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40 Foods to Avoid With Diabetes

Red Meat

Red meat is high in saturated fats, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For someone who already has diabetes, it can be especially bad for you. 

This is due to the nitrites in the meat that impair the function of the pancreas. In addition, the iron in red meat may increase insulin resistance.

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Pretzels

Pretzels have a healthy image, but they’re bad for you. A quick look at the ingredients reveals white flour, fats, and salt. 

Not only are they devoid of nutrition, but it is the also refined carbs found in pretzels that cause blood sugar spikes.

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Coffee with Cream and Sugar

Coffee shops are notorious for adding tons of sugar to their drinks. People with diabetes should opt to make their own coffee instead. Not only is it easy, but it’s also less expensive than a $5 latte.

Coffee drinks that are high in fat and sugar can also develop insulin resistance if consumed regularly.

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Candy

Naturally, candy needs to be avoided as much as possible. Candy is just pure sugar and can cause blood sugar spikes that are dangerous for those with diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics can still have candy every once in a while as long as that patient is eating a healthy, balanced diet and/or combined with regular exercise.

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Smoothies

Fruit can’t be bad for you, right? It can be if they’re made into a smoothie. They sound nutritious but can be filled with sugar.

This is especially true if they’re oversized and sweetened with sugary syrups and yogurt. Eating the fruit whole gets beneficial fiber and helps your body process the sugar more slowly. 

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Flavored Water

Flavored water used to be disguised as a healthy option until companies were told to do otherwise. For example, VitaminWater sounds like an excellent choice. It has vitamins! Wrong...

These drinks can have 32 grams sugar in the whole bottle. Opt for flavored waters without added sugar, instead.

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Mayonnaise

Mayo is usually made with bad fats instead of better alternatives, like olive oil. They also contain a lot of carbs and sodium, which can be bad for those with diabetes.

Stick to mayo made with olive oil (just make sure to follow the portion sizes on the label) instead, or pick a different condiment altogether.

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Whole Milk

For someone with diabetes, a diet that’s high in saturated fat can make insulin resistance worse. Whole milk has a lot of saturated fat.

Thankfully, 1% and skim milk are still on the table due to their low-fat content.

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Energy Drinks

Energy drinks may not taste sweet, but they have a ton of sugar. Your average energy drink can have 27g to 40g of sugar per serving.

 

Considering most energy drinks have more than one serving, you’re consuming a lot of sugar for a drink. However, there are some brands that make sugar-free varieties for those following a stricter diet.

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Canned Vegetables

Those with diabetes should avoid sodium as much as they can, which is why canned vegetables can be a bad option.

Some canned veggies have a ton of sodium, although many brands make canned vegetables that don’t have added salt.

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Canned Fruit

Rather than sodium, canned fruit or fruit packed in syrup can be high in sugar. For example, fruit cups have 15 grams sugar.

Some fruit cups even have a “No Sugar Added” label because they’re sweetened with Stevia. However, these products can still contain up to 5g sugar.

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White Bread

White bread is high in starches and refined grains. Refined grains are digested by the body quickly and are processed like sugar. Despite having no sugar in the food, white bread can cause blood glucose spikes that can be dangerous for people with diabetes.

White bread is also low in some nutrients, particularly fiber. Fiber impacts blood glucose in more measured amounts, more consistently, over a longer period of time.

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Regular Soft Drinks

Regular soft drinks are horrible for those with diabetes. One 12-ounce can of soda has as much as 39 grams of sugar.

Mountain Dew has 46 grams of sugar for a 12-ounce can, alone! Thankfully, diet sodas are still alright to drink.

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Alcohol

Everyone loves a glass of wine now and then, but alcohol is known for significantly altering the body’s response to insulin.

On top of this, many drinks can be extremely sugary. Cocktails are often made with sugared syrups like grenadine.

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Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce isn’t bad for you; it just doesn't offer much nutritional value. There are much better things you could be eating in your salad instead instead.

Kale, cabbage, and spinach are all healthier—and tastier—options. They go great in salads, mixed in with other dishes, or on for wraps, and provide much more nutritional value.

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Nachos

Everyone loves a good plate of nachos, but it can be bad for someone with diabetes. Nachos are usually made with red meat, refried beans, cheese, and tons of other things that can be dangerous to eat.

Not to mention, any kind of chip is an unhealthy chip for diabetics unless it's baked and has a low carb count. Together, these ingredients create a plate full of fat and calories.

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Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is another food that pretends to be healthy. During the dehydration process, the natural sugars in fruit become concentrated and can easily cause spikes in blood sugar.

 

Dried cranberries and blueberries are lower in sugar content, naturally, but sometimes sugar is added during the dehydration process to sweeten the normally tart fruits. Bottom line? Fresh fruit is always the best option.

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Ice Cream

Ice cream is high in fats and sugars. Some brands can have as much as 7 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar for half a cup.

Many brands make ice cream without additional sugars, which can be a lifesaver for someone with diabetes. Just be sure to read the label!

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Fruit Juice

Fruit juice may seem healthy, but it’s actually loaded with sugar just like soft drinks. If you drink a 15.2-ounce bottle of Minute Maid Apple Juice, you’re also consuming 49 grams of sugar.

 

Orange juice has around 33g for a 12-ounce cup,—which, as we discussed earlier—is almost as much as a can of Coca-Cola.

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White Rice

White rice is high in starch and can cause spikes in blood sugar. In general, refined carbohydrates should be avoided since they’re processed like sugar when your body starts to digest them.

Instead, opt for brown rice, but be careful to watch your portions. It has more fiber than its white rice counterpart and isn't associated with spikes in blood sugar. The rice bran oil found in the grains also has been shown to lower LDL levels.

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Fried Food

Fried foods are one of the worst things a person with diabetes can eat. These types of food can lead to weight gain and wreak havoc on your blood sugar.

 

This includes French fries, potato chips, doughnuts, and any other types of fried foods. These are all carb-heavy and cause your blood sugar levels to spike.

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Deep-Fried Chinese Food

Nothing is easier than ordering some Chinese food when you’re tired, but some Asian dishes can be bad for you. Chicken that’s swimming in sauce can be high in calories and fat.

For example, sweet and sour chicken sounds healthy, but add the breading and that all-important, sugary sweet and sour sauce, it can spike your blood sugar sky-high!  Plus, most of these foods are served with white or fried rice which are also bad for diabetics.

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Frozen Meals

Frozen meals are the epitome of convenience, but they’re high in sodium and fat. This can make them an unhealthy choice for anyone, but especially for people with diabetes.

If you have no choice but to purchase a few on-the-go meals, try to keep the content of carbohydrates, sodium, calories, fiber, and fat in mind while choosing your frozen entrée.

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Pizza

Pizza is just white dough with full-fat cheese. Most pizzas are loaded with all the ingredients that are bad for diabetics such as calorie-rich, high in sodium, processed foods like cheese and refined flour.

 

If you have to order pizza, you can choose a thin-crust with veggies and lean meats, but it’s best to avoid it altogether.

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Sugary Cereals

Some favorite cereals that seem healthy are full of sugar. For example, Raisin Bran Crunch has 20 grams of sugar per serving. That’s more than double the sugar content of Froot Loops, which has 10 grams per serving.

The healthiest cereals are ones that have whole grains, like Fiber One and whole-grain Cheerios.

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Pickles

Pickles are packed with salt and can take a significant portion of your sodium for the day. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure.

According to the U.S. nutritional guidelines, those with diabetes should have less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

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Pastries

Most pastries are loaded with sugar, whether they’re homemade, café-prepared, or pre-packaged. In addition, these sweets use the worst types of fats to add moisture and richness.

 

All in all, these spike your blood sugar and can increase your cholesterol levels.

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Butter

Butter and margarine are alright to use in moderation. Fats like these can slow down digestion and make it harder for insulin to work. This can lead to a high blood glucose level hours after your meal. 

However, choosing butter over margarine can decrease the amount of trans-fat you will consume and will have a better over-all outcome with diabetes management.

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Processed Lunch Meat

Processed lunch meat may not seem that bad, but it’s loaded with sodium. Some lunch meats have as much as 650 milligrams of sodium in one serving.

Sure, it’s fat-free, but it can easily exacerbate blood pressure issues and harm your body.

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Jams and Jellies

Jams, preserves, and jelly are fruits that have been packed with sugar. Now and then, it’s alright to eat a tiny portion of regular jelly.

However, many brands make sugar-free jams that people with diabetes can eat relatively safely. 

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Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and gravy is a breakfast staple for some, but it can be very unhealthy. Biscuits are created from refined flour, which can cause a spike in glucose levels.

Gravy is often made with sausage, which is mostly saturated fats. At home, you can make it with whole wheat flours and opt for healthy ingredients.

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Trans-Fat

Anything with trans-fats or anything labeled “partially hydrogenated” can be dangerous for those with diabetes. Trans-fats are notorious for increasing blood cholesterol levels and are actually worse for you than saturated fats.

 

In some cases, foods may be labeled 0g trans-fat but have partially hydrogenated ingredients.

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Flour Tortillas

Flour tortillas are high in carbs—we’re talking about 18g of carbs in each tortilla. Also, flour tortillas can contain up to 35% of our daily sodium intake.

It’s much better to eat corn tortillas, which have a lot more protein. The blue corn chips are much healthier for diabetics than the white corn chips due to a lower amount of starch. 

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Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are actually a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, so they’re not off the table for diabetics. Mashed potatoes, on the other hand, usually have things like butter, salt, sour cream, and cheese added to them. All these additives spell out danger for those with diabetes.

However, diabetics can still have controlled portions of mashed potatoes. In addition, when preparing them, try adding heart-healthy ingredients to substitute for things like whole milk, cheese, and butter.

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Brown Rice

Brown rice is tasty, but it doesn’t contain much fiber. Fiber helps you feel fuller longer while making it easier to maintain blood sugar and cholesterol. Try higher-fiber options like quinoa or cauliflower rice.

However, if you just have to have that brown rice in your diet, eating it in moderation should be perfectly safe and may even help to manage blood sugar levels.

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Pasta

Pasta is a yummy food that can be used in many different ways. Unfortunately, this tasty food is also loaded with carbs, which can 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—like noodles made from veggies!

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Bread Crumbs

You already know how bad white bread is for you, but it's easy to ignore it when you think 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.

For example, if your recipe just cannot get around adding breadcrumbs to your meal, try panko breadcrumbs which are a healthier choice.

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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.

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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 make the other symptoms of diabetes worse.

If you’re a person who just loves their nuts, the best kinds for diabetics are walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. However, portion control is a must for these tasty treats because of their fat content.

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Peanut Butter

Peanut butter might seem like a good choice, but most are really high in sugar and fats. When you consider that peanut butter is usually paired with jelly or honey full of sugar, it gets even worse for your health.

Instead, try low-fat options like natural peanut butter to keep your blood sugar in check. It has a low glycemic index meaning your blood sugar will not raise to quickly or too high.

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