There's no clear-cut guideline for how much red meat is safe to eat when you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, says researcher Lu Qi, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Dr. Qi’s research focuses on the interaction between the environment, which includes food choices, and diabetes risk. “My suggestion is to reduce intake of red meat as much as possible, and make the switch to white meat, such as chicken, poultry, fish, and other seafood,” he says. To include red meat in a healthy diabetes diet, you have to be strategic — that means small portions and only occasionally. “You want to eat no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat a week,” advises registered dietitian Meredith Nguyen, RD, of the Methodist Charlton Medical Center Diabetes Self-Management Program in Dallas. If you stick to serving sizes of approximately four ounces — about the size of a deck of cards or a bar of soap — that translates to between four and five servings of red meat per week.
Adopting that portion size will go a long way in bringing your red meat consumption within safe limits, says Ann Walker, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at the Cray Diabetes Self-Management Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. That's because we're used to average American serving sizes that are two or three times as large. Meat, even fatty steaks, won’t raise your blood sugar, but the extra calories of supersized portions can hamper weight loss, and being overweight makes diabetes harder to control.