Medically Reviewed by:Scientific Advisory Board
Managing diabetes can be a challenge, but did you know that a well-planned diet can play a crucial role in maintaining your health? In this blog post, we will explore what foods to avoid with diabetes and provide practical tips for navigating your dietary choices to support blood sugar management.
Food Choices Summary for Diabetics
Limit or avoid foods that can spike blood sugar levels, such as sugary treats, refined carbohydrates and processed snacks.
Substitute unhealthy fats with healthier alternatives like monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats for better health outcomes.
Follow the American Diabetes Association’s dietary recommendations to manage diabetes & maintain overall health.
Foods That Spike Blood Sugar
It’s important to be mindful of foods that can spike blood sugar levels, as they should be limited or avoided in a diabetes-friendly diet. Some of the major culprits include sugary treats, refined carbohydrates, and processed snacks.
In the following sections, we will delve deeper into these categories and provide healthier alternatives to support blood sugar control.
Sugary treats and beverages
Sugary treats, beverages, and sugary foods are not only a significant source of empty calories, but they can also cause rapid blood sugar spikes. Examples of these treats include chocolate, cake, candy, and sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices. Consuming such items can result in weight gain and increase the risk of heart disease. Healthy snacking is an effective way to maintain a balanced diet. Therefore, try opting for fresh fruits, yogurt with berries or a homemade healthy ice cream.
When it comes to beverages, it’s crucial to choose wisely. Fruit juices, even those labeled as “100% juice,” can lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Additionally, they do not provide the same level of satiety as compared to eating a whole piece of fruit. Suitable options for individuals with prediabetes or diabetes include:
flavored sparkling water
sugar-free beverages that are unsweetened.
Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and rice, are quickly metabolized into glucose, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and subsequent hunger. These types of carbs can also contribute to weight gain and increased “bad” cholesterol levels. For a diabetes-friendly diet, it is essential to replace these refined carbs with whole grain alternatives.
Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta, break down more slowly and have a milder impact on blood sugar levels. Consuming whole grains can help regulate blood sugar and provide essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Including these healthier options in your diet can aid in blood sugar management and contribute to overall health.
Processed snacks and baked goods
Processed snacks and baked goods, like:
Many contain unhealthy ingredients that can negatively impact blood sugar levels. In addition to being high in calories, these products often contain unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, that can increase the risk of heart disease.
Instead of indulging in these unhealthy options, try incorporating healthier alternatives into your diet. Some examples include hummus and vegetables, a handful of almonds, or apple slices topped with nut butter. Making smarter snack choices can help you maintain better blood sugar control while also providing essential nutrients.
Unhealthy Fats to Steer Clear Of
Unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, can have a detrimental impact on your health, especially if you have diabetes or digestive and kidney diseases. These fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health complications. On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be a healthier alternative to include in your diet.
In the next sections, we will discuss the different types of unhealthy fats and suggest healthier alternatives to include in your diabetes diet.
Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, oils, and processed foods. Though the implications of saturated fats on blood sugar levels are not fully understood, a high intake of fats, including saturated fats, has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This is particularly concerning for individuals with diabetes, who already have a heightened risk of heart disease.
To reduce your intake of saturated fats, opt for lean cuts of meat, low-fat dairy products, and healthy oils such as olive oil or canola oil instead of butter or lard. Incorporating healthier alternatives into your diet can help decrease the likelihood of heart disease and other potential complications.
Trans fats are particularly harmful to your health, as they have been found to increase levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, reduce levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and increase the risk of heart disease. These fats are even more dangerous than saturated fats, especially for individuals with type 2 diabetes, who are already at a heightened risk of heart disease.
To restrict your trans fat intake, be sure to check food labels and look for items listing 0 g of trans fat. Additionally, inspect the ingredients list for the presence of partially hydrogenated oils, a primary source of trans fats. Avoiding trans fats can help safeguard your heart health and overall well-being.
High-fat dairy products
High-fat dairy products, such as healthy fats:
Can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of heart disease. For individuals with diabetes, it is essential to choose low-fat dairy products without added sugar, as added sugar can raise blood sugar levels.
When selecting dairy products, opt for low-fat or fat-free versions, such as skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and reduced-fat cheese. Making these smart choices can help you maintain a balanced diet while minimizing the risk of potential complications.
The Problem with Processed Meats
Processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, and deli meats, can pose significant health risks for people with diabetes. It is advisable to limit or avoid processed meats in your diet due to the following reasons:
High sodium content
Potential links to cancer and heart disease
Unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats, which can further contribute to health complications.
Instead, choose healthier protein alternatives, like lean meats, fish, and plant-based protein sources. Incorporating these options into your diet can help you maintain better blood sugar control and support overall health.
Rethinking Your Carb Choices
Carbohydrate choices play a significant role in blood sugar management for people with diabetes. By rethinking your carb choices, such as opting for whole grains over white carbs, you can better control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthier diet, ultimately contributing to more stable blood glucose.
In the following sections, we will discuss the benefits of whole grains and other healthy carb options.
Whole grains vs. white carbs
Choosing whole grains over white carbs can offer numerous health benefits for individuals with diabetes. Whole grains, including brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta, provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than their white counterparts. This additional fiber can help slow down the absorption of glucose, preventing blood sugar spikes and promoting better blood sugar management.
To incorporate more whole grains into your diet, try replacing white bread with whole wheat bread, opting for brown rice instead of white rice, and choosing whole grain pasta instead of traditional white pasta. Making these simple swaps can have a significant impact on blood sugar control and overall health.
Brown rice and other healthy carb options
In addition to whole grains, there are other healthy carb options that can provide essential nutrients and help manage blood sugar levels. Some examples include:
Brown rice: a better choice than white rice, as it contains more fiber and nutrients
Legumes: such as beans and lentils
Starchy vegetables: like sweet potatoes and squash
These healthy foods options can be a great addition to a balanced diet.
When selecting carbohydrates, aim for those that are high in fiber and low in added sugars. Incorporating a variety of healthy carbs into your diet can help you obtain the necessary nutrients while keeping your blood sugar levels in check.
Fruit Considerations: Fresh vs. Dried
When it comes to fruit, fresh options are generally a better choice for people with diabetes than dried fruits. Here’s why:
Fresh fruits provide more fiber
Fresh fruits contain less concentrated sugar than dried fruits
Fresh fruits can help prevent blood sugar spikes
Fresh fruits provide essential nutrients for a balanced diet
Dried fruits, on the other hand, can lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels due to their higher sugar concentration. When choosing fruits to include in your diabetes-friendly diet, opt for fresh options and be mindful of portion sizes to avoid blood sugar spikes and maintain a healthy diet.
Alcohol Consumption and Diabetes
Alcohol consumption can interfere with blood sugar levels and diabetes medications, making it essential for people with diabetes to consume alcohol in moderation. The American Diabetes Association recommends that alcohol consumption should be kept in moderation, with women limiting their intake to one serving per day and men to two servings per day.
Heavy drinking, especially in combination with diabetes medications, may result in hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. When consuming alcohol, be aware of the potential risks and be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels closely. It’s also a good idea to consume alcohol with food to help prevent blood sugar spikes and maintain better blood sugar control.
Tips for Dining Out with Diabetes
Dining out with diabetes can be challenging, as it’s often difficult to know the exact ingredients and preparation methods used in restaurant dishes. However, by making informed choices and asking for modifications, you can enjoy a meal out while still maintaining a healthy diet.
When dining out, consider choosing restaurants that offer fresh, whole foods, such as seafood, lean meats, and vegetables. Be mindful of portion sizes and opt for dishes that are low in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Don’t be afraid to request modifications, such as substituting a side dish for a higher-carb option, asking for sauces and dressings on the side, and requesting that the chef use less oil or butter.
Staying vigilant and making smart choices can help you maintain your diabetes-friendly diet while enjoying a meal out.
American Diabetes Association Recommendations
The American Diabetes Association provides valuable recommendations for a diabetes-friendly diet, including limiting unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, and focusing on whole grains and other nutrient-dense foods. By following these guidelines, you can better manage your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes complications.
In addition to the recommendations mentioned above, the American Diabetes Association emphasizes the importance of incorporating the following into your diet:
By adhering to these guidelines and making informed food choices, you can prevent diabetes complications and maintain a balanced diet that supports overall health.
Foods that Support Blood Sugar Management
Incorporating foods that support blood sugar management is vital for people with diabetes. These foods, such as fiber-rich options and lean proteins, can help maintain a healthy diet while keeping blood sugar levels in check. Examples of fiber-rich foods with a low glycemic index include non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Lean proteins, such as:
Skinless chicken and turkey
Fish and shellfish
Can also play an essential role in blood sugar management. By including these foods in your diet, along with healthy carbohydrates and fats, you can achieve better blood sugar control and minimize the risk of potential complications.
In conclusion, managing diabetes through a well-planned diet can significantly impact your health and well-being. By avoiding foods that spike blood sugar levels, limiting unhealthy fats, rethinking your carb choices, and incorporating foods that support blood sugar management, you can take control of your diabetes and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Remember, the key to success is making informed choices and staying committed to your diabetes-friendly diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What foods can diabetics eat freely?
Diabetics can freely eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, healthy proteins and healthy fats, as well as carbonated water, unsweetened cocoa powder, coffee or tea, raw cabbage, hard sugar-free candy, raw cucumber, and whipped topping.
What are the 10 foods to avoid diabetes?
Diabetics should avoid foods such as refined grains and starches, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats, fried foods, processed meats, added sugars, white bread, certain fruit juices, high-fat dairy products, and canned fruits to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
These foods can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health complications. It is important for diabetics to be aware of the foods they should avoid and to make healthy food choices. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help diabetics maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
What are the four worst foods for diabetics?
For diabetics, the four worst foods to eat are sugar, processed foods with trans and saturated fats, canned food, and sugary cereals. Avoiding these can help keep blood sugar levels in check.
What are some healthy alternatives to sugary treats for people with diabetes?
Opting for fresh fruits, yogurt with berries, or homemade healthy ice cream are great alternatives to sugary treats for people with diabetes. These options provide a healthier alternative to satisfy a sweet tooth without the added sugar and calories.
How can whole grains help manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes?
Whole grains help to prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar levels by breaking down more slowly and having a milder impact on blood sugar levels, providing a great way to manage diabetes.
By including whole grains in your diet, you can help regulate your blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. This can help improve your overall health and wellbeing.
References, Studies and Sources:
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Chris is one of the Co-Founders of Diabetic.org. An entrepreneur at heart, Chris has been building and writing in consumer health for over 10 years. In addition to Diabetic.org, Chris and his Acme Health LLC Brand Team own and operate Pharmacists.org, Multivitamin.org, PregnancyResource.org, and the USA Rx Pharmacy Discount Card powered by Pharmacists.org.
Chris has a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation and is a proud member of the American Medical Writer’s Association (AMWA), the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the Council of Science Editors, the Author’s Guild, and the Editorial Freelance Association (EFA).