Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes
Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes

When you’ve got diabetes, your food choices matter a lot. Some are better than others. To help you choose the best and worst foods from major food groups, use this guide.

Foods that are in the “worst” group can be occasional treats. In general, however, it will be easier to manage your diabetes if you choose most of your foods from the “best” lists.

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Diabetes and Breads, Grains, and Other Starches

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

Best Choices

•         Whole-grain flours, such as whole wheat flour

•         Whole grains, such as brown rice

•         Cereals containing whole-grain ingredients and little added sugar

•         Whole-grain bread

•         Baked sweet or white potato or baked steak fries

•         Whole-grain flour or corn tortillas

•         Corn, popcorn or products made from corn

Worst Choices

•         White flour

•         Processed grains, such as white rice

•         Cereals with little whole grain and lots of sugar

•         White bread

•         French fries

•         Fried white-flour tortillas

Vegetables and Diabetes

Most vegetables contain fiber and are naturally low in fat and sodium (unless they are canned or frozen in sauces). Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, aren’t included in this category. They are considered part of the breads, grains, and other starches group.

Best Choices: 

•         Fresh vegetables, eaten raw or lightly steamed, roasted, or grilled

•         Plain frozen vegetables, lightly steamed

•         Low sodium or unsalted canned vegetables

•         Lettuces, greens, kale, spinach, arugula 

Worst Choices:

•         Canned vegetables with lots of added sodium

•         Vegetables cooked with lots of added butter, cheese, or sauce

•         Pickles (if you need to limit sodium; otherwise, pickles are okay)

•         Sauerkraut, (same as pickles; limit only if you have high blood pressure)

 Fruits and Diabetes

Fruits have carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are naturally low in fat (except for avocados) and sodium. Most fruits have more carbs than do vegetables.

Best Choices:

•         Plain frozen fruit or fruit canned in fruit juice

•         Fresh fruit

•         Sugar-free or low-sugar jam or preserves

•         No-sugar-added apple sauce

•         100% fruit juice                                               

Worst Choices:

•         Canned fruit with heavy sugar syrup

•         Chewy fruit rolls

•         Regular jam, jelly, and preserves (unless portion is kept small)

•         Sweetened apple sauce

•         Fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit juice drinks

 Diabetes and Meat and Other Protein

This category includes beef, chicken, fish, pork, turkey, seafood, beans, cheese, eggs, nuts, and tofu.

Best Choices:

•         Baked, broiled, grilled, or stewed meats

•         Lower-fat cuts of meat, such as top sirloin

•         Turkey bacon

•         Low-fat cheeses

•         Skinless breast of chicken or turkey

•         Baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled fish

•         Tofu lightly sautéed, steamed, or cooked in soup

•         Beans

•         Eggs

•         Nuts

Worst Choices:

•         Fried meats

•         Higher-fat cuts of meat, such as ribs

•         Pork bacon

•         Regular cheeses

•         Poultry with skin

•         Fried fish

•         Fried tofu

•         Beans prepared with lard

Dairy and Diabetes

This group includes milk and foods made from milk, such as yogurt and sour cream. Milk has a lot of protein and minerals, including calcium.

Best Choices:

•         1% or skim milk

•         Low-fat yogurt

•         Low-fat cottage cheese

•         Low-fat or nonfat sour cream

•         Frozen low-fat, low-carb yogurt

•         Nonfat half-and-half

Worst Choices:

•         Whole milk

•         Regular yogurt

•         Regular cottage cheese

•         Regular sour cream

•         Regular ice cream

•         Regular half-and-half

Diabetes and Fats, Oils, and Sweets

Eating too much of these kinds of foods can lead to weight gain, making it harder to keep diabetes under control.

Best Choices:

•         Baked snacks, such as baked potato chips, baked corn chips, puffed rice, or corn snacks, in small portions

•         Vegetable oils, non-hydrogenated butter spreads, margarine

•         Reduced-fat mayonnaise

•         Light salad dressings

•         Air-popped or calorie-controlled popcorn

Worst Choices:

•         Snacks fried in fat, such as potato chips, corn chips, pork rinds

•         Lard, hydrogenated vegetable shortening, butter

•         Regular mayonnaise

•         Regular salad dressings

•         Butter-flavored stove-top popcorn

Beverages and Diabetes

Some drinks have lots of carbs but very little nutrition. Others may be a better choice most of the time.

Best Choices:

•         Water, unflavored or flavored sparkling water

•         Light beer, small amounts of wine or non-fruity mixed drinks

•         Unsweetened tea (add a slice of lemon)

•         Coffee, black or with added low-fat milk and sugar substitute

•         Plain coffee and hot chocolate

•         Sport drinks, in limited quantities

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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