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Bad Choices

Diabetic meal options are limited. Here’s how to choose wisely.

Many diabetics feel deprived of their favorite foods. Making wise food choices, however, means you can include a small treat every now and then. If you can do this, no food is completely off limits. Healthy management of your diabetes does require you to choose certain foods over others the majority of the time in order to lower your blood sugar levels or keep them in a safe zone.

Someone who’s diabetic will need to eat a variety of healthy carbs, proteins, and fats. The key is to eat the right combination to avoid spikes and dips in blood sugar. Because carbs are digested the fastest, they have the greatest effect on blood sugar. When eating carbs you must eat the right kind, a safe amount, and balance them with other foods.

Learn which foods are good options and which are not so good so you can make a diabetic-friendly meal plan and stick to it.


It’s common to think that anything made of fruit is safe for diabetics. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fruit is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but many fruits such as bananas, mangos, and pineapples are extremely high in carbs. People with diabetes should also avoid dried fruit, fruit canned with heavy syrup, fruit juices and punches, jams and jellies, and sweetened applesauce.
The best fruits for those who have diabetes include apples, grapes, berries, citrus, apricots, grapefruit, peaches, and pears. Also, look for sugar-free jams, jellies, and applesauce to satisfy your cravings.


Nutritious, high in fiber, and low in calories, most vegetables are wonderful options for those with diabetes. Potatoes, squash, peas, and corn are vegetables that are especially high in carbs and should be limited. You’ll also want to avoid vegetables prepared with added sauces, cheese, salt, or butter. Canned vegetables, sauerkraut, and pickles are typically high in sodium so should be avoided as well. It’s a good idea to fill up on plenty of fresh or frozen vegetables including leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumbers.


Your body needs some starches for energy. You just need to choose them carefully. Make them count by opting for carbs that are highest in nutrients and fiber. Healthy options include whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa; beans and lentils in moderation; nuts; and tofu and tempeh. At the same time, you should avoid white breads, rice, tortillas, pasta, cereal, and packaged snacks and sweets made with refined, white flour.


Most sources of protein are digested slowly, which helps keep your blood sugar stable. Diabetics can enjoy a variety of protein including poultry (without the skin), lean beef, fish, seafood, pork, eggs, beans, seeds, and tofu. Not-so-healthy protein options include processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, pepperoni, deli meats, beef jerky, and bacon.


Dairy products are generally safe for diabetics. The key is to choose low- or non-fat options. This means avoiding whole milk and regular fat yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, and half-and-half.

Fats and Oils

Because they’re high in calories, fats and oils should be used sparingly and chosen wisely. And remember—there are good fats and bad fats. Avoid trans fat and saturated fat. Animal products, palm oil, and coconut oil are high in saturated fats. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are needed for good health. Healthy sources include nuts, seeds, fatty fish, avocadoes, canola oil, and olive oil.


It’s easy to overdo it on calories and sugar with what you drink. Beverages like soda, sweet tea, sweet wine, beer, mixed drinks, sports drinks, juice, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee are some of the worst offenders for spikes in blood sugar, so beware! Water and unsweetened tea are the best drink options for people with diabetes. Coffee is also fine if it’s prepared without cream and sugar.

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