Can Diabetics Eat Beef Jerky? (Dietitian’s Recommendation)


A diagnosis of diabetes can be frustrating and challenging. Can I take a snack? Should I take a snack? In my practice, when discussing snacks, I am frequently asked if beef jerky is okay for a person with diabetes to eat. Can diabetics eat beef jerky?

What Should People With Diabetes Look For In Beef Jerky?

People with diabetes benefit from selecting foods with higher protein and fiber content to better manage blood sugars. Both components will provide healthful benefits, and will not negatively affect your blood sugars.

beef jerky

Protein In Beef Jerky

Protein in the diet will help build muscle, preserve muscle mass, repair damaged tissue, and build new tissue. It has little effect on blood glucose as long as the body has adequate insulin on board. Protein helps stabilize blood sugars by blocking or slowing the absorption of carbohydrates.

Dietary Fiber and Beef Jerky

There is little or no dietary fiber in beef jerky, so you will need to obtain your fiber from other sources.

Dietary fiber is beneficial for regulating bowel movements, and helps lower your cholesterol. It can help you maintain a healthful weight and lower your risk for heart disease. (Mayo Clinic “Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet”)

Sodium In Beef Jerky

This can be challenging to follow, as so many foods are preserved or flavored with sodium. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines source have loosened restrictions to follow the guidelines of the general population, which is less than 2300 mg per day. However, people with diabetes accompanied by hypertension (HTN), heart disease, or chronic kidney disease (CKD) should adhere to the 1500 mg sodium restriction per day.

The aforementioned guidelines are are provided by the US Food and Drug Association. Your doctor may have specific recommendations for you to follow, according to your specific needs.

beef jerky sodium

Fat In Beef Jerky

Some popular beef jerky brands can have over 7 grams of total fat, which provides more than half of the total calories.

Other brands of beef jerky are made with leaner cuts of meat, so they contain less fat. The leaner cuts are dried, cured, and seasoned beforehand.

Too much fat in jerky provides excess calories that can contribute to weight gain. Too much fat can also produce greasy jerky, which spoils faster.

Carbohydrates vs. Sugar In Beef Jerky

Looking solely at the sugar content on nutrition labels is not something I recommend. I find this to be a common practice, but I advise against it.If you look at a food label, you will notice that all sugars are listed under the “umbrella” of carbohydrates (dietary fiber, total sugars, added sugars).

Carbohydrates have the most effect on your blood sugar. The sugar in foods is a carbohydrate. But not ALL carbohydrates are sugar. Be mindful of other carbohydrates that may be affecting your blood sugar.

Think Jerky

think jerky food label diabetic example

Jack Links Beef Jerky

Take Away: Diabetes and Beef Jerky

  • A person with diabetes should follow a nutrient-dense diet overall to keep their maintain health.
  • Beef jerky is a high protein, low carb snack.
  • Like most every food, it can be incorporated into a healthful meal plan.
  • A 1-ounce (28 g) serving of beef jerky can have 0-16 g carbohydrate, so it is 1 carb choice (15 g carb) or less if you follow a carb-counting meal plan.
  • Be mindful of the sodium content if you have been instructed to restrict intake. 

Healthy Beef Jerky Brands for People with Diabetes

These brands may be more expensive, but many of them have all of the specific qualities that meet your diabetic needs. They are more healthful and are of higher quality than common beef jerky brands.

Think Jerky Original

Think Jerky is a great option since it has only 6 g  carbohydrates and 12 g protein.  A 1-ounce (28 g) serving contains 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat) and 200 mg sodium. It is also grass-fed, which means it has more omega 3 fatty acids (healthful fat), another great way to help keep blood sugar levels low.

Nick’s Sticks Traditional Turkey Jerky

Nick’s Sticks is made out of turkey and comes in stick form, making it easy to snack on. It has 4 g carbohydrate and 10 g protein. A 1-ounce (28 g) serving has 70 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat) and 230 mg sodium.

Country Archer Organic Turkey Jerky

Country Archer jerky has 6 g carbohydrate (almost 1/2 carb choice if you on a carb-counting meal plan) and 11 g protein. A 1-ounce (28 g) serving has 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), and 420 mg sodium.

Buffalo Jerky at Jerky.com

Buffalo jerky has 8 g carbohydrate (about 1/2 carb choice if you are counting choices on your meal plan), and 15 g protein. A 1-ounce (28 g) serving has 97 calories, 0 g fat, and 310 mg sodium.

Stryve Brand Beef Jerky

Stryve beef jerky has 0 g carbohydrates and 16 g protein. A 1-ounce (28 g) serving has 90 calories, 2.5 g fat, and 430 mg sodium. 

Peoples Choice Beef Jerky

People’s Choice is a reported publics’ favorite with good flavor, no carbs, and no sugar.  Peoples‘s Choice brand has 0 g carbohydrate and 15 g protein. A 1-ounce (28 g) serving has 90 calories, 3 g fat, and 510 mg sodium.

Although People’s Choice is carb-free, it does have more fat and sodium. If you are one of the people who follow a 1500 mg sodium restriction per day, this one ounce serving of beef jerky would count for 1/3 of your daily sodium intake!

Diabetic Beef Jerky Brands High in Sodium (Eat Sparingly)

Unless you have kidney disease, heart problems, or you are on a prescribed sodium restriction, the following brands can fit into your diet if used sparingly. Ask your providers if you have questions or concerns about beef jerky.

Jack Links Beef Jerky

A 1-ounce (28 g) serving of  Jack Link‘s beef jerky has 6 g carbohydrate and 10 g protein. It also provides 80 cal, 1.5 g total fat, no fiber and 520 mg of sodium. This product is a favorite in my home. It is a half of one carb choice if you are counting carb choices, and it has a good amount of protein. It does have a higher amount of sodium if you are following a rigid sodium restriction.

Old Trapper Beef Jerky

Old Tapper contains 6 g carbohydrate and 11 g protein. A 1-ounce (28 g) serving contains  70 cal, no fat, and no fiber, but it does have a high amount of sodium at 600 mg.

Old Trapper is another product with about one half of one carb choice if you are counting carbs, and it is a great source of protein. Lower in calories and free of fat are excellent qualities, but 600 mg of sodium is nearly half your allotted intake if you follow a low sodium or 1500 mg sodium restriction on your diet.

Matador Beef Jerky

Matador jerky sticks (1 oz) have only 2 g carbohydrate and have 6 grams protein. Although this product is low in carb, it is high in fat at 13 g. Five of those fat grams are saturated fats (solid at room temperature or “bad” fats). It is higher in calories at 150 because of the fat. It has 420 mg sodium and 0 grams fiber.  This is one that I do not recommend. 

Oberto Beef Jerky

Oberto brand has 12 grams protein, which is an excellent source. It has 7 grams carbohydrate (about one half of one carb choice if  you are on a carb counting meal plan), and it has 1 gram of dietary fiber. It only has 0.5 grams fat, but again, this particular product has 600 mg of sodium per serving, which is relatively high.

People with diabetes can indeed eat beef jerky. Essentially, people with diabetes can eat most anything, as long as you are eating recommended portion sizes, taking your medications properly, and following  any dietary restrictions provided by your doctor, your dietitian, or your diabetes care specialist. 

People with diabetes should focus on finding beef jerky that is high in protein, but low in sugar, sodium, and carbs. These factors will help control and maintain blood sugar levels without drastic effects. Beef Jerky is a great snack for if you have diabetes. 

beef jerky diet

Summing It Up

 When patients our clients initially ask me if it’s OK for people with diabetes to eat beef jerky, my initial response is, “yes.” However, different people have different  medical conditions, requiring any number of restrictions in the diet. 

 If a person is on a sodium restriction, I do not tell them that they can never have beef jerky. For example,  if you follow a 2000 mg sodium restriction and you really want to eat a portion of beef jerky,  I recommend subtracting the sodium in your beef jerky from your daily total.  

A sodium restriction includes the sodium that you consume in a 24 hour period. If you are consuming a high sodium product, such as beef jerky, you may just want to make sure that your other meals throughout the day or lower in sodium. 

I don’t want anyone to feel like meals and snacks are a math assignment, as meals and snacks should provide comfort and enjoyment. 

Your best bet for a low sodium diet is to eliminate the salt shaker, processed foods including canned soups, and fast foods. 

If you have questions, ask your doctor,  dietitian, and/or diabetes care specialist to assist you. By all means, follow the guidelines that are given to you by your medical providers.

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