If you’re on a diabetic diet, you’ve probably been told that sugar is a no-no. But for diabetics, the truth is not as simple as “allowed foods” or “forbidden foods.” More important than sugar content of any one food is the overall balance of foods you’re eating. Focus on avoiding too many carbohydrates of any kind. Eat smaller meals. When you do eat carbs, choose the more densely nutritious complex carbohydrates and eat them with protein at the same time. The following list of foods to avoid on a diabetic diet is not a hard-and-fast list, but a guideline to help you limit your intake of foods likely to increase your blood-sugar levels. Talk to your doctor about your specific needs if you have any questions about your diabetic diet.
Refined Pasta and Noodles
Most pasta and noodles have a high glycemic index, meaning they’re made with simple carbohydrates like refined wheat flour or rice. Diabetics should be careful not to eat too much pasta. Eating pasta made of whole grains with a low-carb sauce rich in protein and with lots of green and red vegetables may mitigate some of pasta’s strong effects on blood-sugar levels.
Avoid white rice, which has been refined to remove the bran. White rice includes white long grain, short grain, jasmine, basmati and sticky rice. Although wild rice is an unrefined grass (not rice), avoid wild-rice mixes that include white rice. Stick with brown rice, and don’t eat too much of it.
Avoid desserts made with refined flour and/or refined sugar, including candy, cake, cookies and pastries. These foods have little nutritive value, leaving less room in your diet to get the nutrition you need. Despite their partial nutritional value, limit ice cream and the fruits that are very sweet, such as watermelon, figs and dates, which have a high glycemic index.
Stay away from sugary soft drinks like sodas, sweetened juices and sweetened electrolyte sports drinks. Limit your intake of all juices, even if unsweetened.
Various studies, including a 2005 study titled “Diabetes Care” by Lee, Hudson and Kilpatrick et al., have demonstrated caffeine’s negative impact on the health of diabetics. It’s best to avoid caffeinated coffee and tea on a diabetic diet.
White potatoes, including both baking and boiling potatoes, are best eaten in small portions as part of a meal that also includes protein.
Avoid breads and rolls made with any amount of white flour, which also goes by the name of “wheat flour” or “all-purpose flour” on food labels. Most tortillas used in burritos and soft tacos, many pita breads and most roll-up wraps are made with refined white flour. Use all refined flours sparingly on a diabetic diet.
The American Diabetes Association warns that diabetics are at greater risk for heart attacks and stroke and so should avoid foods made with trans fats or saturated fats. This means you should avoid foods made with large amounts of pork fat, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, margarine and butter.
You may have heard that artificial sweeteners, which are chemical sweeteners that go into “sugar-free” products, are fine for diabetics, since they don’t raise blood-sugar levels. This may be true in some cases, but artificial sweeteners are the subject of controversy when it comes to diabetes. The Mayo Clinic warns that sugar-free foods often contain other carbs in the form of sweeteners or flours, which do raise blood-sugar levels. And the impact on health of the artificial sweeteners is the topic of a lot of debate among researchers. Talk to your doctor about which, if any, artificial sweeteners are all right to take.
If you have diabetic nerve damage or high blood pressure, or if your diabetes is not well-controlled, it’s best to avoid alcohol as much as possible. Otherwise, follow the American Diabetes Association’s guidelines for alcohol intake of no more than two drinks a day for men or one a day for women.