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Protein and Diabetes

Protein helps the body grow and repair itself. It also provides a secondary source of energy. Protein should make up around one-tenth to one-fifth of your daily calories. If you have kidney disease, you may need to eat less protein.

Protein is found in:

  • beans
  • chicken, turkey and other poultry
  • dairy products
  • fish
  • nuts
  • red meat
  • some soy products, such as tofu

Suggested Servings of Carbs Per Day
(based on daily calorie ranges)

If your maximum daily calories =

Then recommended servings =

1,200 to 1,600

1,600 to 2,000

2,000 to 2,400

Milk or yogurt








For milk or yogurt, a single serving is approximately:

  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup nonfat yogurt

For protein, a single serving is approximately:

  • 2 to 3 ounces cooked poultry or meat
  • 2 to 3 ounces cooked fish
  • 2 ounces part-skim cheese
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Most Americans get plenty of protein from animal sources — red meat, poultry and dairy products. They also get too much saturated fat from those sources, which can increase your risk for heart disease.

Since having diabetes means that you're at greater risk for heart disease, one way to cut down on total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol is to reduce the amount of animal protein you eat. Here are some ideas to help you stretch the protein in your diet while cutting fat and cholesterol:

  • Incorporate only small amounts of meat, poultry or fish into entrees. Ethnic dishes such as stir-fry, burritos and pastas can make a little protein go a long way.

  • Include only a little meat, chicken or fish in a salad as a main course.

  • Add more vegetables and less meat to your sandwiches. Pita pocket bread makes this especially easy.

  • Keep serving portions of meat, poultry and fish to no more than 3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. In a restaurant, if the serving is larger, eat only 3 ounces and take the rest home for another meal.

  • Go meatless at least two or three meals a week. Try a new vegetarian dish every week.

  • Skip breakfast meats. Traditional breakfast meats, such as bacon, sausage, ham and steak, tend to be high in fat. Opt instead for hot or cold cereal or pancakes.

  • Use egg whites instead of whole eggs, because the yolks contain the cholesterol. Or use egg substitutes.

  • Load your plate with grains, starches and vegetables. Leave only one-fourth of your plate for protein.