7 Worst Foods You Can Eat for Diabetes (+ Healthy Alternatives)

As one of the most common illnesses in the U.S., diabetes has been studied extensively during the past few years. Aside from taking the right treatment recommended by your specialist and staying active, your diet can literally change your life as a diabetic.

Gerald Bernstein, M.D., director of the diabetes management program at Friedman Diabetes Institute in New York, the most important thing about your diet is keeping blood sugar within normal limits. That’s exactly why those delicious desserts like cake and sodas are on the no-no list.

However, it’s not just the sweets that make a difference. Turns out, every type of carb matters and unhealthy fats can also increase your risk for heart disease (since diabetics are at high risk for cardiovascular problems).

Whether you want to prevent diabetes or you already have it and you want to avoid any long-term complications, our list of 7 bad foods for diabetes (and their healthier alternatives) is a great place to start.

Ready? Let’s have a look:

Photo by Amarita at Shutterstock

Here are the worst possible foods you could eat if you suffer from diabetes!

1. White rice

A study taken on 350,000 participants showed that eating white rice on a daily basis increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, any food that is highly processed, fried or cooked with white flour should best be avoided.

Unfortunately, the same goes for white pasta, which is made from highly processed flour as it can increase blood sugar levels in a similar way to sugar. If you’re a pasta enthusiast like me, you can just pick a healthy option as I suggest in my post, ‘What happens in your body when you eat pasta?’.

Pro Tip: Did you know that brown rice contains four times more protein than white rice? Much like black rice, this option is very healthy and nutrient-dense; plus, you can cook it just as you’d cook white rice so you won’t feel much of a difference.

2. Blended coffees

We’ve already made it clear that coffee is our long-time friend that can wake us up nicely and prevent cardiovascular problems.

However, adding syrup, sugar, whipped cream or pretty much any other topping to your morning cup of coffee can easily bring a huge spike in blood sugar levels.

Think about it: just a 16-ounce Frappucino from Starbucks contains 500 calories, 98 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat. Therefore, while the caffeine itself is healthy, any blended alternatives can do more harm than good for those suffering from diabetes.

Pro Tip: Next time you ask for a coffee, choose a 12-oz light, non-fat version. This way, you only get 60-200 calories which instantly makes your morning cup much healthier.

3. Bananas and melons

Surprised to see such healthy foods on the list? So was I, but I’ll let the expert explain the science behind it.

Cathy Doria-Medina, M.D., Los Angeles based endocrinologist, says that melons, bananas and stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches are the richest sources of sugar of all fruits. Consume them in bigger quantities, and you may experience a sugar spike – although this is not necessarily a rule for everyone.

Just as it goes for anything else, moderation is key here too.

Pro Tip: If you want to avoid any health risks, fruits like apples, blueberries and berries are low in sugar and can be nicely added to any meal or snack. For example, if you eat mixed berries with peanut butter, you get a nice dose of healthy fats while satisfying your sweet tooth too.

Photo by Elena Eryomenko at Shutterstock

4. Chinese food

There are four things I need to make clear about most Chinese foods out there. They are:

  • High in calories
  • High in fat
  • High in sodium
  • High in carbs

Furthermore, many Chinese dishes include ingredients that are fried, which is again a big ‘no’ for people with diabetes. Any option like orange chicken or sweet and sour meals can send your blood sugar levels through the roof, so it’s best to avoid them.

Pro Tip: If you’re really keen on Chinese food, you can learn to prepare healthy alternatives to your favorite dishes right at home. For example, you can opt for steaming veggies instead of frying them or use low-fat, low-sodium condiments and flavorings.

5. Breakfast pastries

If the simple thought of doughnuts, toaster pastries and other bakery sweets leaves you drooling, I have some bad news for you. All of these treats are made using highly processed white flour and most of them contain dangerous amounts of sodium, unhealthy carbs and fat.

Sandy Andrews, R.D., director of education for the William Sansum Diabetes Center in Santa Barbara, California, says that the worst item on the list are cinnamon rolls. A single serving can contain 800 calories and more than 120 grams of carbs, making it an unhealthy bomb for your blood sugar levels.

Pro Tip: If breakfast pastry is part of your morning ritual, you can go for healthier alternatives such as whole-grain English muffins of brown rice cakes with peanut butter. They may not be the healthiest foods in the world, but they are considerably better than traditional treats like doughnuts.

6. Fatty meats

Since we’re talking about breakfast, I think most of us love the taste of some fried bacon along with eggs and toast.

Delicious as they may be, though, certain types of meat can have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels. Generally, this includes red meat and any other type of meat that is fried or breaded. The worst option, though, is processed meat usually loaded with unhealthy sodium.

Pro Tip: Meat is a great source of protein, so if you feel like you don’t eat enough meat anymore, you can include plant-based protein sources to your diet. Beans, peas, soy and lentils are all great sources of protein that can be included in countless tasty recipes. As for meats, you can safely enjoy fish, seafood, chicken and even turkey as long as they’re cooked in healthy ways.

Photo by Africa Studio at Shutterstock

7. French fries

Dr. Andrews likes to describe French fries as ‘little carbohydrate sponges soaked in fat.’

Hint: that’s not very good news, is it?

A single large serving of fries can offer 25 grams of fat, 500 calories, and over 63 grams of carbohydrates which – as you may have guessed – are entirely unhealthy. Not only can such nutrients cause a spike in blood sugar levels, but they can also increase your risk for cardiovascular disease in the long run.

The American Diabetes Association notes that starchy foods such as peas, corn and potatoes are all valuable sources of minerals, vitamins and healthy fiber. Therefore, you should not cut potatoes off your diet completely and just find new ways of enjoying their flavor.

Pro Tip: Next time you order a burger at the restaurant, kindly ask the waiter to change fries for baked potatoes or other healthy alternatives like veggies.

Which foods have you given up on in order to manage your diabetes? Please feel free to share your answers with us in the comment section below, and let’s keep each other smart and healthy!

If you found this article on diabetes helpful, we also recommend reading: 10 Healthy Beverages You Should Drink Everyday


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