Can a Diabetic Eat Burgers?

Key Takeaways:

  • Yes, diabetics can eat burgers in moderation by choosing lean meat options and watching portion sizes.
  • Opt for bunless burgers or whole grain buns and load up on veggie toppings over condiments.
  • Stick to single patties instead of doubles or triples, and choose chicken or turkey over beef.
  • Overall, balance and portion control are key for diabetics eating burgers.
  • With smart choices, burgers can be part of a healthy diabetes-friendly diet.


Burgers are a quintessential American food, ubiquitous on restaurant menus and backyard grills across the country. But for the millions of Americans living with diabetes, this popular food may seem off-limits or require caution. With buns, cheese, fatty meats, and condiments, burgers can appear like a blood sugar disaster waiting to happen. However, with careful considerations and modifications, people with diabetes can absolutely enjoy an occasional burger as part of an overall balanced diet.

This comprehensive article will evaluate if and how diabetics can eat burgers. It covers the nutrition content of burgers, portion control factors, the best meat choices, bun considerations, healthy toppings, and examples of diabetes-friendly burgers. Key guidelines and tips are provided to help diabetics make informed decisions and smart choices when considering burgers. Proper planning and preparation is key. The goal is to enjoy the delicious taste of a juicy burger while paying attention to carbohydrate counts, fat content, and other nutritional considerations.

With the information in this article, diabetics will understand how to incorporate burgers into their meal plans occasionally and responsibly. The ability to eat this popular American food with confidence can greatly improve quality of life and satisfaction. Burgers don’t have to be completely off the menu for those with diabetes.

Can Diabetics Eat Burgers?

The first question to address is whether people with diabetes can and should eat burgers at all. With careful considerations and modifications, the answer is yes. Burgers can absolutely be part of a healthy, balanced, diabetes-friendly diet when prepared properly and consumed in moderation. However, there are several factors diabetics need to keep in mind.

Nutrition Content

The nutrition content of a burger can vary widely depending on the type of meat, bun, cheese, toppings used. In general, a standard burger contains a substantial amount of calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium. A basic burger may contain 300-500 calories, 30-50g of carbs, and 15-25g of fat. This equals a large portion of a diabetic’s typical daily carb intake.

The high carb and fat content means burgers can cause blood sugar spikes and hinder blood sugar control when eaten in excess. But with thoughtful prep and portion control, diabetics can incorporate burgers into their meal plans. Understanding nutrition content helps make appropriate adjustments.

Portion Control

Portion control is key for diabetics eating burgers. One regular sized single patty burger may fit into a daily meal plan. But giant double or triple decker burgers should be avoided. The Bunless Burger available at some fast food chains removes the carb-heavy bun and helps reduce portion size. Shareable orders of sliders can also help control portions. In general, stick to single patties and smaller overall burgers rather than supersized options.

Meat Choices

Selecting lower fat meats is important for keeping burgers diabetes-friendly. Extra lean ground turkey or chicken breast are healthier alternatives. Lean cuts of sirloin, round, loin or chuck steak ground into burger meat are also good choices. Avoid higher fat meats like ribeye, brisket or chuck. And limit processed meats like sausage or bacon as burger toppings.

Overall, opting for plant-based burger patties is an easy way to reduce fat. Bean or veggie burgers made from black beans, lentils, mushrooms etc are great options low in saturated fat and carbohydrates.

Bun Considerations

The bun triples the carbs in a burger, so low-carb or bun-less options are best for diabetics. A lettuce wrap replaces the bun while adding nutrition from veggies. Protein-style burgers wrapped in lettuce are a go-to option. Whole grain or multi-grain buns are higher in fiber and less likely to spike blood sugar compared to white flour buns. Portobello mushroom buns or sandwiches between cooked, seasoned slices of eggplant or zucchini “buns” are inventive low-carb alternatives.

Healthy Toppings

Pile on the veggies instead of condiments like ketchup and mayo to help balance out a burger’s nutritional makeup. Lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickles, sautéed mushrooms and other veggies add heft, flavor and nutrients without spiking carbs and calories. Avocado slices add healthy fats. Mustard, salsa, and sriracha offer big flavor without lots of carbs or sugar. In general, go easy on high sugar/carb condiments.

Diabetes-Friendly Burger Options

With the right considerations and modifications to nutrition, portion size, ingredients and toppings, diabetics have plenty of options for satisfying, diabetes-friendly burgers.

The Bunless Burger

As mentioned earlier, removing the bun is the easiest way to cut carbs and calories while still enjoying a juicy burger. Fast food chains like Burger King, Hardees, Five Guys and more offer Bunless Burger options. Simply order any burger on the menu and request no bun. Be mindful of portion size by sticking to single patties instead of doubles or triples. Balance out all the meat with a healthy serving of fresh veggies instead of starchy fries on the side.

Lettuce Wrapped Burgers

Lettuce wrapped burgers are another go-to option for enjoying burgers without the spike in carbs and calories from a bun. Protein style burgers wrapped in crisp lettuce leaves are widely available at chain and local restaurants. Diabetics can also make lettuce wrapped burgers easily at home. Look for large, sturdy lettuce leaves like iceberg or romaine instead of more delicate greens.

Vegetarian and Turkey Burgers

Veggie burgers and lean turkey burgers offer a healthier take on classic beef burgers for diabetics. Garden burgers made with a blend of vegetables, beans or lentils contain way less saturated fat and are lower in carbs. Grill up a spicy black bean burger or one made with finely chopped mushrooms and nuts for a meatless diabetic-friendly choice. Ground turkey breast burgers are another leaner option. Whether store-bought or homemade, these alternatives help cut fat.

Grilled Chicken Breast Burgers

Swapping beef for boneless, skinless chicken breasts turned into burgers makes for an excellent diabetes-friendly choice. Chicken offers much less saturated fat compared to beef. Turn sliced chicken breast into patties and grill until cooked through and juicy. Combining diced chicken with chopped vegetables, beans, or brown rice helps create chicken veggie burgers with extra nutrition. Serve in a lettuce wrap or whole grain bun.


While burgers may seem off-limits, with smart modifications and portion control, people with diabetes can absolutely enjoy an occasional burger without derailing their health goals. Be mindful of nutrition numbers, control portions, choose lean meats or meatless varieties, limit buns, and pile on the veggies. Consider bunless, lettuce wrapped, chicken, turkey, or vegetable-based burgers. With the right approach, burgers can be part of a balanced diabetic diet. Moderation and smart preparation provides the full burger experience without unwanted blood sugar spikes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat a burger if you are diabetic?

Yes, diabetics can eat burgers in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Controlling carb intake by skipping the bun or choosing whole grain, watching portions, and picking healthy lean proteins and lots of veggie toppings allows diabetics to enjoy burgers occasionally.

Are hamburgers good for diabetics?

Hamburgers can be good for diabetics if they are prepared properly. Choosing lean beef or healthier proteins like turkey or chicken breast, avoiding high carb/calorie toppings, and eating a regular single patty burger in a lettuce wrap or whole wheat bun can make hamburgers a diabetes-friendly option. Limiting portion size is key.

What is the healthiest burger for diabetics?

Some of the healthiest burger options for diabetics include:

  • Turkey or chicken breast burgers instead of higher-fat beef
  • Veggie burgers made from plants, beans, lentils, or mushrooms
  • Portobello mushroom or grilled veggie “buns”
  • Lettuce wrapped or bunless burgers
  • Single patty instead of double or triple stack

Can diabetics eat bacon burgers?

Bacon burgers are high in saturated fat and not a great option for diabetics trying to eat healthy. Choosing a turkey or veggie burger and avoiding bacon as a topping will provide a more diabetes-friendly burger. If ordering a bacon cheeseburger, request just one slice of bacon and choose grilled chicken over beef for the healthiest option.

What are the best burger toppings for diabetics?

The best burger toppings for diabetics are:

  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Avocado
  • Pickles
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup and mayo in very small amounts

In general, load up on veggie toppings and limit high-calorie condiments. Staying away from sugary sauces will help prevent spikes in blood glucose levels.

Can I eat a burger without the bun if I have diabetes?

Yes, eating a burger without the bun is recommended for diabetics to reduce carb and calorie intake. Opt for a lettuce wrapped burger or order a bunless burger available at many fast food chains. Skipping the bun allows diabetics to enjoy the great taste of a juicy burger while controlling portions and carbs.

What should diabetics avoid eating at burger restaurants?

Diabetics should avoid these menu items when eating at a burger restaurant:

  • Double or triple stack burgers
  • Burgers with multiple slices of cheese
  • Bacon and other processed meats as toppings
  • Large servings of fries or onion rings
  • Thick, sugary sauces and dressings
  • Malts and milkshakes
  • Soft drinks and sweetened beverages
  • Fried apple pies or cookies for dessert

Sticking to sensible portions and healthier options will keep a burger restaurant meal diabetes-friendly.


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