Foods Diabetics Should Avoid
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Foods Diabetics Should Avoid
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Not So Sweet

There is more valuable information than ever before on how to manage and even reverse Type 2 diabetes, and it is all centered on diet and exercise. Uncontrolled diabetes can spur a host of life-ending events like kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke. Most people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes learn quickly that not only does their normal daily diet need a drastic makeover, but that understanding the health effects and glycemic index of certain foods is crucial, and that managing these numbers — and adding more daily exercise — to control blood sugar will greatly improve a person's wellbeing. Thanks to the recent popularity of a low-carbohydrate lifestyle —and the subsequent low-to-no-sugar availability of recipes, snacks, and other options — someone concerned about prevention or a diagnosed diabetic can easily prepare their favorite foods. Here is a look at the foods that diabetics would do well to avoid. For the flip side to this story, check out 31 Foods for Diabetics That Help Keep Blood Sugar Under Control.

Trans Fat-Laden Spreads
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Trans Fat-Laden Spreads

Industrial trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to liquid oils to solidify them, which makes them more shelf-stable and affects texture. Think commercially prepared shelf-stable peanut butter, nut spreads, margarine, cheese spreads, creamers, and frozen dinners. In addition, trans fats are added to many crackers, muffins, and other baked goods to extend shelf life. Diabetics should avoid these at all costs according to the CDC.

100 Calorie Packs
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"100 Calorie" Portioned Snack Packs

Despite being touted as a diet assist for calorie counters, these snack packs are full of trans fats. Dr. Anis Rehman, MD, says: "Usually, a one-ounce (28 gram) serving of crackers or pretzels has 22 grams of carbohydrate." Pretzels, small cookies, crackers, and other packaged foods are made with refined flour and fast-digesting carbs that can raise blood sugar. Eat whole foods like nuts or a few low-carb vegetables with a small portion of cheese if you need to graze.

Juice Cleanse
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Expensive Juice Cleanses

Juice cleanses, detox drinks, and anything people drink as a meal substitute are products that are often touted as healthy. But they are really Trojan horses for sugar and lack protein and fiber, which help keep blood sugar steady, and oftentimes are high in calories, as well. "Fruit should be eaten whole," says Rehman. So skip these, save money, eat an orange and, if you need minerals and vitamins added to your diet, take basic supplements.

Sugar-Free Candy
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"Sugar-Free" Foods

Just avoid these frankenfoods altogether. Commercially made sugar-free items are normally very highly processed foods made with unwanted chemicals and extra trans fat in order to make them palatable. Eat whole foods, smaller quantities, and try drinking plain water when you think you are hungry between meals.

Salad Croutons
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Salad Toppings and Croutons

These carbohydrate-heavy crunchy toppings may be used without considering the effect they have on blood sugar. "If you are dining out, ask to hold the croutons," Rehman says. If you are constructing a salad at the salad bar, add sunflower seeds, carrot strips, sliced radish, or jicama to your salad for texture.

Fish Sticks
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Fish Sticks

Yummy in a homemade taco, right? Wrong. More than chicken nuggets, fish sticks are heavily coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried shrimp and fish can have an extra-thick coating. "Just avoid fried foods in general, especially seafood," Rehman says.

Bread
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Bread

All commercially baked white and wheat breads are made with refined flour and 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.

Granola
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Cereals and Granolas

Loaded with hidden and not-so-hidden sugar, even the healthiest seeming breakfast cereals are diabetic landmines with a high glycemic index (GI). Granolas seem a healthier option but they are often equally sugar-laden. According to the American Diabetes Association, try oatmeal or oat bran, which have a lower GI value of 55 or less. There are many high-protein and low-carb granolas available in grocery stores, too.

Honey and Agave
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Potatoes
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Potatoes

Any way you slice them or cook them, potatoes are a high-GI food and should be avoided by diabetics. Mashed potatoes and French fries, for example, each have a GI over 75. Try baked sweet potatoes, which have a lower GI score, or go even lower with mashed cauliflower made from cauliflower rice, easy to find in grocery stores' frozen sections or to make yourself.

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 around a 20-point lower GI score than even brown rice. The best choices for grains and rice replacements are foods like whole-grain barley, rye berries, and even whole wheat pasta. Many people use cauliflower rice as a rice substitute, too.

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 make these treats with healthier swaps for flour and sugar, but still need to watch their portions.

Wine and Beer
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Alcohol

"Cocktails and especially wine and beer are to be avoided," says Ysabel Montemayor, the lead RD at meal delivery service Fresh n' Lean. She recommends that your quality calories and healthier carbs come from whole foods rather than drinks. Occasions sometimes call for a toast, so try and stick to a plain vodka soda or a neat whiskey.

Sweetened Fruit Cups
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Sweetened Fruit Cups

Often packaged and sold as healthy snacks for kids, these syrup-drenched fruit pieces are not for a diabetic to consume. Whole fruits are absolutely OK to eat in moderation, but the more processed 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 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 coffee and green tea consumption as having a positive effect on Type 2 diabetes.

Fatty Cured Meats
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Fatty Cured Meats

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

Char-Grilled Meats
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Char-Grilled Meats

Recent research has connected well-done or charred red meat and chicken cooked directly on a grill to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Though the connection is unclear, some of the chemicals that may play a role include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic aromatic amines, and nitrosamines (the latter is added to meats as a preservative), all of which are formed during charbroiled high-heat cooking. These same meats cooked to "lightly browned" showed a significantly decreased risk.

Restaurant Entree
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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 grilled or steamed proteins and fresh vegetable sides, and skip salad dressings, beer, cocktails, fried appetizers, and breads.

Related: 19 Places Where Diabetics Can Safely Eat Out

Energy and Protein Bars
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Energy and Protein Bars

Many energy and protein bars have high-calorie counts, 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, opt for no-added-sugar bars, and look at the carb and protein counts. Also, make sure the calorie count is under 300. There are many newcomers being sold that fit that bill.

Energy Drinks
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Energy Drinks

These are high in sugar and can also cause dangerous spikes in insulin levels. Energy drinks' high caffeine amounts combined with bad carbohydrates are not really good for anyone, much less diabetics. For a swap, learn to appreciate unsweetened ice tea, green tea, or black coffee for a caffeinated mid-day boost.

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 wreak 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

Most fruit juices that are sold in the grocery store are loaded with sugars and not suitable for a diabetic. Freshly squeezed fruit juices like grapefruit or orange are better, but diabetics should limit themselves to a four-ounce portion each day.

Skip Fancy Coffee Drinks
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Coffee Drinks

Coffee in its unsweetened black form is perfectly fine to drink, but many of the items 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 flavoring or a dollop of whipped topping.

Fruit Leather and Roll Ups
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Fruit Leather and Roll-Ups

Packaged fruit leathers and dried fruits are too sugar-dense a treat for a diabetic. Fruit should always be eaten whole. Occasionally, a small amount of fresh natural juice is OK. Or try one of the homemade methods to make diabetic-friendly fruit snacks that are a good substitute.

Frozen Yogurt
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Frozen Yogurt

The shops are everywhere, and frozen yogurt is presented as a healthier option than ice cream, but it is a terrible option for a diabetic. The sugar counts and GI index for frozen yogurt treats and their toppings are off the charts. That also goes for frozen yogurt treats sold in grocery stores. But you can 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

These are absolutely not for a diabetic, as they have plenty of added sugar, especially the ones with syrupy fruit at the bottom. If you need an easy-to-grab-and-go snack, buy Greek-style, higher-protein yogurt unsweetened and add a bit of nut topping and safe natural sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit crystals.

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 a diabetic, despite the healthy-sounding ingredients. Smoothies sold in grocery stores are far too sugary for a diabetic, 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.

Related: The Best Cheap Blenders

Watch Out for Sauces
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Ketchup and Sweet Relish

Many condiments are sugar-filled foods that diabetics need to avoid 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 such as lime.

Soy Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, and Hoisin Sauce
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