire tortilla. Arrange the turkey and vegetables on top. Roll tightly. Slice in half.

Opt for spinach leaves rather than lettuce.

If desired, add sliced mushrooms or thinly sliced cucumber.

If you want to make three-bean salad at home, the ratio is about 1/4 cup kidney beans, 1/4 cup garbanzo beans, and 1/4 cup cooked green beans with 1 tablespoon of Italian salad dressing.


Rice bowl

2/3 cup cooked brown rice

Stir-fry using:

1 tablespoon oil

4 ounces lean meat or tofu

1/2 cup broccoli

1/4 cup onion

6 mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon garlic

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Finish with 1/4 cup low-sodium broth and 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce. Heat to simmer and serve over the rice.

Total: 38 grams carb

438 calories

To the base menu add:

3/4 cup pineapple

Total: 53 grams carb

500 calories

To the base menu add:

3/4 cup pineapple


1/3 cup cooked brown rice

Total: 68 grams carb

567 calories

You may substitute green beans or bok choy for the broccoli.

Optional: Add 1 tablespoon wine or 1 teaspoon peanut butter to the simmer sauce.

Optional: Top with sliced green onion.

Optional: Drizzle with toasted sesame oil or chili oil.


Pasta salad

1 cup cooked pasta

Chop and mix:

1/4 cup yellow bell pepper

1/4 cup zucchini

1 small tomato

1 tablespoon onion

6 black olives

2 ounces cubed, fresh mozzarella

2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing

Total: 42 grams carb

468 calories

To the base menu add:

1-1/4 cups strawberries

Total: 55 grams carb

534 calories

To the base menu add:

1-1/4 cups strawberries


1/2 cup white kidney beans (cannellini)

Total: 70 grams carb

644 calories

Any pasta shape will work; I recommend small shells.

Try whole-wheat pasta.

Optional: Add cut cucumber, broccoli, or mushrooms.

Onions may be red, yellow, or green, and bell pepper can be any color.

Mix the beans into the pasta salad. You may substitute red kidney beans for white beans.


Beef burgers

Whole-wheat hamburger bun

3-ounce beef patty, 95% lean

1 slice cheese

Lettuce leaf

Sliced tomato

Sliced onion

Sliced dill pickle

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon ketchup

1/2 teaspoon mustard

1 ounce baked potato chips

Total: 45 grams carb

471 calories

To the base menu add:

1-1/4 cups diced watermelon

Total: 60 grams carb

521 calories

To the base menu add:

1-1/4 cups diced watermelon


1/3 cup baked beans

Total: 75 grams carb

600 calories

You may substitute a chicken breast, salmon patty, or veggie burger for the beef.

Opt for reduced-fat cheese or reduced-fat mayonnaise.

Add a leafy green side salad if desired.


Soup and sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwich:

2 slices whole-wheat bread

2 slices cheese (sandwich size, 1.5 ounces total)

2 teaspoons light margarine or light mayonnaise

Assemble sandwich with cheese inside and spread on outside. Grill in pan until golden on both sides.

1 cup light-sodium tomato soup

Total: 45 grams carb

435 calories

To the base menu add:

1 small apple

Total: 60 grams carb

495 calories

To the base menu add:

1 small apple


1/3 cup cooked white or brown rice (Add cooked rice to the soup to make tomato rice soup.)

Total: 75 grams carb

565 calories

Optional: Add 2 ounces lean ham to the sandwich.

Opt for reduced-fat, 2% milk cheeses.

Optional: Thinly slice tomatoes and onions and insert into sandwich prior to grilling.

Add a leafy green side salad if desired.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Sherri Shafer, RD, CDE, is a senior registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. She teaches diabetes self-management workshops and provides nutrition counseling for individuals with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational dia-betes. She is also the author of Diabetes Type 2: Complete Food Management Program.

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