For many of us, Food For Diabetes Type 2 To Avoid is one of the toughest things to deal with when we’re trying to manage diabetes type 2. There are numerous varieties of foods that can “help” reverse the symptoms of this disease and patients often find themselves to be wondering where they should start in their quest to eat better food.
Food For Diabetes Type 2 To Avoid
Your food choices matter a lot when you’ve got diabetes. Some are better than others.
Nothing is completely off-limits. Even items that you might think of as “the worst” could be occasional treats — in tiny amounts. But they won’t help you nutrition-wise, and it’s easiest to manage your diabetes if you mainly stick to the “best” options.
Your body needs carbs. But you want to choose wisely. Use this list as a guide.
- Whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, millet, or amaranth
- Baked sweet potato
- Items made with whole grains and no (or very little) added sugar
- Processed grains, such as white rice or white flour
- Cereals with little whole grains and lots of sugar
- White bread
- French fries
- Fried white-flour tortillas
Load up! You’ll get fiber and very little fat or salt (unless you add them). Remember, potatoes and corn count as carbs.
- Fresh veggies, eaten raw or lightly steamed, roasted, or grilled
- Plain frozen vegetables, lightly steamed
- Greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula. Iceberg lettuce is not as great because it’s low in nutrients.
- Low sodium or unsalted canned vegetables
Go for a variety of colors: dark greens, red or orange (think of carrots or red peppers), whites (onions) and even purple (eggplants). The 2015 U.S. guidelines recommend 2.5 cups of veggies per day.
- Canned vegetables with lots of added sodium
- Veggies cooked with lots of added butter, cheese, or sauce
- Pickles, if you need to limit sodium. Otherwise, pickles are OK.
- Sauerkraut, for the same reason as pickles. Limit them if you have high blood pressure.
They give you carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Most are naturally low in fat and sodium. But they tend to have more carbs than vegetables do.
- Fresh fruit
- Plain frozen fruit or fruit canned without added sugar
- Sugar-free or low-sugar jam or preserves
- No-sugar-added applesauce
- Canned fruit with heavy sugar syrup
- Chewy fruit rolls
- Regular jam, jelly, and preserves (unless you have a very small portion)
- Sweetened applesauce
- Fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit juice drinks
You have lots of choices, including beef, chicken, fish, pork, turkey, seafood, beans, cheese, eggs, nuts, and tofu.
The American Diabetes Association lists these as the top options:
- Plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, or tofu
- Fish and seafood
- Chicken and other poultry (Choose the breast meat if possible.)
- Eggs and low-fat dairy
If you eat meat, keep it low in fat. Trim the skin off of poultry.
Try to include some plant-based protein from beans, nuts, or tofu, even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan. You’ll get nutrients and fiber that aren’t in animal products.
- Fried meats
- Higher-fat cuts of meat, such as ribs
- Pork bacon
- Regular cheeses
- Poultry with skin
- Deep-fried fish
- Deep-fried tofu
- Beans prepared with lard
Keep it low in fat. If you want to splurge, keep your portion small.
- 1% or skim milk
- Low-fat yogurt
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Low-fat or nonfat sour cream
- Whole milk
- Regular yogurt
- Regular cottage cheese
- Regular sour cream
- Regular ice cream
- Regular half-and-half
Fats, Oils, and Sweets
They’re tough to resist. But it’s easy to get too much and gain weight, which makes it harder to manage your diabetes.
- Natural sources of vegetable fats, such as nuts, seeds, or avocados (high in calories, so keep portions small)
- Foods that give you omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel
- Plant-based oils, such as canola, grapeseed, or olive oils
- Anything with trans fat in it. It’s bad for your heart. Check the ingredient list for anything that’s “partially hydrogenated,” even if the label says it has 0 grams of trans fat.
- Big portions of saturated fats, which mainly come from animal products but also are in coconut oil and palm oil. Ask your doctor what your limit should be, especially if you have heart disease as well as diabetes.
When you down a favorite drink, you may get more calories, sugar, salt, or fat than you bargained for. Read the labels so you know what’s in a serving.
- Unflavored water or flavored sparkling water
- Unsweetened tea with or without a slice of lemon
- Light beer, small amounts of wine, or non-fruity mixed drinks
- Coffee, black or with added low-fat milk and sugar substitute
- Regular sodas
- Regular beer, fruity mixed drinks, dessert wines
- Sweetened tea
- Coffee with sugar and cream
- Flavored coffees and chocolate drinks
- Energy drinks
Healthy Foods For People With Diabetes
An important way to manage prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is through a healthy, balanced diet. Being mindful of carbohydrate intake, eating smaller meals regularly, and choosing healthy, nutrient-dense options can all help a person manage the risks health experts associate with diabetes.
Vegetables form the basis of a healthy diet. They are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Fiber and complex carbohydrates, present in many vegetables, can help a person feel satiated. This in turn can deter overeating, which may lead to undesirable weight gain and problems with blood sugar.
Some vegetables to add to the shopping list include:
- green peas
Beans and legumes
Beans, lentils, and other pulses are a great source of dietary fiber and protein.
The high fiber content of foods in the pulse family means that the digestive tract absorbs fewer carbohydrates than it does from low fiber, high carbohydrate foods.
This makes these foods an excellent carbohydrate choice for individuals with diabetes. People can also use them in place of meat or cheese.
Below are some examples of what beans to pick up in a canned or dry form:
- black beans
- white beans
- garbanzo beans
- kidney beans
- pinto beans
Also, pressure- or slow-cooking beans may help improve their digestibility.
Fruit can have a high sugar content, but the sugar in whole fruit does not count toward free sugars. Therefore, people with diabetes should not avoid fruit.
The following fruits make a solid addition to the diet of anyone who has type 2 diabetes, thanks to their low glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load:
Whole grains can be an effective way for people with diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels, since they often have a lower GI.
People should avoid bleached and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, and instead choose some of the following when consuming grains:
- whole wheat or legume pasta
- whole-grain bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice
- wild rice
- 100% whole-grain or whole wheat flour
Whole grains will also leave a person feeling full for longer, and they can have more flavor than processed carbohydrates.
10 Foods to Avoid When You Have Type 2 Diabetes
Avoiding or limiting fatty desserts and sugary alcoholic beverages will help you keep your blood sugar balanced.
A healthy type 2 diabetes diet includes healthy carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains; low-fat dairy; heart-healthy fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines; and good fats like nuts, avocados, and olive oil. But feeling your best when you have diabetes isn’t just about choosing the right foods, it’s also about limiting or avoiding foods that can spike your blood sugar and increase your risk of complications.
“It’s all about moderation and making careful food choices for overall balanced blood sugar control,” says Amy Kimberlain, RD, CDE, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Wellness Dietitian at Baptist Health South Florida. “You want to eat a balanced, healthful diet, and avoid refined carbohydrates, which raise blood sugar. You also want to avoid the saturated fat found in fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and fried foods, as people with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of getting heart disease.”
A healthy diet for diabetes will also help you manage your weight or lose weight if you’re overweight, which is important, because losing just 10 to 15 pounds may help you prevent and manage high blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Research shows that losing some weight can also help improve insulin sensitivity, meaning you’re less resistant and better able to respond to insulin, Kimberlain explains. A small study published in June 2017 in Nutrition & Diabetes showed sustained enhanced insulin sensitivity in successful female weight-loss maintainers compared with those who had no history of weight loss.
To avoid weight gain and keep your blood sugar under control, limit or avoid the following 10 foods.
Diabetes Diet Tips for The Carb Lover
1. Sugary Foods Like Sweets and Soda
Foods that are made primarily of processed sugar, like many desserts, candy, and soda, are considered low-quality carbohydrates. Not only are these foods lacking in nutritional value, they can also cause a sharp spike in your blood sugar, says Kimberlain. They can also lead to weight problems. “Refined carbohydrates raise blood sugar,” she explains. “Your body then produces extra insulin to bring your blood sugar down. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. With more circulating insulin in your bloodstream, your body converts the carbohydrates to fat and stores them — on your buttocks, thighs, abdomen, and hips.”
Instead of sweets, reach for delicious fruits like apples, berries, pears, or oranges. These high-quality carbohydrates contain plenty of fiber to help slow down the absorption of glucose, so they’re a far better choice for blood-sugar control. Pair fruit with a high-protein food, such as peanut butter, for even better blood-sugar levels. One caveat: Even though fruit is healthy, it too raises blood sugar, warns Kimberlain. “I always tell patients that timing is everything,” she says. “If you just had a meal two hours ago (which is when your blood sugar is at its peak), and now you have a piece of fruit, you will only raise your blood sugar even more.” It’s better to give your body time to return to a normal range, or opt for a hard-boiled egg or a handful of nuts (protein foods that won’t directly affect your blood sugar level), she suggests.
2. Sip on Flavored Seltzer Rather Than Fruit Juice
While fiber-rich whole fruits are considered healthy carbohydrates for people with diabetes, fruit juice is another story. People with diabetes should avoid drinking juice, even 100 percent fruit juice, says Kimberlain. Fruit juice contains more vitamins and minerals than soda and other sugary drinks, but the problem is that juices have concentrated amounts of fruit sugar and therefore cause your blood sugar to spike quickly. Plus, sipping fruit juice doesn’t fill you up the same way that eating a piece of fruit does, because juice doesn’t have the same fiber that’s found in whole fruit, she adds. If you want a refreshing drink, go for zero-calorie plain or naturally flavored seltzer with a spritz of lemon or lime. Infusing water with cucumber and mint is nice too, suggests Kimberlain.
3. Snack on Fresh Fruit Instead of Dried Fruit
Although dried fruit contains fiber and many nutrients, the dehydration process removes the water, so it’s easier to eat more — think about how many more raisins than grapes you can eat. While snacking on raisins or dried apricots is better for you than eating a cookie, it’ll still send your blood sugar soaring. Skip the dried fruit and instead choose whole fruits that are high in fiber, which cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose (but remember to eat fruit at a time when your blood sugar isn’t already at its peak, says Kimberlain).
4. Replace White Carbs With Whole Grains
Big offenders on the low-quality carb list are refined starches, like white rice and anything made with white flour, including white bread and pasta. These “white” carbs act a lot like sugar once your body begins to digest them, which means they will increase your glucose levels. Replace white carbs with whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, barley, oatmeal, high-fiber cereals, and whole-grain breads, for carbs that break down more slowly and have a less dramatic effect on blood sugar. “The first ingredient should say a whole grain —whether it’s whole grain or whole rye, it should say ‘whole,’” explains Kimberlain.
5. Favor Low-Fat Over Full-Fat Dairy
You’ve probably heard that the saturated fats in dairy products can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. But saturated fats may cause yet another serious problem for people with diabetes — research has found that eating a diet high in saturated fat may worsen insulin resistance. Do your best to avoid full-fat dairy products made with whole milk, such as cream, full-fat yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese, and other full-fat cheeses. Look for reduced-fat or fat-free dairy products instead. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone should get no more than 5 to 6 percent of their total calories from saturated fat, and this guidance is even more important for people with type 2 diabetes, says Kimberlain. So if you consume 2,000 calories per day, that’s about 120 calories from saturated fat, or 13 grams.
6. Opt for Lean Proteins Over Fatty Cuts of Meat
People with type 2 diabetes should limit or avoid high-fat cuts of meat, such as regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and ribs, because like full-fat dairy, they’re high in saturated fats, explains Kimberlain. Saturated fats in meat raise cholesterol and promote inflammation throughout the body, and can also put people with diabetes at even greater risk for heart disease than the average person, since their risk is already elevated as a result of diabetes (people with type 2 diabetes may have other conditions that contribute to their risk for developing cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and high triglycerides, obesity, a lack of physical activity, poorly controlled blood sugars, or smoking, according to the American Heart Association). Instead of fatty cuts of meat, choose lean proteins, including skinless chicken and turkey, fish and shellfish, pork tenderloin, and lean beef. When it comes to ground beef, make sure you choose beef that’s at least 92 percent lean and 8 percent fat, advises Kimberlain.
7. Limit Packaged Snacks and Baked Goods
Aside from all the sugar, junky white flour, sodium, and preservatives they contain, packaged snacks and baked goods — like chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, doughnuts, and snack cakes — often have unhealthy trans fats. Trans fats increase your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, lower your “good” (HDL) cholesterol, and raise your risk of heart disease. They’re also even more dangerous than saturated fats, especially for people who have type 2 diabetes, who are already at increased risk of heart disease, explains Kimberlain. In fact, there’s no amount of trans fats that you can safely include in your diet, especially if you have type 2 diabetes, she notes.
The good news is that trans fats are now listed right below the amount of saturated fats on food labels, making it easier to steer clear of them. Look for labels that list 0 grams (g) trans fat, but keep in mind that according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), products with less than 0.5 g can claim 0 g, so they may not be trans-fat free. Check the ingredients list as well to make sure the product doesn’t contain any partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of trans fats. Seek out healthy fats in salmon and other fatty fish, as well as in nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive and canola oils.
8. Forget About Eating Oily, Breaded Fried Foods
You may have a weakness for fried foods like french fries, fried chicken, and potato chips, but satisfying this craving another way will be better for your health in the long run. Fried foods typically soak up tons of oil, which equates to lots of extra calories — and many are coated in breading first, jacking up the numbers even more. Overdoing the greasy stuff can pack on the pounds and cause blood-sugar chaos, says Kimberlain. “Not only do these foods initially spike blood sugar, they can leave it high over a long period of time. Fat takes longer to digest, so it keeps blood sugar elevated,” she says. To make matters even worse, some foods are deep-fried in hydrogenated oils that are laden with trans fats.
For the same flavor without the fat and calories, Kimberlain suggests finding new ways to prepare the ‘fried’ foods you like, such as baking, roasting, or grilling (think fish tacos grilled vs. fried). “You can even make baked ‘fried’ chicken,” she says. “Air fryers are popular now as well, so there’s that option, too. And if you don’t have an air fryer, I have a little convection oven that works just the same. I make baked fries in there that taste so crispy, you’d think they were fried.”
9. Avoid Alcohol or Drink Only in Moderation
Before you indulge in a cocktail or even a glass of wine with dinner, check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe for you to drink alcohol, since it can interfere with your blood-sugar levels. If you do drink, keep it in moderation, advises the ADA. “Moderation” is generally defined as no more than one serving per day if you’re a woman, and no more than two if you’re a man. A typical serving is measured as 5 ounces (oz) of wine, 12 oz of beer, or 1.5 oz of distilled liquor.
“Diabetes medication is processed through the liver, and so is alcohol,” explains Kimberlain. “This double whammy can be too much for your liver. If you’re taking insulin, it can cause low blood sugar, especially if you’re drinking and not eating.”
As for best and worst choices at the bar, Kimberlain recommends mixed drinks like diet soda with rum (hard liquor has no carbs), or hard liquor with ice or calorie-free mixers. Avoid sweet wines like prosecco and “foofy” umbrella drinks with lots of sugar.
10. Sweeteners That Spike Your Blood Sugar
People tend to think that “natural” sweeteners like honey are okay, but the body doesn’t distinguish between sugars — it just knows it’s sugar, explains Kimberlain. These natural sugars still cause a spike in blood sugar. The goal is to learn to enjoy food for its natural flavor, and start cutting back on added sugar, she says.