4 Foods to Steer Clear of, and What to Have Instead

When you have diabetes, the list of foods to avoid can seem endless. Before you throw your hands up in despair, here are some healthy alternatives to foods you really should avoid when trying to manage blood glucose levels.

1. Coffee Drinks

Popular flavored coffee drinks can be loaded with sugar—even when made with skim milk.

Flavored coffee drinks may seem harmless, but they can be loaded with hidden sugars. A large Frozen Coffee Coolatta®from Dunkin Donuts made with skim milk contains 410 calories and 101 grams of carbohydrates (98 grams coming from sugar!) And that’s the variety made with skim milk! If you reach for the large Frozen Coffee Coolatta made with cream, you will almost double the calorie content to 800 calories and the carbs to 97 grams per serving. These drinks provide the equivalent of 23 teaspoons of sugar. All of that added sugar spikes blood glucose levels, which is the last thing you want when you're dealing with diabetes. So what should you do if you are craving some flavor in your coffee, but don’t want all of the added calories and sugar?

The smarter substitution: Try a coffee that has already been infused with flavor, such as hazelnut or French vanilla coffee with a splash of milk. A large French vanilla coffee from Dunkin Donuts (without any added cream or sugar) contains only 10 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrate. That’s a savings of 96 grams of carbohydrate or more! If you prefer to make your own, try sprinkling your coffee beans with a pinch of cinnamon, which not only helps to sweeten it up, but may help improve blood glucose regulation as well.

2. Prepackaged Fruit Smoothies

Smoothies seem like a healthy alternative beverage but beware. Some commercially-prepared varieties can have more than 100 grams of carbs per serving!

Sure, they sound healthy. A smoothie blended with fresh fruit and vegetables—how could that ever be a bad thing? But pre-bottled smoothies, or ones you order from a local coffee bar or deli, often contain excessive amounts of added sugars. For instance, a large, 28 ounce Aloha Pineapple Smoothie from Jamba Juice has 520 calories and 122 grams of carbohydrate! This high calorie content can be partly due to portion size and partially do to ingredients that contain added sugars such as sherbet, fruit drinks, and ice cream.

The smarter substitution: Not all commercially made smoothies contain unhealthy ingredients, so you just need to be a savvy consumer. Before placing an order or picking up a bottled smoothie, examine the calories and carbohydrate content along with the ingredients carefully. Look for varieties that have less than 250 calories per serving, at least 10 grams of protein, and 30 grams or less of carbohydrates. Added sugars should also be limited—avoid brands that have sugar listed as one of the top 5 ingredients. And look for whole foods, such as fruits and veggies.  

For the healthiest option, make your own creations at home. Blend together 1/2 cup of low fat plain Greek yogurt or low fat (2%) cottage cheese with 1 cup fruit (which can be frozen, fresh or canned but if using canned, select those canned in juice, not syrup) and 1/2 cup of ice. This recipe is a perfect serving with less than 30 grams of carbohydrates and between 10 and 14 grams of lean protein to keep you satisfied. 

3. Bagels

Refined carbohydrates makes eating bagels a challenge when you have diabetes. Scoop out the inside to make them healthier.

Who doesn’t love a bagel? The problem with bagels, however, is they are most likely packed full of refined carbohydrates. Add that to their enormous portion size and it’s a recipe for blood sugar disaster. Even if you ask for a whole grain bagel or a wheat bagel at your local deli, the chances of that bagel being 100% whole grain are very slim. An average deli sized bagel  (4 ½ inch diameter) packs in a whopping 360 calories and 70 grams of carbohydrate. And since the majority of this carbohydrate comes from refined grams, it digests rapidly which may lead to a spike in blood glucose levels.

The smarter substitution: If you can’t give up your bagel, you can still make a better choice by looking for a few things. First, try to reduce the portion size. A 2-inch diameter bagel will provide about half the calories and carbohydrates as a standard sized deli bagel. You can also save calories and carbohydrates by scooping out the insides. Although the exact carbohydrate and calorie savings will be determined by just how much bagel you scoop out, you can save about 100 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate just by taking out the inside while still enjoying the crusty exterior. And don’t forget to try and choose a 100% whole grain bagel whenever possible.

4. Fruit-flavored Yogurt

Yogurt with fruit on the bottom typically contains 25g of sugar per 6 ounces. Add fruit to plain yogurt to make a healthier version at home.

Yogurt can be a good source of protein, calcium, and probiotics, but fruit-flavored yogurts often have a down side. The added fruit typically comes packaged with a large amount of simple sugar in the form of fruity syrup.This boosts the calorie and carbohydrate content of the yogurt without providing any additional nutritional value. For instance, Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt contains 25 grams of sugar per 6 ounces, whereas the Dannon Plain Yogurt contains only 14 grams of sugar for the same serving size.

The smarter substitution: For the best option, choose a plain yogurt and add in your own fresh or frozen fruit, or better yet swap yogurt for low fat cottage cheese which contains only 4 grams of carbohydrate per ½ cup serving.


Updated on: July 26, 2017
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