12 Diabetes Food Tips to Avoid

There's a lot of information about what to eat and what not to eat with diabetes. Find out expert advice on common misconceptions to feel more confident about the foods you eat and the choices you make.


Misleading Advice: If it's sugar-free, eat up!

Before ripping open the package with bold letters shouting "sugar-free," take a closer look at the rest of the label. "Sugar-free does not always equal carb-free, fat-free, or calorie-free," says Jennifer Hyman M.S., R.D., CDE, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator in Rockville Centre, New York.

The total carbohydrate from the flour and milk in some sugar-free foods such as cakes, cookies, and brownies still affects blood glucose. And the foods' calories and fat can thwart efforts to manage weight and cholesterol. With 175 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat, a sugar-free brownie is no health bargain. That's a lot of empty calories that won't really fill you up or provide much nutrition.

Some sugar-free foods are with made with sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol or xylitol. Most people can tolerate sugar alcohols in portion-controlled amounts. However, if you overeat on foods with sugar alcohols or are just starting to eat foods that contain them, you may notice some increased gas, a bloated feeling, cramps, or diarrhea.

Expert Tip: Save sweets of all types for occasional treats to allow ample room in your diabetes diet for more nutritious foods. Account for the carbohydrate in everything you eat.

Misleading Advice: Eat all the fiber-rich foods you want.

Most Americans consume too little dietary fiber, eating at best about 15 of the 21-38 grams recommended for daily intake. Naturally fiber-rich foods are brimming with vitamins, minerals, and other disease-fighters, so eat up -- just not too much. Fiber comes packed with plenty of carbohydrate in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, so do practice portion control or your blood glucose will rise too high.

To avoid the gas, bloating, and diarrhea that sometimes accompany quickly adding a lot of high-fiber foods, gradually replace highly processed, low-fiber foods with fiber-rich ones, advises Liz Quintana Ed.D., R.D., CDE, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

Expert Tip: Eat one or two high-fiber foods with each meal.

Misleading Advice: Say good-bye to all junk food.

If a pantry full of junk food unleashes your inner Cookie Monster, swearing off all sweets and chips forever may seem like the only solution. Here's the problem: Once you make a food or a group of foods forbidden, it has even more appeal. Willpower works for a short while, but eventually feelings of deprivation lead to an all-out junk-food frenzy.

Expert Tip: Make moderation, not deprivation, your mantra. Keep treats out of the house or at least out of sight, but allow yourself something small and satisfying now and then. Plan for a single ice cream cone or mini bag of chips, for example. Just be sure to work it into your meal plan.