Not only do high-sugar foods like candy, cookies, syrup, and soda lack nutritional value, but these low-quality carbohydrates also cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar levels and can contribute to weight gain, both of which can worsen diabetes complications. Learn to satisfy your sweet tooth by snacking on high-quality carbohydrates such as fresh fruit. Apples, berries, pears, grapes, and oranges all have sweet, juicy flavors and are packed with fiber to help slow the absorption of glucose, making them a much better choice for blood sugar control. When snacking on fruit, pair it with a protein food, such as a string cheese, nonfat yogurt, or handful of nuts, to further reduce the impact on your blood sugar. (For more sweet ideas, see my list of 20 Low-Sugar Snack ideas).
2. Regular Soft Drinks
Sugar-laden soda can derail your healthy meal plan and spike blood sugar levels. Every 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon, so if your drink has 30 grams of sugar, that’s equal to consuming 7.5 teaspoons of sugar!
3. Restaurant French Fries
It’s no surprise that this fast-food staple is on our list. French fries are loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and calories. Although most fast-food restaurants now offer trans-fat-free fries, that doesn’t make them good for you. Here’s a look at the nutritional breakdown for an order of large fries from three fast-food chains.
4. White Bread
Refined starches — white bread, white rice, white pasta, and anything made with white flour — act a lot like sugar once the body starts to digest them. Therefore, just like sugar, refined starches interfere with glucose control and should be avoided by those with diabetes. Whole grains are a better choice because they’re richer in fiber and generally cause a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar. Instead of white bread or a bagel for breakfast, opt for a toasted whole grain English Muffin (topped with a slice of reduced-fat cheese or scrambled egg for protein). At lunch and dinner, replace white carbs with healthier whole grain options such as brown or wild rice, barley, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread to minimize the impact on your blood sugar. Even high-quality, whole grain starches elevate blood glucose to some degree, so it’s still important to limit portions — stick with ½ to ¾ cup cooked grains or just 1 slice of bread at meals.
5. Whole Milk
For those with diabetes, a diet high in saturated fat can worsen insulin resistance. Keep whole milk out of the fridge, and pick up 1% (low-fat) or skim (non-fat) milk instead. Also, try your best to avoid other whole-milk dairy products like cream, full-fat yogurt, regular cheese and cream cheese; instead, choose their reduced-fat counterparts whenever possible.
6. Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
Sometimes known as the bad boy on the breakfast buffet, traditional biscuits and gravy is indeed high in calories, fat (particularly saturated fat), and sodium. For example, the McDonald’s Biscuit and Gravy* entree has 570 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat.
7. Fruit Juice Beverages
Fruit beverages make our list of worst foods for diabetes because they can be high in calories and sugar. For example, Minute Maid Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Juice Blend* has 29 grams of sugar, 130 calories, and 31 grams of carbohydrate in an 8-ounce serving. Minute Maid does offer a line of low-calorie juice drinks with 2 grams of sugar or less per 8-ounce serving.
8. Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is another restaurant staple and all-time favorite comfort food that should be avoided. Frying the chicken adds significant carbs, calories, sodium, and fat, it turns a good protein choice into a healthy-meal deal-breaker.
9. Frozen Meals
Frozen meals are convenient, but their high sodium and fat contents can make them unhealthy choices for everyone in your family. If you do buy a frozen meal when you’re in a fix for dinner, try these tips: