Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes
IN THIS ARTICLE
Fats, Oils, and Sweets
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
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.
If you have diabetes, you have to watch your diet carefully, but you can still enjoy summer parties. Follow these tips for keeping your blood sugar stable at warm-weather get-togethers.
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 okay.
Sauerkraut, for the same reason as pickles -- so, 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.
Plain frozen fruit or fruit canned without added sugar
Sugar-free or low-sugar jam or preserves
Canned fruit with heavy sugar syrup
Chewy fruit rolls
Regular jam, jelly, and preserves (unless you have a very small portion)
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 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.
Higher-fat cuts of meat, such as ribs
Poultry with skin
Beans prepared with lard
Keep it low in fat. If you want to splurge, keep your portion small.
1% or skim milk
Low-fat cottage cheese
Low-fat or nonfat sour cream
Regular cottage cheese
Regular sour cream
Regular ice cream
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 artificial 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.
Water, unflavored or flavored sparkling water
Unsweetened tea (add 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 beer, fruity mixed drinks, dessert wines
Coffee with sugar and cream
Flavored coffees and chocolate drinks
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on December 19, 2017
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