26 Foods To Avoid If You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you know it can be hard to manage. There are a lot of things you have to think about, including medications, insulin, blood sugar levels, getting enough exercise, etc.

A crucial element in managing diabetes is to be careful of what you eat. The traditional "don't eat sugar" rule is out of date, but people with diabetes still need to pay attention to their diet.

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Why do I have to be careful of what I eat?

When you have diabetes, your pancreas is working to produce enough insulin to make sugars available to be transformed into energy in the body cells. Some foods can put extra strain on this process and spike your blood sugar.

Food can affect blood glucose at many levels. In addition, type 2 diabetes is associated with weight gain, as are some medications you may be taking. The relationship between obesity and diabetes is complex. But, medical professionals agree that losing weight can significantly reduce the symptoms of diabetes, help balance your blood sugar, and avoid complications such as heart disease.

Foods to avoid

It's a good idea to get a referral to a nutritionist to help you develop the right diet for you that you can sustain. However, there are some specific foods that people with diabetes need to avoid.

Fats

The wrong type of fat contributes to weight gain. Even if you are not technically overweight, you should avoid:

Saturated fats

These are found in animal products, so you should reduce your consumption of red meat and instead eat skinless chicken or fish. Replace butter with canola or olive oil. Consume low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurt, or choose naturally low-fat cheeses such as parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar.

Trans fats

Avoid trans fats as much as possible. You will likely find trans fats in fried and battered foods, shortening and solid margarine, and commercial baked goods. Your body does not need trans fats, so consume them as little as possible by avoiding fried and packaged foods.

Packaged and processed foods

Most processed foods contain one of the above types of unhealthy fat and can lead to health issues.

Carbs

Your body does need carbohydrates, but it is important to consume the right type of carbohydrates. You should opt for complex carbohydrates instead of simple ones,  known as sugars. Some foods to avoid are:

White bread

Avoid white bread as much as possible. Instead, choose whole wheat, whole grain bread, or rye bread. Be sure to check the ingredients as a lot of commercialized rye bread contains wheat-rye and refined wheat. Another option is sourdough, but again check the ingredients as some commercial sourdough contains high fructose corn syrup.

French fries

Potatoes, in general, can raise blood sugar, especially when fried in oil. Instead, boil or steam your potatoes or switch to sweet potatoes, which also have more fiber. Another alternative is yucca fries, which are lower in simple carbs.

White rice

This is also a refined grain. Switch to brown rice.

Processed grains

Avoid processed grains. One thing to be careful of is pasta. You should choose brown pasta or pasta alternatives made with vegetables. Also, avoid kids' breakfast cereals.

Protein

You need plenty of protein, but make sure you get it from the right source. There are three protein sources in particular that you should avoid:

Deep-fried meats

You're starting with saturated fats in the meat and then adding oil. Avoid things like chicken fried steak, buffalo wings, etc. Deep frying, in general, should be avoided as it causes oil to soak into the food.

Poultry skin

Some people think the skin is the best part, but it may not be good for you. Remove the skin before cooking, and if you are served skin-on chicken, be sure to remove it before eating.

Processed meat

Avoid all processed meat such as sausages, pepperoni, etc. These tend to have too much fat and other ingredients that are not good for you.

Fruits-based foods and beverages

In general, fruit is a great choice. Fresh fruit is a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, etc. However, you should avoid some fruit products as they tend to be very high in sugar. These include:

Packaged juices

A small portion of this is okay every now and then, but you should avoid drinking juice–even if it is labeled 100% juice with no added sugars. You can invest in a juicer, but you should add vegetables to keep the sugar down. You can also add a splash of juice to water or drink fruit water (with whole fruit soaked in it).

Canned fruits with syrup

The added syrup is generally pure sugar. If you must eat canned fruit, choose the kind that doesn't come with syrup. Fresh fruit tends to be better.

Fruit juice drinks

Fruit punches and similar drinks often have a lot of added sugar on top of all the fruit and are even worse for you than packaged juice.

Dried fruits

Keep your portion size down, being careful which fruits you consume. Drying fruit concentrates the sugar, which means more of it per weight (and thus per portion). That makes it very easy to overeat, especially if you are absent-mindedly snacking.

Vegetables

People with diabetes (and everyone) should eat a lot of vegetables, but two specific vegetables have a higher glycemic index and thus should be avoided or consumed in moderation.

Corn

Corn has a lot of sugar, so be careful how much you consume. If you’re craving it, get corn on the cob, not frozen corn or the kind that comes with a sauce.

Beets

There are mixed reports on beets, which can help lower blood pressure. However, they have more sugar than most vegetables, so you need to consume them moderately.

Sweetened beverages

Sugar in drinks provides empty calories. You probably already know to avoid soda (including diet soda associated with weight gain). But also watch for these other sweetened beverages:

Fruit juice

We've already mentioned fruit juice, which is high in sugar. Fruit juice with added sugar is even worse.

Lemonade

People often think lemonade is better than soda, but it contains about the same amount of added sugar. Lemon-flavored water is a better alternative.

Flavored coffee

Those syrups added to your favorite flavored coffee are pretty much pure sugar. Skip the flavoring and just have regular coffee. There is evidence that caffeine can impair insulin sensitivity, so decaf coffee is probably better. But at the very least, drink your coffee black without those fancy syrups.

Other foods to avoid

There are a few other foods you should limit or avoid. You should also talk to your doctor about whether you should limit sodium. High sodium levels increase your risk of hypertension, a common complication of diabetes.

Other foods to avoid:

  • Jam, jellies, and preserves unless they are sugar-free or low-sugar

  • Sweetened applesauce (choose the no-added-sugar variety instead)

  • Anything deep-fried, including fish and tofu

  • Regular, non-diet ice cream, which contains a lot of fat and sugar

  • Coconut oil, which also contains saturated fats

  • Fruity cocktails

Talk to your nutritionist about your best options, but these guidelines can help you develop a diet plan that is right for you.

The lowdown

People with diabetes need to be careful about what they eat, watching their diet and weight. The foods above can be a problem, but you are still left with plenty of choices for a balanced, varied, and healthy diet.

Managing your diet can help slow the progression of type 2 diabetes and even stabilize your blood sugar without medications. So it's well worth avoiding these undesirable foods and supporting your health.

Have you considered clinical trials for Diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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