7-Day High-Protein Meal Plan for Insulin Resistance, Created by a Dietitian

To improve your blood sugar levels and decrease insulin resistance.

Reviewed by Dietitian Maria Laura Haddad-Garcia

It’s no secret that conditions related to high blood sugar levels, like diabetes and prediabetes, are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, about 37 million people have diabetes, with about 90-95% of that being type 2 diabetes, and another 96 million people have prediabetes.

As the incidence of blood sugar conditions increases, many of us are turning our attention to insulin resistance. According to an article published in StatPearls, insulin resistance is thought to precede the development of type 2 diabetes by 10 to 15 years. There truly is no time like the present to try and improve or prevent insulin resistance with the ideal goal of staving off the development of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), insulin resistance, sometimes called impaired insulin sensitivity, occurs when a person has a built-up tolerance to insulin. This means the hormone insulin is less adept at moving sugar (glucose) out of the blood and into the cells for energy. As a result, the pancreas makes more and more insulin to overcome the decreased sensitivity. Over time, the pancreas can’t keep up with the increased demand for insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and a likely eventual diagnosis of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

When it comes to insulin resistance, prevention is key. The sooner we can implement lifestyle changes, the better the results will be. In this meal plan, we focus on protein, a nutrient that promotes stable blood sugar levels, preventing blood sugar spikes when paired with carbohydrate-containing foods. Each day provides at least 90 grams of protein (and 28 grams of fiber) to support healthy blood sugars and decrease the risk of insulin resistance. Because the ADA recommends weight loss as a strategy to improve insulin resistance for people with overweight or obesity, we set this plan at 1,500 calories per day, a level where many people will lose weight. We included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories per day for those with other calorie needs. As with all meal plans, this is meant to serve as a framework for a healthy eating plan. Feel free to swap out a meal option or choose a different snack (ideally one containing protein or fiber).

How Can You Improve Insulin Resistance?

Though factors like family history and genetics can play a role in developing insulin resistance, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Nutrition strategies are beneficial, like aiming for regular meals and snacks to promote stable blood sugar levels and prevent eating too much, which could be caused by skipping meals. Opting for a high-fiber, high-protein diet, cutting back on refined low-fiber carbohydrates (such as white flour), and reducing added sugars can also help.

While all these strategies can benefit your blood sugar levels, the ADA states that one lifestyle intervention is “probably the best way to combat insulin resistance,” and it’s exercise. Physical activity improves insulin resistance by making the body more sensitive to insulin. It helps move glucose out of the blood and into the muscle for energy, lowering blood sugar levels. The ADA recommends an ideal goal of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk. If that seems like a daunting goal, don’t fret. Research shows that walking after each meal for just 2 minutes can significantly improve blood sugar levels.

Related: The Best Way to Exercise If You Have Type 2 Diabetes, According to Science

High-Protein Foods to Focus On:

  • Fish

  • Shellfish (shrimp, mussels, clams)

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)

  • Lean red meats, such as tenderloin, pork chops, flank, chuck roast

  • Beans and lentils

  • Soy (edamame, tofu)

  • Tempeh

  • Seitan

  • Nuts, including natural nut butters

  • Seeds

  • Eggs

  • Dairy (yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese)

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Make Spring Green Soup with Chicken to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.

  2. Prepare a double batch of Cinnamon-Toasted Oats to have with breakfast throughout the week.

Day 1

Jacob FoxJacob Fox

Jacob Fox

Breakfast (421 calories)

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

Lunch (395 calories)

P.M. Snack (128 calories)

Dinner (483 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,489 calories, 70g fat, 93g protein, 129g carbohydrate, 28g fiber, 2,109mg sodium

Make it 1,200 calories: Change breakfast to 1 serving Spinach & Egg Scramble with Raspberries, change A.M. snack to ⅓ cup sliced cucumber and omit cottage cheese at P.M. snack.

Make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 cup low-fat plain kefir to breakfast, ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to A.M. snack and 1 serving Massaged Kale Salad to dinner.

Day 2

Photography / Brie Passano, Styling / Sammy Mila / Holly RaibikisPhotography / Brie Passano, Styling / Sammy Mila / Holly Raibikis

Photography / Brie Passano, Styling / Sammy Mila / Holly Raibikis

Breakfast (356 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain strained (Greek-style) yogurt

  • 1 serving Cinnamon-Toasted Oats

  • ½ cup cherries (fresh or thawed from frozen)

A.M. Snack (176 calories)

Lunch (409 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

Dinner (437 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,509 calories, 58g fat, 118g protein, 145g carbohydrate, 31g fiber, 1,507mg sodium

Make it 1,200 calories: Change A.M. snack to 1 plum, omit apple at lunch and change P.M. snack to 1 medium orange.

Make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 medium orange to A.M. snack, 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to the apple at lunch and ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack.

Day 3

Breakfast (339 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain strained (Greek-style) yogurt

  • 1 serving Cinnamon-Toasted Oats

  • ½ cup raspberries (or fruit of choice)

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

Lunch (409 calories)

P.M. Snack (263 calories)

Dinner (415 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,487 calories, 54g fat, 103g protein, 162g carbohydrate, 28g fiber, 1,469mg sodium

Make it 1,200 calories: Omit apple at lunch and change P.M. snack to ½ cup low-fat plain kefir.

Make it 2,000 calories: Add 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts to breakfast, ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to A.M. snack and 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to lunch.

Day 4

Breakfast (339 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain strained (Greek-style) yogurt

  • 1 serving Cinnamon-Toasted Oats

  • ½ cup raspberries (or fruit of choice)

A.M. Snack (219 calories)

Lunch (409 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

Dinner (391 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,489 calories, 45g fat, 116g protein, 170g carbohydrate, 30g fiber, 2,072mg sodium

Make it 1,200 calories: Change A.M. snack to 1 plum and change P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

Make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 medium banana to A.M. snack, 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter to the apple at lunch and ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to P.M. snack.

Day 5

Stacy k. Allen, Props: Julia Bayless, Food Stylist: Ana KelleyStacy k. Allen, Props: Julia Bayless, Food Stylist: Ana Kelley

Stacy k. Allen, Props: Julia Bayless, Food Stylist: Ana Kelley

Breakfast (356 calories)

  • 1 cup low-fat plain strained (Greek-style) yogurt

  • 1 serving Cinnamon-Toasted Oats

  • ½ cup cherries (fresh or thawed from frozen)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

Lunch (409 calories)

P.M. Snack (117 calories)

Dinner (507 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve two servings Anti-Inflammatory Lemony Salmon & Orzo Casserole  to have for lunch on days 6 & 7.

Daily Totals: 1,520 calories, 53g fat, 99g protein, 178g carbohydrate, 29g fiber, 1,699mg sodium

Make it 1,200 calories: Omit Cinnamon-Toasted Oats at breakfast, omit apple at lunch and omit blackberries at P.M. snack.

Make it 2,000 calories: Add ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds (shelled) to A.M. snack and add 1 avocado, sliced, to the side salad at dinner.

Day 6

Breakfast (318 calories)

A.M. Snack (62 calories)

Lunch (479 calories)

P.M. Snack (95 calories)

Dinner (553 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,507 calories, 54g fat, 92g protein, 174g carbohydrate, 28g fiber, 1,699mg sodium 

Make it 1,200 calories: Omit hummus at lunch, change P.M. snack to 1 plum and omit mixed greens with Italian Dressing at dinner.

Make it 2,000 calories: Add ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted pistachios (shelled) to A.M. snack and 1 avocado, sliced, to the side salad at dinner.

Day 7

Breakfast (318 calories)

A.M. Snack (131 calories)

Lunch (411 calories)

P.M. Snack (219 calories)

Dinner (437 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,516 calories, 43g fat, 101g protein, 193g carbohydrate, 28g fiber, 1,566mg sodium

Make it 1,200 calories: Change A.M. snack to 1 clementine, omit blackberries at lunch and change P.M. snack to 1 plum

Make it 2,000 calories: Add 1 large hard-boiled egg to breakfast, ¼ cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds to A.M. snack and 1 serving Massaged Kale Salad to dinner.

Read the original article on Eating Well.