15 Foods Diabetics Should Avoid


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doctor holding blood sugar meter and showing 'OK' sign
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Closely monitoring diet is a crucial part of controlling diabetes as well as limiting medical costs. Uncontrolled diabetescan 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. 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. Here are 15 foods, some of which might seem healthy, that diabetics would do well to avoid.

three slices of whole wheat bread on white plate and wooden table
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Despite sounding healthy, wheat bread can contain refined flour and have about the same high glycemic index as white bread, according to research published by the American Diabetes Association. 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
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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
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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
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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
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People in a hurry often reach for energy and protein bars, but most bars 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.

homemade healthy granola in glass jar
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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
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They might provide a boost in the middle of the day, but energy drinks are full of carbohydrates. According to 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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Potatoes are fine to eat in moderation by people 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.

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Not all fats are bad. Dietician Laurie R. Simon 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
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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.

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