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Packed lunch ideas for a diabetes diet

Packed lunch
Child walking to school, with paper lunch bag

Coming up with ideas for packed lunches can be challenging at the best of times – and for children or adults with diabetes, the task can seem impossible.

Don’t despair – we’re here to help at the Diabetes Care Community. Check out our tips for fun lunch boxes for children, or our more grown-up ideas for healthy packed lunches for the workplace.

As always, be guided by the specific management goals recommended by the diabetes healthcare team. Use this article for general ideas, but make sure all lunches meet your loved one’s meal plan targets. This is important because careless eating at lunch can lead to a high pre-dinner blood glucose reading.

General guidelines for a healthy diabetes diet

The following tips apply for both children and adults with diabetes:

Pack a small ice-pack in with lunches to keep food cold.

Healthy left-overs from previous night dinners can form an excellent basis for packed lunches.

Cook more than needed for the evening meal, and pack up the extra for the next day. Change it up by using the left-overs as the basis for salads, or stuff them into high-fibre pitas, wraps or tortillas.

Plan lunches around protein-rich foods to help keep blood glucose levels stable. Suggestions include chicken without the skin, cheese, beans, tofu, eggs, and tuna.

Add a high-fibre carb such as a small whole grain pita or whole grain pasta. Round the lunch out with both vegetable and fruit servings, and add a healthy beverage.

Lunch box ideas for children

Make lunchtime a happy time – include one of these great ideas:

Use veggie containers. Put a healthy protein-rich dip like hummus in a scooped out Italian tomato. Serve with carrot and celery sticks for dipping. Or substitute tuna or chicken salad for the dip.

Cookie-cutter sandwiches: Use tiny cookie-cutter shapes to make small sandwich portions seem more fun and larger than they really are! Change it up with different shapes.

Whole grain ‘pin-wheels’: Cut the crusts off a slice of whole grain bread. Use a rolling pin to flatten and enlarge the slice. Spread with a healthy dip or low-fat cream cheese, and then roll up into a cigar shape. Slice into pin-wheels and include one or two in the lunchbox. It will seem like much more bread than there really is!

Packed lunch ideas for adults

Avoid lunch-time boredom with great ideas like these using dinner left-overs:

Salad Nicoise. Make a delicious salad with cold cooked salmon or tuna, cold cooked green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, green salad leaves and baby new potatoes.

Spicy Mexican Roll-ups. Spread a whole grain or spinach tortilla with low-fat cream cheese mixed with salsa. Top with diced tomato and sprinkle with grated lime zest. Roll up and slice into pin-wheels.

Beans and Lentils. Legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeasmake great high-protein substitutes for meat. Cook lentils into a tasty dhal and serve with rice or chapatti. Chickpeas mixed with tomatoes and cucumber make great salads. Beans are delicious in a chili to zap in the workplace microwave.

About Diabetes Care

Diabetes Care Community is the author of articles on a wide range of diabetes topics. All of these articles are written to a high standard of quality. They are reviewed for accuracy with health care professionals and, wherever possible, will adhere to Diabetes Canada's 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines. It is our wish that you find our articles helpful. We welcome your feedback and comments.

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