Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

If you are eating too much meat, perhaps it’s time to mix it up a little and sub in some protein from alternative sources.

The paleo diet and the gobs of meat the regimen requires have many people gravitating toward meatless Monday and incorporating quality vegetarian sources of protein into their day. Even if you don’t follow the paleo diet, you can benefit from introducing protein-rich vegetables into your eating.

How much is too much?

The American Diabetes Association diet standards tell us that “for people with diabetes and no evidence of diabetic kidney disease, evidence is inconclusive to recommend an ideal amount of protein…therefore, goals should be individualized.”

Seek guidance from your registered dietitian and the rest of your healthcare team for the appropriate total amounts of protein per day for your regimen.

The Institutes of Medicine recommends:
• 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight
• 10 to 35 percent of calories each day can come from protein
• 46 grams per day for women over 19 years old
• 56 grams per day for men over 19 years old

Is a diet heavy in red meat bad for people with diabetes?

Some studies have linked red meat to an increased risk in diabetes, so it may be beneficial to cut back and try some healthier alternatives.

One study found that “substituting one serving of nuts, low-fat dairy products, or whole grains for a serving of red meat each day lowered the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by an estimated 16 to 35 percent.”

Another study found that when people increased their meat consumption, they had a “50 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the next four years,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Alternatives to red meat

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “There’s growing evidence that high-protein food choices do play a role in health—and that eating healthy protein sources like fish, chicken, beans, or nuts in place of red meat can lower the risk of several diseases.”

If you're not sure about the meat currently in your diet, look at the nutritional facts for your protein sources. Ham is incredibly high in salt, and certain meat cuts, such as sausage or pork, are high in saturated fat. Fish such as salmon, however, is high in protein and low in sodium and saturated fat.

Vegetarian alternatives

Alternative sources of protein are quite easy to find. Check out these easy options from Cooking Light and your daily sources of protein will stack up quickly.

Eggs (6 grams of protein each) are protein packed and a great way to start the day.
Quinoa (8 grams of protein per cup, cooked) is an incredible protein source; scrap rice and use this grain instead.
Pumpkin seeds (7 grams of protein per ounce) are a great snack food and pack a surprising protein punch.
Dried beans (12 grams of protein per cup) are better than canned if you’re watching sodium intake; they’re a great source of low-fat protein.
Greek yogurt (15 grams of protein per 6 ounces) has almost twice the protein of other yogurts, but if dairy bothers you, try soy instead.
Peanut butter (8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons) is an easy source of protein; try almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower butter if there’s a nut allergy at hand.
Almonds (6 grams of protein per ounce) are a great snack food full of monounsaturated fats.

To learn more about protein and diabetes:

Protein a Key Factor of Diabetic Diets
Why Some Foods Rock Your Blood Sugar — Even When You Count Your Carbs
Eating Meat and Cheese May Have Same Risk Factor as Smoking