Worst Foods for Diabetics
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Worst Foods for Diabetics
Maskot/Getty Images

NOT SO SWEET

Uncontrolled diabetes can land sufferers in the hospital and spur a host of life-ending events such as kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke. Most people who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes learn quickly that their normal go-to foods and snacks need an immediate makeover.

It is possible to have your cake and eat it too with diabetes, as long as the negative ingredients like white flour and sugar are swapped out for high-protein healthier alternatives readily available in grocery stores nationwide. Thanks to the popular low-carbohydrate keto and Atkins diets, it has never been easier for a diabetic to cook or bake their favorite foods.

Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be reversed with lifestyle choices and dietary changes, meaning no more pricey medication. Though it is possible for diabetics to eat out, highly processed foods are more likely to have high glycemic loads that raise blood glucose levels. Understanding the avoid-at-all-costs foods list and what can be swapped is a diabetic's best defense. Here are the foods that diabetics would do well to avoid.

Bread
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BREAD

Wheat bread is not a diabetic's friend. Commercially baked white and wheat breads made with refined flour have similar glycemic indexes, according to research published by Harvard Medical School. Better to bake bread with almond flour or a protein flour blend if the craving is there.

General Mills
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CEREALS AND GRANOLAS

Loaded with hidden and not-so hidden sugar, even the healthiest seeming breakfast cereals are landmines of sugary high-glycemic index counts. Granolas seem a healthier option, but they can be equally sugar laden. Try oatmeal or oat bran, which the American Diabetes Association notes have a glycemic index of 55 or less. There are many high-protein and low-carb granolas available in general grocery stores, too.

Honey and Agave
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HONEY AND AGAVE

Seemingly healthy, honey and agave are big no-nos for diabetics. Registered dietitian and food sensitivity expert Lisa Hugh says, "In my practice I see a lot of people with diabetes. Some 'hidden' sugars ... are problematic. Honey, just because it is natural doesn't mean that more is better. It is still sugar." Agave is slightly better in the glycemic index but must be portioned carefully.

Potatoes
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POTATOES

Any way you slice them or cook them, potatoes are a high GI food and need to be avoided. Mashed potatoes and french fries both have a GI over 75. Try baked sweet potatoes, which have a lower GI score, or go really low with mashed cauliflower, easy to find now in grocery stores.

Grains and Rice
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GRAINS AND RICE

White rice is a high GI food and should be avoided, and believe it or not, pasta has a lower GI score than brown rice, which scores 48 in the GI scale. Opt for whole grain barley, rye berries, and even whole-wheat pasta for grain options and skip the rice.

Bakery Goods
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BAKERY GOODS

Commercially baked cupcakes, cookies, pies, scones, and muffins are never recommended for diabetics. They are extremely high on the glycemic index. Diabetics can learn to cook these treats with healthier swaps for flours and sugar and watch their portions.

Alcohol
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ALCOHOL

"Cocktails and especially wine and beer are to be avoided," says Ysabel Montemayor, lead dietitian at the meal delivery service Fresh n' Lean. She recommends that your quality calories and healthier carbs should come from whole foods, not from drinks. Occasions sometimes call for a toast, and some choices are better than others, so try and stick to a plain vodka soda or a neat whiskey.

Sweetened Fruit Cups
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SWEETENED FRUIT CUPS

Packaged and sold as healthy snacks for kids mostly, these syrup-drenched fruit pieces are not for a diabetic to consume. Whole fruits are absolutely okay to eat in moderation, but the more processed the fruit becomes the more dangerous. Even fruit juices are recommended to drink on a limited basis. Low glycemic fruits include peaches, apples, cherries, and strawberries.

Sweet Iced Tea
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SWEET ICED TEA

Southern-style sweet iced tea is a disaster for a diabetic and is akin to sugary sodas. Unsweetened ice tea, unsweetened black coffee, and whole milk are good choices, but keep sweet iced tea on the no-go list. There is promising research that supports daily hot or iced tea consumption as having a positive effect against Type 2 diabetes.

Fatty Cured Meats
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FATTY CURED MEATS

Cured meats and charcuterie are full of preservatives, salt, and fat. Some have sugar used in the curing process, too, none of which a diabetic should be indulging. For a deli craving, go for the more natural state of roasted and leaner cuts of meat. Sliced roasted chicken or turkey are the smart plays.

Char-Grilled Meats
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CHAR-GRILLED MEATS

Meats cooked directly on a charcoal grill may not be good for diabetics and reportedly worsen the chances for cancer or heart disease. Scientists suspect that harmful chemicals may form during high-heat cooking.

Restaurant Entrees
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RESTAURANT ENTREES

Deceiving in calories, portion sizes, and ingredients and often served with potatoes in some form, restaurant entrees are ticking GI time bombs for a diabetic. If you are at a restaurant, opt for the baked or steamed proteins and fresh vegetable sides, and skip salad dressings, beer, cocktails, fried appetizers, and breads.

Energy and Protein Bars
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ENERGY AND PROTEIN BARS

Many energy and protein bars have high calorie counts and corn syrup as a binder, or sneakier sugars like brown rice syrup or malt syrup. This is where a diabetic's detective skills are needed. Read the labels and opt for no-added-sugar bars, and look at the carb counts and protein grams. Make sure the calorie counts are under 300 too. There are many newcomers being sold that fit that bill.

Energy Drinks
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ENERGY DRINKS

These are anxiety-producing and high in sugars, so these drinks are a huge no-go for a diabetic. These drinks also cause dangerous spikes in insulin levels. Energy drinks' high caffeine amounts combined with loads of carbohydrates are iffy choices in general. For a swap, learn to appreciate unsweetened ice tea or black coffee for a caffeinated boost midday.

Little-Known Facts About Coke
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SODAS AND FLAVORED WATERS

Sugary sodas, diet sodas, and so-called "vitamin waters" are all on the "no" list for diabetics. They are full of sugar, bad carbs, and chemicals that have been shown to cause havoc with blood sugar levels. Need a fizzy swap? Make your own seltzer and squeeze a bit of citrus to add flavor.

Fruit Juice
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FRUIT JUICE

Many fruit juices that are sold in the grocery story are loaded with hidden sugars and not suitable for a diabetic. Freshly squeezed fruit juices like grapefruit or orange are suitable if taken in moderation. Whole fruits are always best, or a squeeze of citrus in natural sparkling water.

Skip Fancy Coffee Drinks
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COFFEE DRINKS

Coffee in its unsweetened black form is perfectly fine to drink, but drinks topped with whipped cream and flavorings on a coffee house menu are off-limits. That includes sweet chai tea lattes made from syrup bases and anything that has a squirt of a flavorings and a dollop of a whipped topping.

Fruit Smoothies
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FRUIT SMOOTHIES

Touted as health drinks, fruit-based smoothies are usually yogurt-based with add-ins and not good for diabetics, despite the healthy sounding ingredients. Smoothies sold in grocery stores are far too sugary for diabetics, too, but there are healthier swaps. Opt for juiced vegetables with no added sugars flavored with fresh ginger. There are many recipes to make diabetic-friendly smoothies at home as well.

Fruit Leather and Roll Ups
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FRUIT LEATHER AND ROLL UPS

Packaged fruit leathers and dried fruits are too full of sugar for diabetics. Fruit should always be eaten whole. Occasionally, small amounts of fresh natural juice are okay. There are homemade recipes and tricks to make diabetic-friendly fruit snacks that are a good substitute.

Frozen Yogurt
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FROZEN YOGURT

The shops are everywhere and are presented as a healthier option than an ice cream parlor. But it is a terrible option for diabetics as the sugar counts and GI for frozen yogurt treats and their toppings are off the charts. Frozen yogurt treats sold in grocery stores have too much sugar, as well. Learn to make your own healthy yogurt treat at home with Greek plain yogurt, spices and pieces of fresh fruit instead.

Yogurt Cups
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YOGURT CUPS

Absolutely not for a diabetic, as the sugar is in the syrupy fruit at the bottom of these easy-to-grab-and-go snacks so many rely upon. Buy only the Greek-style higher-protein yogurt unsweetened, and add a bit of nut toppings and safe natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit crystals to sweeten.

Ketchup and Relish
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KETCHUP AND RELISH

Condiments are sugar-filled foods that diabetics need to avoid and lose their taste for in order to manage blood sugar. Ketchup and prepared sweet relishes can be swapped out for fresh salsas, hot sauce, mustard, and plain yogurt-based toppings flavored with a bit of citrus like lime.

Soy Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, and Hoisin Sauce
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SOY SAUCE, BARBECUE SAUCE, AND HOISIN SAUCE

Traditional and restaurant Asian dipping sauces are also made with sugars with high carbohydrate counts and should be avoided. Barbecue sauce is also loaded with molasses and other sugary ingredients, too. There are a wealth of recipes and resources for a diabetic to explore to keep the flavors and lose the sugar.

Paleo Diet
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PALEO DIET

People with diabetes are already are at high risk for cardiovascular failure and disease, so an eating plan like the Paleo diet which promotes a heavy saturated fat and animal protein-based menu is not the best play. Nutritionists say to stick with complex carbs like vegetables and really increase those portions at every meal.