Worst and Best Choices of Food for Diabetes

Your food choices matter a lot when you’ve got diabetes. Some are better than others. Nothing is completely off-limits. Even items that you might think of as “the worst” could be occasional treats in tiny amounts. But they won’t help you nutrition-wise, and it’s easiest to manage your diabetes if you mainly stick to the “best” options.

Your food choices matter a lot when you’ve got diabetes. Some are better than others.

Nothing is completely off-limits. Even items that you might think of as “the worst” could be occasional treats — in tiny amounts. But they won’t help you nutrition-wise, and it’s easiest to manage your diabetes if you mainly stick to the “best” options.

Starches
Your body needs carbs. But you want to choose wisely. Use this list as a guide.

Best Choices

Whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, millet, or amaranth
Baked sweet potato.
Items made with whole grains and no (or very little) added sugar

Worst Choices

Processed grains, such as white rice or white flour
Cereals with little whole grains and lots of sugar
White bread
French fries
Fried white-flour tortillas
Vegetables
Load up! You’ll get fiber and very little fat or salt (unless you add them). Remember, potatoes and corn count as carbs.

Best Choices

Fresh veggies, eaten raw or lightly steamed, roasted, or grilled
Plain frozen vegetables, lightly steamed
Greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula. Iceberg lettuce is not as great because it’s low in nutrients.
Low sodium or unsalted canned vegetables
Go for a variety of colors: dark greens, red or orange (think of carrots or red peppers), whites (onions) and even purple (eggplants). The 2015 U.S. guidelines recommend 2.5 cups of veggies per day.

Worst Choices

Canned vegetables with lots of added sodium
Veggies cooked with lots of added butter, cheese, or sauce
Pickles, if you need to limit sodium. Otherwise, pickles are OK.
Sauerkraut, for the same reason as pickles. Limit them if you have high blood pressure.

Fruits
They give you carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Most are naturally low in fat and sodium. But they tend to have more carbs than vegetables do.

Best Choices

Fresh fruit
Plain frozen fruit or fruit canned without added sugar
Sugar-free or low-sugar jam or preserves
No-sugar-added applesauce

Worst Choices

Canned fruit with heavy sugar syrup
Chewy fruit rolls
Regular jam, jelly, and preserves (unless you have a very small portion)
Sweetened applesauce
Fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit juice drinks

Protein:
You have lots of choices, including beef, chicken, fish, pork, turkey, seafood, beans, cheese, eggs, nuts, and tofu.

Best Choices of proteins

The American Diabetes Association lists these as the top options:

Plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, or tofu
Fish and seafood
Chicken and other poultry (Choose the breast meat if possible.)
Eggs and low-fat dairy
If you eat meat, keep it low in fat. Trim the skin off of poultry.

Try to include some plant-based protein from beans, nuts, or tofu, even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan. You’ll get nutrients and fiber that aren’t in animal products.

 

Worst Choices of proteins

Fried meats
Higher-fat cuts of meat, such as ribs
Pork bacon
Regular cheeses
Poultry with skin
Deep-fried fish
Deep-fried tofu
Beans prepared with lard

Dairy
Keep it low in fat. If you want to splurge, keep your portion small.

Best Choices

1% or skim milk
Low-fat yogurt
Low-fat cottage cheese
Low-fat or nonfat sour cream
Worst Choices

Whole milk
Regular yogurt
Regular cottage cheese
Regular sour cream
Regular ice cream
Regular half-and-half

Fats, Oils, and Sweets
They’re tough to resist. But it’s easy to get too much and gain weight, which makes it harder to manage your diabetes.

Best Choices

Natural sources of vegetable fats, such as nuts, seeds, or avocados (high in calories, so keep portions small)
Foods that give you omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel
Plant-based oils, such as canola, grapeseed, or olive oils
Worst Choices

Anything with trans fat in it. It’s bad for your heart. Check the ingredient list for anything that’s “partially hydrogenated,” even if the label says it has 0 grams of trans fat.
Big portions of saturated fats, which mainly come from animal products but also are in coconut oil and palm oil. Ask your doctor what your limit should be, especially if you have heart disease as well as diabetes.

Drinks

When you down a favorite drink, you may get more calories, sugar, salt, or fat than you bargained for. Read the labels so you know what’s in a serving.

Best Choices

Unflavored water or flavored sparkling water
Unsweetened tea with or without a slice of lemon
Light beer, small amounts of wine, or non-fruity mixed drinks
Coffee, black or with added low-fat milk and sugar substitute
Herbal supplements: one of which is our sugar balance tea.

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Worst Choices

Regular sodas
Regular beer, fruity mixed drinks, dessert wines
Sweetened tea
Coffee with sugar and cream
Flavored coffees and chocolate drinks
Energy drinks.

 

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