Best Meats for Diabetics (2 Main Types You Should Eat)

Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: June 21, 2024

As a carnivore devotee who has been struggling with Type II diabetes for years, I had to learn all the ins and outs of the meat I should eat and the meat I should avoid.

I have done extensive research on this topic and spent months discussing my ideal diet regimen with my nutritionist.

This article will cover my top picks for meat on a diabetic diet.

Quick Summary

  • The best meats for people with diabetes are chicken, turkey, fish, and shellfish.
  • Diabetes is a common chronic condition where the body has trouble regulating blood sugar levels.
  • Meat can benefit people with diabetes because it is high in nutrients and low in sugar.

Dangers of Diabetes

An image of a man who is about to eat different foods

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that occurs when the body does not create enough insulin or cannot properly use it.

Insulin is a pancreatic hormone that works to regulate blood sugar levels. Sugar levels are too high can lead to various health problems, including heart trouble, stroke, blindness, and kidney failure.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease that typically develops in childhood.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, typically develops in adulthood and is often linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of exercise.

While there is no cure for either type of diabetes, you can manage both through lifestyle changes and medication. With proper treatment, people with diabetes live long and healthy lives.

As a person with diabetes, one of the most important things you can do is to watch your diet.

What you eat has an unmistakable impact on your sugar levels, and making healthy choices can help keep your diabetes under control.

"It's best to limit your intake of red meat, which is often higher in saturated fat and processed meats like ham, bacon, and hot dogs, which are often higher in saturated fat and sodium."
- American Diabetes Association

Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables is essential for maintaining good health.

Plant-based proteins have healthy fats, and fiber, and are good for blood glucose levels and prevent weight gain.

Some dairy, like low-fat cottage cheese, can be added to a plant-based diet with non-starchy vegetables to cut down on diabetes risk.

Healthy Meats for Diabetes

An image of grilled chicken meat on a top of a black slate

Eating meat can also be a healthy part of a diabetic diet, but you want to choose wisely. Not all meat is created equal, and some types are better for people with diabetes than others.

Any meat that has an excess of saturated fat should be avoided, given the higher risk that people with diabetes have for heart problems.

People with diabetes should eat lean meat that will keep their blood cholesterol levels low.

it is important for a meat lover to choose protein foods that are low in fat, as fatty food choices can contribute to obesity, heart trouble, and other health problems.

ButcherBox offers a variety of healthy, lean meats that are excellent for people with diabetes, and delivers it straight to your home..

The best meat choices for a diabetes diet are low in fat.

Very lean cuts of meat are the best option. Very lean meat must have less than 1 gram of fat per 1 oz serving and less than 35 calories [1].

Some choices that meet these criteria include:

  • Chicken or turkey breast, white meat with skin removed
  • Fish fillets of flounder, scrod, sole, or cod
  • Canned albacore tuna in water
  • Shellfish

Red meat has too much fat to be considered very lean. However, there are a number of lean meat choices. This means an ounce of the food has less than 55 calories and 2–3 grams of fat [2].

Some good examples of lean meat include:

  • Poultry - chicken or turkey, dark meat with skin removed, or white meat with skin. Domestic duck. Cornish hen.
  • Salmon, herring, swordfish
  • Lean beef - flank steak, tenderloin, London broil, roast beef with visible fat removed
  • Veal - lean chop or roast
  • Lamb - lean chop or roast
  • Lean pork - fresh ham, Canadian bacon, center loin chop, boiled ham, or tenderloin
  • Low-fat luncheon meats

Meats to Eat Occasionally

A close up image of grilled beef T-bone meat a diabetic occasionally eat

We now move to medium-fat meats. These have a place in a diabetic's diet but should be eaten only occasionally.

An ounce of these meats will have 75 or fewer calories with no more than 5 grams of fat.

Some examples include:

  • Beef - ground beef, chuck, and T-bone steak
  • Pork - cutlets, roast, chops
  • Lamb - legs and chops
  • Veal - ground veal and cutlets
  • Poultry - ground chicken or ground turkey with skin
  • Other fish like rainbow trout and anchovies are fatty fish. They are fish high in omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart problems.

Meats for Diabetics to Avoid

A top view image of beef New York strip steak meat

Unfortunately, there are also some meats that people with diabetes should avoid altogether.

This is because high-fat and processed meat is dangerous to people with diabetes. A diabetes diet should only have these protein sources in small portions.

You want to avoid red meat with more than 8 grams of fat per ounce or more than 100 calories per ounce.

Examples of these meats include:

  • Beef - ribs, prime rib, New York strip steak
  • Pork - back fat, spareribs, ground pork
  • Lamb - ground lamb
  • Processed sandwich meat and sausage, salami, hot dogs, corned beef, and luncheon meat


Does Unprocessed Meat Raise Sugar Levels?

Unprocessed meat does not directly raise sugar levels because it contains no carbohydrates. In fact, the protein content in meat can help blunt how quickly sugars are absorbed [3].

What Meat Raises Sugar Levels?

No meat directly raises sugar levels. However, some types of meat may be higher in fat than others. The higher the fat content in red meat, the greater the risk to the diabetic. Additionally, processed meat is dangerous for diabetics because of its saturated and trans fats.

What Meats Should People With Diabetes Avoid?

People with diabetes should avoid meats high in trans and saturated fats. This is because people with diabetes are at a significantly increased risk of heart disease, and these fats can also contribute to that risk. People with diabetes should also avoid processed meats like bacon, ham, and sausage.

What Kind of Meat Is Best for People With Diabetes?

Lean meat is the best kind of meat for people with diabetes. This grouping includes poultry, fish, and lean cuts of red meat that are low fat, including beef (tenderloin, flank steak, sirloin), pork (ham, Canadian bacon), veal, skinless chicken, turkey, goose, duck, pheasant, or Cornish game hen, wild game (rabbit, venison), and fish (Albacore tuna, halibut).

Does Meat Worsen Diabetes?

No, there is no evidence that meat worsens the blood sugar control of diabetes. However, there is evidence that increased meat consumption can place people with diabetes at greater risk for developing a cardiac disease.


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About the author

Arianna Foster
Nutritionist/Editorial Director
Arianna Foster is the editorial director and senior reviewer at Carnivore Style. She loves sharing her passion for nutrition, diverse cooking techniques, and the many health benefits of a meat diet with readers.
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