Chris Telden loves being creative and coming up with fun and unique pet names.
I have compiled a list of foods that can be problematic for men and women with diabetes. For diabetics with Type 2, adult-onset diabetes, the word out is that sugar is outlawed. That's not quite the case. When you're diabetic, it's not a simple matter of you can eat X and you can't eat Y. What's important is the overall balance of the foods you eat.
The general consensus among researchers is that you should eat fewer carbs (carbohydrates) than you may have eaten before. When you eat starches, pick the highly nutritious, high-fiber, whole grain carbs and eat them at the same time you eat a protein food (meat, fowl, fish, cheese, yogurt, beans). Stick to smaller meals when possible.
This list is less a hard-and-fast list than a set of guidelines to help you avoid high glycemic foods likely to raise your blood sugar levels and other foods of particular risk to diabetic patients. Good luck making positive eating choices!
UPDATE April 7, 2013: Since writing the article below, my experience and thinking have undergone a major turnaround. I posted an update in my comment in the Comments section. This article is still worth reading, and I have updated sections of it, but I can see that it was somewhat uninformed, as I based it on research (I researched accredited health organizations and medical journals) rather than personal experience, which I have now had as a pre-diabetic for a year and a half. My personal experience has caused my thinking to diverge from established medical thinking in the area of diabetes. I encourage you if you have diabetes to check out the update. However, for those who do not want to go outside established medical thinking, I have included information about what that is so you can be fully informed. Do keep in mind that medical science is an ongoing process.
Don't let this article substitute as medical advice. Consult with your doctor about the foods to eat, and the foods not to eat, for a diabetic diet. I'm just this gal who had a diabetic mother, gestational diabetes and prediabetes, ya know?
High Glycemic Index Foods
Most noodles and pasta have a high glycemic index. Foods that are high glycemic are made from white flour, white rice, and other simple refined carbohydrates. If you're Type II diabetic, avoid large plates of pasta. If you do eat pasta, choose whole wheat or brown rice pasta or a low-carb pasta. Keep portions small, being sure to check the carbohydrate counts based on whether the pasta is cooked or uncooked. For the sauce, use ingredients with plenty of protein and add colorful low-glycemic veggies to the dish.
As a starch, rice is high in carbs, whether white or brown. (I, who have prediabetes, avoid it altogether, along with the other foods in this section.) But if you do have rice, choose brown. Steer clear of white rice, which has had the bran with its fiber removed. Wild rice is better, in small quantities, of course - it's actually a grass, and not a rice at all--but avoid the wild rice mixes that come in the boxes - they usually come with white rice added.
Desserts baked with white flour and white sugar are best avoided. Stay away as much as possible from cookies, cake, candy and baked goods, which possess little nutritive value and tend to make you feel full and replete...which means you're less likely to eat the healthier, low-glycemic foods. You should also limit the amount of figs, dates, very sweet fresh fruits (such as watermelon) and ice cream.
Avoid sugary sodas, juices, Gatorade and other sports drinks, and most soft drinks. Some diabetics do drink sodas, teas, and other soft drinks with artificial sweeteners without blood sugar surges, while others find that even artificial sweeteners raise their blood sugar. Test your blood sugar with a glucose monitor to be sure.
Potatoes are high in carbohydrates. Eat small amounts only of baking and boiling potatoes, and eat them with protein.
Breads are high in carbs and should be avoided in large quantities. Steer clear of breads containing white flour. Read the labels. If you see "all-purpose flour" or "wheat flour," you're looking at another name for refined white flour. Similarly, check the ingredients on tortillas, pita breads, rolls, biscuit mixes, and other bread products.
With all of these foods, remember that the amount of carbohydrates is as much of (and possibly more of) an issue than the form the carbohydrates are in. My research has taught me that for a Type 2 diabetic, the largest risk to one's health is blood sugar surges, and limiting or even eliminating high glycemic foods is of primary importance.
Diabetes Books I Have Found Life-Changing
Other Foods to Avoid
"Diabetic" Specialty Foods
With a few exceptions, many of the so-called diabetic-friendly foods on the market are actually high in carbohydrates. Check labels to be sure, and also test your post-prandial blood sugar after eating them to determine whether they really are diabetic-friendly. If you don't know how to test, just ask in the comments section. If there is enough interest, I can explain how I test to determine if a food is friendly to my blood sugar.
Fats are a controversial issue. According to the ADA (American Diabetes Association), diabetics are at greater risk for stroke and heart attack. As such, they should avoid foods that contain any trans-fats or saturated fats. Although there are those who have challenged the notion that all saturated fats are bad, the official word is that diabetics should avoid foods made with significant amounts of animal fat, hydrogenated oils, margarine and butter.
Don't be fooled by products labeled "0 Trans Fats." Zero trans fats only means the food contains less than a certain minimum amount of trans fats per serving. As these are often foods eaten in quantities of much more than one serving, you should be careful to read the label to see if it says "partially hydrogenated."
And once again, dietary fat is a controversial issue. Note that, as I am now on a low-carb diet, I eat high-fat. However, when I previously ate high-fat on a high-carb or moderate-carb diet, that sent my blood cholesterol levels up.
Cold soft drinks are discussed above, so I'll just talk about coffee here. Although some research suggests that caffeine in coffee might actually help prevent diabetes, other research has demonstrated that caffeine has a negative impact on a diabetic's health. Check with your doctor about limiting your coffee and tea intake if you have diabetes. If you do drink coffee, you might consider monitoring your blood glucose over time to see what effects it has. Anecdotally, when I added dark chocolate (which contains a caffeine-like substance) in small quantities to my low-carb diet, I noticed a reduction in my fasting blood glucose that surprised me. While I'm no health expert, I'm guessing that testing your blood sugar may very well be the gold standard for figuring out if a food really is bad for you.
Many diabetics use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar, assuming they don't raise blood sugar levels significantly. This may be so, or it may not. Artificial sweeteners like Nutrasweet, Splenda and Sucralose constitute a heated grounds for debate amongst researchers and is clearly a controversial subject. According to the Mayo Clinic, sugar-free foods often include other carbohydrates that do in fact raise blood sugar levels. And the jury's out on the impact on health of the artificial sweeteners.
Alcohol may be fine (may even be beneficial) or it may not. You may want to avoid alcohol if it is contraindicated by medications you are taking or your diabetes is not well-controlled or you have high blood pressure or diabetic nerve damage. In all other cases, the American Diabetes Association generally recommends people drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women or two for men.
Poll: What Helps You Most on a Diabetic Diet?
See the author's disclosure statement about compensation for this article.
BREE on December 17, 2018:
How long does a person know if they have been a type 2 Diabetic? I mean I have ate pasta at Olive Garden, have used artificial sweeteners in water, I have drank pop, and never had a reaction! Now I took blood work that says my numbers are type 2 diabetic,what do I have to change for?
Edna Craft. on February 21, 2018:
What can a person do that has Coitis? The diets are against each problem.
Tanya from Kovalev on January 01, 2015:
This is awesome info for anyone with diabetes
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on April 07, 2013:
I just wanted to update everyone who reads this article. I researched the article above using authoritative sources and because my mom was diabetic, to help her, and because I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Since then, my mom died of cancer, my health deteriorated, and I developed pre-diabetes. And at that point, I decided that I needed to reduce carbs far more than typically recommended by the authoritative sources. (I already had been eating only whole grains.)
So for a year now I have been on a low-carb diet, managing my blood glucose and monitoring it daily. I have seen my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers improve drastically and my post-prandial blood sugar as well as hemoglobin A1C normalize, and even my peripheral neuropathy in my feet improve. My post-meal headaches and sleepiness are gone, as are the gnawing hunger cravings. Because of my personal experience, I want to encourage everyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes to think about testing your blood sugar after meals to determine the amount of carbohydrate restriction that will help you. Not to eat like me, necessarily, but to take control of your diet in a proactive way.
Again, I am not a healthcare worker, but my personal experience has introduced a major paradigm shift in my thinking since writing the article above. I hope this helps you. Please let me know if it does or not.
Kara on February 20, 2012:
There is great brown rice pasta out there!! You don't have to give it up!!
ciara on December 16, 2011:
I was dignosed with it today and finding it so hard to come to terms with it and understand what to eat etc, I am trying so hard put its killing me :(
firstname.lastname@example.org on December 14, 2011:
i like your advise, which is vey vital for my life. please keep in touch for all patient in the world to be cured by your good advise.
jenny on August 18, 2011:
thank for the info..:-) it helps a lot
Chris on June 08, 2011:
Potatoes and popcorn are a no. low to medium glycemic index foods are the key and potatoes are pretty much like sugar
Lfw on February 04, 2011:
What about popcorn and type 2 diabetes?
Vinny B on January 02, 2011:
Thank you for this posting, my wife was diagnosed and we are trying to beat this.
codehub on November 11, 2010:
Decent hub on the topic, but potato's are supposed to be complex carbs and very nice indeed. okay, less of everything is probably best :)
Chris Telden (author) from Pacific Northwest, U.S.A. on October 08, 2010:
To the gentleman who made a comment today,
I'd love to approve your comment, but it's all in uppercase, which is considered the Internet equivalent of shouting. Could you repost it in regular case for ease of reading? Also for the sake of security, it's best that you leave out your personal email address. I look forward to seeing your contribution!
willymckay on September 19, 2009:
am glad I found this informative hub as it helps give me direction in my eating habits!Well done...
donjohnson on July 24, 2009:
This is a great list of foods to avoid. It's so tough though! I love pasta!
Anyway thanks for the list.