15 Foods Diabetics Should Avoid


View as:

doctor holding blood sugar meter and showing 'OK' sign
Photo credit: Hriana/shutterstock

Closely monitoring diet is a crucial part of controlling diabetes -- and keeping medical costs down. Uncontrolled diabetes can land sufferers in the hospital with kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be reversed with lifestyle choices and dietary changes, meaning no more pricey medication. The American Diabetes Association warns that highly processed foods are more likely to have high glycemic loads that raise blood glucose levels, as are foods with a lot of refined sugar and not enough fiber. Here are 15 such foods -- some of which might seem healthy -- that diabetics would do well to avoid.

Related: 10 Ways to Prevent Financial Disaster From a Serious Illness

three slices of whole wheat bread on white plate and wooden table
Photo credit: Buppha/shutterstock

Despite sounding healthy, wheat bread can contain refined flour and have about the same high glycemic index as white bread, according to research published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care. Read the label closely to make sure whole grain or whole wheat flour is at the top of the list of ingredients instead of enriched or white flour.

bowl of Lucky Charms cereal
Photo credit: Pamela D. Maxwell/shutterstock

Many breakfast cereals have a high sugar content, and even some that are advertised as healthy have more sugar and less fiber than diabetics should consume. Look for added sugar and fiber content on the label.

chocolate cupcake
Photo credit: Africa Studio/shutterstock

It should go without saying that cake, cupcakes, cookies, scones, and muffins are generally poor sources of nutrition. They also register high on the glycemic index. Diabetics should eat them only rarely and in very small quantities.

white rice in bowl and a bag with a wooden spoon
Photo credit: iprachenko/shutterstock

Another food that's high on the glycemic index is white rice. Harvard researchers have found that the more white rice people eat, the higher their risk for developing diabetes. Brown rice is somewhat lower on the glycemic scale, but whenever possible, pick grains like quinoa, farro, bulgur wheat, or barley instead.

protein bar
Photo credit: n7atal7i/shutterstock

People in a hurry often reach for energy and protein bars, but most contain high fructose corn syrup and have sugar content similar to candy bars. The Joslin Diabetes Center suggests choosing bars with 90 to 260 calories, at least 3 grams of fiber, and a balance of other nutrients.

Related: 14 Costly Health Problems and How to Catch Them Early

homemade healthy granola in glass jar
Photo credit: Olga Miltsova/shutterstock

While the rolled oats and other whole grains often found in granola can be good sources of fiber, packaged granolas tend to be sweetened with sugar or honey. Nutritionist Laurie R. Simon says diabetics should look for packaged foods that contain no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

close up of Red Bull cans
Photo credit: Twin Design/shutterstock

They might provide a boost in the middle of the day, but energy drinks are full of carbohydrates. According to recent research at the University of Calgary in Canada, they may actually cause insulin spikes in teenagers.

bottle of Glaceau Vitamin Water in fruit punch flavor
Photo credit: Keith Homan/shutterstock

Vitamin water doesn't taste like water because it isn't. Most brands have about as much sugar in a bottle as a can of regular Coke. As an alternative to soft drinks, squeeze some lemon or lime into a glass of seltzer.

iced blended frappucino
Photo credit: Tharakorn/shutterstock

Coffee is an energy booster, but even without additions like mocha, caramel, and java chips, a medium-size drink can contain as much as 50 grams of sugar. Ditch the sugary drink in favor of tea or plain coffee with low-fat milk.

fresh blueberry and strawberry smoothie
Photo credit: Brent Hofacker/shutterstock

Smoothies may seem healthy because of the fruit and yogurt they contain, but drinks from smoothie stands are loaded with sugar. Diabetes Self-Management has some tips for making your own fruit smoothies.

selection of colorful dried fruits
Photo credit: conejota/shutterstock

Fresh or frozen fruit in limited quantities is a good source of fiber, but when fruit is dried, the sugar content is concentrated. Consider sticking to serving sizes of a tablespoon or less.

yogurt dessert with red currant jelly and fresh berries
Photo credit: Elena Veselova/shutterstock

Yogurt, particularly with mix-in fruit on the bottom, is high in sugar and saturated fat. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases warns that diabetics are at increased risk of heart disease and should watch their intake of saturated fat as well as their glucose levels. Non-fat Greek yogurt (which has more protein and less sugar) is a better choice.

french fries on cutting board
Photo credit: Africa Studio/shutterstock

Potatoes are fine to eat in moderation with diabetes when consumed with protein. Fast-food fries, however, are full of trans fats, which raise the risk of heart disease. Opt for oven-baked fries sprinkled with olive oil and seasonings instead.

Photo credit: Tiger Images/shutterstock

Not all fats are bad. Simon, the registered dietitian, says monounsaturated oils found in nuts, olives, and avocados help lower bad cholesterol. But many crackers are sources of trans fats and usually are made from white flour, as well. Try a different snack.

pile of salty pretzels
Photo credit: Binh Thanh Bui/shutterstock

Packaged snacks are usually high in sodium, and the American Diabetes Association recommends limiting sodium intake, because diabetics are prone to high blood pressure. Instead, choose unsalted nuts, trail mix, or fresh fruit.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.