Foods to Avoid If You Have Diabetes: A Guide

Parul Dube

November 18, 2022

The prevalence of people with diabetes is no secret. It is a chronic condition that has become common in adults and children worldwide. Diabetes, if not taken care of, can lead to several medical complications, such as heart conditions, renal disease, vision problems etc. The first line of treatment or prevention from diabetes is modifying your food habits. Altering your eating patterns and making specific changes in your lifestyle can help manage diabetes effectively. However, what foods to avoid is arguably more important and confusing than foods to consume with diabetes. It is vital to know what you shouldn’t have because certain foods can raise your insulin and blood glucose levels rapidly and lead to complications. 

Food and Diabetes: The Connection

The sugar derived from foods comes from “carbs” or “carbohydrates.” Therefore, your blood sugar levels may spike if you consume more than the required amount of simple carbohydrates. Sugary foods, sodas, bread, tortillas, white rice, and sweets are foods high in simple carbohydrates. Hence, healthcare professionals often recommend avoiding the consumption of these foods.

Maintaining your blood sugar levels in the safe range is the primary objective of a diabetes diet. Therefore, regardless of the type of diabetes, opting for healthy eating habits is crucial. Additionally, if you are prediabetic or are at risk of developing diabetes, avoiding some foods can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, ultimately reducing the risk. 

Foods to Avoid with Diabetes

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

One of the most harmful beverages for a person with diabetes is one with high added sugar. Regular lemonade and iced tea include over 45 grams of carbs, all of which comes from sugar. These beverages also contain a lot of fructose, which is significantly associated with insulin resistance and diabetes. Drinking beverages with added sugar can raise your risk of developing diabetes-related diseases like fatty liver. Additionally, the high fructose content of sugary drinks can cause metabolic changes that encourage belly fat and dangerously raise the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.

Trans Fats

Artificial trans fats are harmful to diabetes patients. The process of manufacturing these fats involves stabilising unsaturated fatty acids with hydrogen. Margarine, fried fast foods, spreads, and frozen dinners include trans fats. Furthermore, packaged food brands frequently put them in crackers, muffins, and other baked items to increase the shelf life of their products. Although trans fats don’t directly impact glucose levels, they are associated with increased inflammation, insulin resistance, belly fat, decreased HDL (good) cholesterol, and deteriorated vascular function. It is particularly troubling for people with diabetes at an elevated risk of heart disease.

Processed Foods

White bread, rice, and pasta are processed foods containing high amounts of simple carbohydrates. But, contrary to popular belief, products manufactured with refined white flour are not the only harmful ones. According to a study, gluten-free pasta can also spike blood sugar levels, with rice-based varieties having the worst impact.

High-carbohydrate diets increase diabetes risk and mental health issues, spike blood sugar levels, and impair brain function. These foods do not contain enough fibre, affecting the body’s ability to absorb sugar. 

Full-fat Dairy Products

The improper consumption of dairy products can aggravate other health conditions caused due to prolonged diabetes. For example, the saturated fat predominantly found in full-fat dairy products raises the risk of heart disease. On top of that, full-fat dairy products essentially have more calories than low-fat alternatives. As a result, they can increase the risk of obesity. Therefore, people with diabetes should consume low-fat or non-fat dairy products and non-dairy milk instead of full-fat dairy products. Furthermore, when buying low-fat items, keep an eye out for unhealthy ingredients, like added sugar or saturated fats, that the manufacturer might have used to substitute the fat.

Saturated Fats

People with type 2 diabetes need to restrict their consumption of high-fat meats like ordinary ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and ribs since they contain saturated fat. Saturated fats from meat increase cholesterol and cause inflammation in the body. They can additionally increase the risk of heart disease among diabetes patients, who are already at a greater risk. Instead, lean proteins, such as skinless chicken and turkey, fish, shellfish, pork tenderloin, and lean beef, should be chosen above fatty types of meat. 

The HealthifyMe Note

The secret to eating healthy is to choose suitable, nutritious foods from each dietary group. Concentrating on a healthy and balanced amount of macronutrients and staying away from heavily processed foods rich in sugar, salt, and fat is crucial. Furthermore, avoiding harmful fats, liquefied sugars, refined grains, and other items that include processed carbs should be one of your primary concerns.

Daily Carb Consumption Limits

Certain types of carbohydrates and high quantities of carbs can quickly spike blood sugar levels. Hence, you must pay special attention to your carbohydrate consumption. 

The adequate amount of carbohydrates in every individual with diabetes varies on factors like age and physical activity levels. Hence, it is best to identify your required carbohydrate needs and plan your meals accordingly. 

First, it is beneficial to refer to healthcare apps like HealthifyMe to determine your body’s requirements. Then, you can consult a qualified nutritionist to plan your meals according to your needs. However, you can refer to the following standard carbohydrate consumption limit to start with. 

  • Women: Approximately 45g of carbohydrates in each meal
  • Men: 60g of carbohydrates in each meal

The ideal way to consume your recommended daily intake of carbohydrates is to spread them out throughout the day instead of consuming the majority of them at one meal. 

The HealthifyMe Expert’s Take

At HealthifyMe, we do not recommend avoiding any particular food as a core principle. Instead, we recommend LIMITING or preferably MIXING and MATCHING foods, like increased fibre or whole cereals, to prevent a rush of sugar into the bloodstream.

Sugar is present in all foods, be it your morning milk, a bowl of plain dal or even that chapati at dinner time. You cannot escape it. So, what’s the best strategy to manage your sugar levels? First, limit your portions and be smart about mixing and matching options so that your sugar levels do not rise rapidly.

Increase fibre by amping up your salads, having whole cereals, limiting refined, polished ones, and adding sufficient vegetables to your meals. Also, remember to have fruits with skin on them and not juice them. Another intelligent way of reducing those carbs/ sugars is by increasing your lean proteins, having a handful of nuts at afternoon tea time, and finishing dinner early, after which you can do a walk for better digestion and don’t forget to have a good amount of water throughout the day. 

Fitness goes hand in hand with nutrition and is of utmost priority when controlling the rise of blood sugars and improving the insulin sensitivity of cells. So, go ahead and complete that morning and evening walk, join in a game or sporting activity or go for a swim on the weekends.


It can be challenging to figure out which foods to forgo when you have diabetes. However, it can get easy if you adhere to a few rules. You can maintain good health and lower your risk of diabetes by avoiding foods that raise your blood sugar levels and cause insulin resistance. Conclusively, you should adopt a healthy lifestyle with proper workout regime to minimise the effect of diabetes-related health issues. 

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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