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30 Diabetic Food Swaps to Lower Blood Sugar

Avoid: Milk Chocolate

We’re sorry to say that your favorite treat isn’t the best choice. Milk chocolate has a lot of sugar and can easily cause blood sugar spikes even if you eat just a little of it. Just because milk chocolate isn’t on this list doesn’t mean you have to give up chocolate altogether.

Instead, Eat: Dark Chocolate

Try dark chocolate! Dark chocolate is healthy for you, believe it or not. Studies have shown dark chocolate can improve health and lower your risk of heart disease. This is probably because it gives your body lots of Vitamin K for bone strength, selenium to help prevent coronary heart disease, and antioxidants to keep free radicals out of your body and help prevent cancer. However, moderation is still vital. Dark chocolate can still increase your waistline if you eat too much.

Avoid: Bread Crumbs

You already know how bad white bread is for you, but sometimes you still ignore it because you’re not consuming very much. The crunchy coating on your crab cakes can actually be making your blood sugar spike. Avoid this high-carb mistake in favor of something more healthy.

Instead, Eat: Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are crunchy, buttery, and slightly sweet, making them a delicious alternative to bread crumbs. They’re packed with heart-healthy fats that help keep you fuller longer without affecting your blood sugar. Just crush them up and use them instead of breadcrumbs to coat your fish filets, chicken, or veggies.

Avoid: White Bread

White bread is seriously bad for your body. It can spike your blood sugar quickly and leave you hungry again in a short amount of time. It also has little fiber, so there’s nothing to help transport what little nutrients are actually there.

Instead, Eat: Whole Grain Bread

Instead, replace it with whole grain bread -- just make sure to look at the ingredients list. Whole grain bread should start with “whole grain” over anything else. White bread usually begins with enriched flour, which isn’t good for you. Whole grain bread is packed with folate for your body’s cells, B6 for proper brain development and serotonin, zinc to boost the immune system, and magnesium, which is crucial for nerve transmission and your metabolism. 

Avoid: Mashed Potatoes

Everyone loves good mashed potatoes, but they can quickly get out of hand. Butter, salt, and cream can make the food bad. Potatoes can be healthy on their own as long as you eat them plain, but those with diabetes should stay away from mashed potatoes. The food can be high in carbs and fat that contribute to weight gain, and fats that can increase your risk of heart disease. 

Instead, Eat: Pureed Cauliflower

Pureed cauliflower can give you the same texture and almost the same taste. Plus, you get vitamins and minerals from the vegetable. In fact, cauliflower contains 77% of your daily value of vitamin C, which is necessary for energy, maintaining connective tissue, and strong blood vessels and bones. It also has vitamin K to help prevent bone loss, and riboflavin that boosts energy, maintains a healthy metabolism, and repairs the body.

Avoid: Cereal

Most cereals at the market are loaded with sugar and very little fiber. It’s easy to see children’s cereals are packed with sugar, but even some “adult” brands can be bad. For example, Raisin Ban has as much as 18g sugar per serving.

Instead, Eat: Steel-Cut Oats

Swapping cereal with steel-cut oats is simple and delicious. You can add fresh fruit, nuts, and other ingredients to make it any flavor you want. You can also mix in extracts to add a splash of vanilla or cinnamon. Steel-cut oats are an excellent source of manganese and molybdenum. Manganese is essential for the absorption of calcium and necessary for the thyroid to work properly. Molybdenum can help improve circulation, regulate cell growth, and protect blood vessels from injury.

Avoid: Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce is easy to eat but has little nutritional value. In fact, iceberg lettuce is 95% water. Sure, this means it's low in calories, but you could be getting more vitamins and minerals by switching it out with something else.

Instead, Eat: Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens are a much better option that could also jazz up the flavor or your salad or sandwich. Picking greens like spinach, romaine, and kale can give you extra nutrients and more bang for your buck. Spinach, for example, has tons of vitamin K for bone strength, vitamin A to boost the immune system, iron to promote healthy, oxygenated blood, and tons of fiber that can help keep you regular and absorb every vitamin and mineral in the food.

Avoid: Mayo

We all love a good slather of mayo on our sandwich or in a dip, but it’s pretty bad for you. One tablespoon has 90 calories, and it’s high in fat. You could buy low-calorie and low-fat mayo, but you could also swap it out for something that’s even better.

Instead, Eat: Low-Fat Greek Yogurt

Low-fat Greek yogurt is a great mayo replacement. It’s packed with nutrients that can make your sandwich or dip even healthier than before. It’s full of calcium for healthy and strong bones, potassium for your metabolism and muscles, protein to help repair your tissues, and B6 and B12 for a healthy nervous system and extra energy. Plus, it has good bacteria that can help your body digest foods.

Avoid: Mixed Nuts

Mixed nuts are a popular snack that’s super easy to grab when you’re hungry. However, the nuts inside can be high in fats and extremely high in salt. This can raise your blood pressure and exacerbate symptoms of diabetes.

Instead, Eat: Walnuts

Unsalted or lightly salted walnuts are a much better choice if you want a quick snack. These nuts are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts also contain melatonin, which can help regulate your sleep cycle, vitamin E as an antioxidant to prevent nerve damage, and folate to promote tissue growth and DNA repair.

Avoid: Flour Tortillas

Flour tortillas, much like white bread, are bad for you. They can make your blood sugar spike without keeping you full for a long time, leaving you hungry and sick. There’s also not enough nutritional value in flour tortillas to make them worth eating.

Instead, Eat: Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas are a great alternative to their flour counterparts. Not only are they tastier, but they also have a fraction of the fat that flour tortillas contain. With this swap, you can rest assured that you’ll feel fuller longer and avoid a blood sugar spike.

Avoid: Liquor

Liquor can be dangerous in a lot of different ways. Not only does it lower inhibitions, but it can also severely lower your blood sugar to dangerous levels. There are unnecessary sugars, filled with carbs, and generally next to no nutritional value.

Instead, Eat: Light Beer or Dry Wines

Avoid: Chips

Chips, whether fried or baked, aren’t great for you. Potatoes are one of the least nutritious vegetables out there, and chips are usually heavily salted. Grabbing a bag of baked chips is a start, but there are better snack options out there.

Instead, Eat: Plain Popcorn

Popcorn is a fantastic example of a guilt-free snack, but you have to be careful. The bagged, microwave popcorn can be just as bad as some chips. Instead, get the unpopped kernels and make your own on the stove top. Try not to add salt, but if you have to, use a light sprinkle. The fiber in popcorn can help keep you regular and assist your body in absorbing nutrients from other foods. It also has trace amounts of thiamin to provide more energy and maintain proper heart functions, niacin to lower cardiovascular risk, and magnesium, which is crucial for nerve transmission and muscle contraction.

Avoid: Soda

An ice-cold soda can be refreshing on a hot summer day, but you may not feel too great when it jacks up your blood sugar. Diet soda can be an option, but studies show many people drink more diet soda because it’s “good for you,” but it can actually have the opposite effect.

Instead, Eat: Flavored Water or Tea

Instead, grab flavored water. You can flavor your own water with fresh fruits like lemon, strawberries, and blueberries for a healthy drink with nutrients. You can also drink tea without sugar. Both of these drinks are much healthier than soda and won’t cause sugar spikes. Most teas are full of antioxidants which can help prevent various cancers. Some even have vitamin C for an immune boost and vitamin A for healthy heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Avoid: Candy

Of course, candy is bad for you. It’s high in sugar and can cause cavities among other things. Anyone with diabetes knows this fact. Sugar-free candy is another option, but it still has no nutritional value for the calories you’re consuming. You can switch it out for something better!

Instead, Eat: Fruit

Fresh fruit can be a great snack when you have a sweet tooth. Nearly every choice is filled with nutrients that can help your body, and the fiber will help digest the natural sugars to prevent a blood sugar spike. Each fruit has different vitamins and minerals, but most have vitamin C, which can improve energy levels and your immune system. They’re also high in folate for cell growth, and potassium to help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Avoid: Butter

Butter is a cooking staple for most people, but it can be a bad option for someone with diabetes. The fats in butter can increase your waistline and make symptoms of diabetes worse, especially for those that are already overweight. Even though it has trace amounts of protein, butter is made up of 80% fats. 

Instead, Eat: Avocado

Almost every recipe that calls for butter can be replaced with avocado. One avocado has tons of healthy fats that may decrease your pant size and improve your heart. Naturally, avocado also tastes great spread on toast. Avocado is exceptionally high in vitamin E, which can help prevent cell damage. It also provides 11% of your daily fiber, tons of folate for cell growth, potassium to maintain healthy blood pressures, and lutein which can help prevent macular degeneration.

Avoid: Full Fat Dairy

Whole milk and full-fat cheeses increase your risk and symptoms of diabetes. It’s true that full-fat dairy can be healthy for you and contain nutrients that could help your body, but it isn’t an even trade for someone with diabetes. 

Instead, Eat: Reduced Fat Dairy

On the other hand, studies have shown that reduced-fat dairy can help lower the risk of diabetes and even improve the condition. Low-fat cheeses and 1% milk can be just as good and work as a replacement for any full-fat dairy product. Even though it’s low-fat, 1% milk still has tons of vitamin D and calcium for strong bones, folate for cell growth, and vitamin B12 for extra energy.

Avoid: Beef

Sadly enough, beef can be bad for you. Many cuts are marbled and have a high content of fat that can clog arteries and make you feel worse over time. While you could choose leaner cuts, there are better options on the chopping block. Overall, beef is known for having lower amounts of vitamins compared to other meats like turkey and chicken.

Instead, Eat: Fish or Chicken

Fish provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It’s best to stay away from white fish like tilapia and cod, and instead purchase salmon and trout. One filet of salmon can contain 40g of protein for healthy muscles, potassium for nerve impulses and heart regulation, and selenium to help prevent coronary heart disease. Chicken, on the other hand, is much cheaper and can provide 38g of protein per serving. 

Avoid: Fried Foods

Someone with diabetes should stay away from anything fried. Fried foods are high in trans-fats that can cause heart disease in no time. They’re also high in calories that add unwanted weight in a short amount of time.

Instead, Eat: Baked Foods

Anything can be fried can also be baked. Chicken, vegetables, and coconut shrimp are just a few of the things you can throw in the oven instead of hot grease. Baked foods lack the trans-fat that can cause heart disease and other health issues. They can also help decrease the amount of fat, which can help you lose weight. Finally, baked foods almost always have lower calories.

Avoid: Fruit Juice

Fruit juice may seem like an easy way to get your daily nutritional value, but it can actually have the opposite effect. Fruit juice is mostly absorbed as sugar, which can increase your blood sugar quite quickly. Thanks to the sugar content, it’s also high in carbohydrates, which can rapidly increase your pant size. It’s also extremely low in fiber since the good stuff has been removed.

Instead, Eat: Whole Fruits

If you want some fruit, just eat the whole fruit. The fiber helps digest the nutrients, which are otherwise barely absorbed as the juice is digested so quickly through your body. Depending on the fruit, you’re sure to get tons of vitamins and minerals. Fruits are full of vitamin C for energy, folate for cell growth, and fiber that helps keep you regular.

Avoid: Muffins

Muffins contain high amounts of saturated fats. Eating healthy fats is important for maintaining healthy cells, store energy, and metabolize vitamins, but too much is a very bad thing. Muffins also tend to have higher sugar content even if they don’t contain fruit.

Instead, Eat: Bagels

Bagels have almost 75% less saturated fat than muffins, making them a good swap. By ordering a bagel with your morning coffee instead of a muffin, you’re starting your day off on the right track. You’ll be eating less saturated fat and more heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which will keep you healthy.

Avoid: Flavored Instant Oats

Instant oats will never be the healthiest option. You should always go for regular oats if you can, but if you’re insistent on keeping your instant oats you should at least avoid the flavored variety. The flavored packs can contain as much as 300 mg of sodium and have tons of added sugars that spike blood glucose levels. 

Instead, Eat: Plain Instant Oats

In addition to high amounts of sodium, flavored packages often contain high amounts of sugar. If you choose plain oats instead then you can flavor them with fruit for natural, healthy sweetness without an excessive amount of sodium or sugar!

Avoid: Brown Rice

Brown rice is tasty, but there are more fibrous options. If you're looking to really amp up your nutrition value, swap it out. With only 1.5 grams of fiber in every serving, brown rice isn’t the best option.

Instead, Eat: Quinoa

Quinoa is trending in the food industry right now for many good reasons. It contains many essential vitamins and nutrients like magnesium, vitamin E, and antioxidants, but is also high in fiber. Quinoa has twice the amount of fiber as brown rice, making it the perfect alternative in any dish.

 

Avoid: White Potatoes

White potatoes are bad about raising your blood sugar because the starch is processed in your body the same way sugar is. In fact, white potatoes can cause it to spike even faster than table sugar. Those mashed potatoes aren’t worth the headache and nausea you’ll have to deal with later.

Instead, Eat: Jicama

Replace white potatoes with jicama, and you’ll never look back. Jicama is low on the glycemic index, and it has tons of fiber. On top of that, it has the prebiotic inulin, which promotes a healthy gut. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also an excellent source of vitamin C and other antioxidants.  

Avoid: Pasta

Who doesn’t love pasta? It's a popular comfort food that can be used in many different ways. Unfortunately, this tasty food is also loaded with carbs, which can cause inflammation and elevate your blood sugar levels. Luckily, there are many options for you if you’re ready to cut out pasta but don't want to sacrifice flavor.

Instead, Eat: Spaghetti Squash

Whole grain pasta and cauliflower are great options for replacing white pasta, but you should also try spaghetti squash. It’s easy to cook and can be used for many things, making it a great ingredient for a cook of any skill level. It’s especially good for spaghetti because it shreds in a way that looks like long, thin noodles.

Avoid: Processed Cheese

The amount of processing that American cheese goes through should be enough to put anyone off eating it, but it’s still a popular choice. To make matters worse, a single slice of American cheese contains 300 mg of sodium, which can drastically increase your blood pressure.

Instead, Eat: Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese is a much healthier alternative to American cheese. With only 25 mg of sodium, it’s easy to see how! Something as simple as using a different cheese can make a big difference when it comes to blood pressure. Just opt for Swiss cheese on your sandwich at the deli or buy it pre-sliced for use at home.

 

Avoid: Smoothies

Smoothies are super high in sugar, fruit juices, fats, and dairy. All of those ingredients are bad for diabetics for various reasons. Sugar and the fruit juices go hand in hand and cause a sharp spike in blood sugar while being chock full of calories. Saturated fats in milk can also worsen insulin resistance, so best to avoid dairy in smoothies too.

Instead, Eat: Whole Fruit

Whole fruit is full of healthy sugars, fiber, and tons of vitamins and nutrients that can help keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. Fruits like apples are fat-free, sodium-free, and chock full of fiber and vitamins. There are hundreds of different fruits out there to be tried, surely you can find something to enjoy.

Avoid: Full Sugar Ice Cream

Creamy, cold, and sweet, who doesn’t love some ice cream on a hot summer day? Or just whenever you’re craving something super sweet. Well, full-sugar ice cream is, of course, not good for diabetics. Like many sugary treats, ice cream is loaded with hundreds of calories, carbs, sugar, and fat. It’s ultimately just best to avoid it altogether.

Instead, Eat: Sugar-Free Sorbet or Sherbet

Unlike ice cream, sorbets are chock full of healthy nutrients. Compared to full-sugar ice creams, sorbets have way fewer calories, fat, sugar, and carbs, so trade in super sugary ice cream for a sweet sorbet.

Avoid: Processed Lunch Meat

Processed lunch meats like salami and bologna are super bad for diabetics. Lunch and deli meats may not have a lot of sugars, but they are definitely full of sodium, calories, and fat. Even if you don’t have diabetes, processed lunch meats have been linked to heightening your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Instead, Eat: Fresh Meat

Rather than reaching for the bologna, reach for a much leaner fresh meat like turkey. Fresh, lean meats have way less sugar, calories, and salt while offering super high amounts of vitamins and nutrients like fiber, vitamin b-12, iron, and protein. Tearing up freshly cooked meat may seem like more of a hassle, but it's much healthier. 

Avoid: Hamburger Buns

You probably already know this, but avoiding carbs is a key aspect of diabetic diets. Avoiding carbs, however, can be a major struggle, especially if you’re a person that really likes sandwiches. Bread buns have a ton of carbs and sugar that can be super bad for your body. Best to avoid it.

Instead, Eat: Lettuce Leaves

Lettuce and cabbage are both fantastic bread substitutes that contain absolutely zero carbs and sugar. Plus, you get all the awesome benefits of having a wrap to hold your food with no spiked blood sugar levels. A win-win!

Avoid: Dried Fruit

Dried fruit isn’t as bad as some of the other ‘avoid’ foods on this list, it’s still at least a little bit healthy. However, it is to be avoided for a reason. Dried fruits are super high in calories, sugar, and salt. There are also way fewer vitamins and nutrients in dried fruit than in fresh fruit.

Instead, Eat: Fresh Fruit

Nothing compares to the original, and that applies to fruit too. Thanks to the fact that fresh fruit hasn’t been dehydrated like the dried fruit, the sugar content is lower, and there are very few calories. There are, however, a ton of vitamins, fiber, and folic acid. So if you’re craving something sweet, reach for some delicious fresh fruit.

Avoid: White Rice

Rice usually isn’t the worst thing in the world, but if you choose an instant or quick-cooking rice, you inherently get less nutritional value. White rice is high on the glycemic index and causes large blood sugar spikes, not to mention it’s low in fiber and high in carbs and calories.

Instead, Eat: Cauliflower Rice

Craving rice, but need something a little more diabetes-friendly? Cauliflower rice is perfect for you! Cauliflower is among the healthiest vegetables you can get, and it’s loaded with fiber and vitamins. Plus, it has way fewer calories and carbs.