“Diabetes is all about carbs,” Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, says. No medical prescription can fix a bad diet. The condition requires daily maintenance – monitoring blood sugar levels, eating healthy and exercising are crucial. Managing your weight is a lot more serious than simply looking and feeling good. Watching your diet can be a matter of life and death.
“Some may be sugar-free but they are not carbs-free,” Malkoff-Cohen says. They are still made with flour and have processed carbs that will increase your blood sugar levels. White or wheat flours are basically the same as far as diabetics are concerned, she adds. They will still raise your blood sugar levels. “Almond flour is better because it has more protein and is made of almond, not grain,” she says.
They usually have too much salt. “This is bad for your kidneys,” Malkoff-Cohen says. “In diabetic patients, the walls of the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged and salt only makes things worse.” It leads to high blood pressure, which will kill the kidneys slowly, she adds. Their function is reduced and they cannot clean the body properly. “One the kidneys go, and then it’s dialysis,” she says.
“Simple carbs are sugar,” Malkoff-Cohen says. These low-quality carbs are broken down quickly and turn into sugar in the body right away. Avoid processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks because they provide no vitamins, minerals or fiber.
These sugary starchy vegetables should be avoided, Malkoff-Cohen says. They contain more carbohydrates. “Even though they have complex carbs, which are better for you, they don’t have enough protein to balance out the carbs,” Malkoff-Cohen says. “You can always have more protein, but never more carbs.”
They have a ton of sugar, Malkoff-Cohen says. A lot of people go to a family BBQ and eat chicken and think they are OK – not when you dipped it in sauce, she adds. Make your own sauce with tomato puree, mustard, lemon juice, hot sauce (if using), ginger, and water. This is a healthy recipe, according to Diabetic Lifestyle.
Granola is not recommended because it’s processed; it has carbs and a lot of sugar – triple bomb. You are better off eating oatmeal, high-fiber cereal or a protein bar, Malkoff-Cohen says. Just be careful that they don’t have a lot of sugar either. Read the label carefully.
Brown rice is better because it has more protein and fiber, Malkoff-Cohen says. “White rice has none of that and will raise your blood sugar quickly,” she adds. White rice, which has 45 carbs and 200 calories per cup, in general is refined starch with no nutritional benefits.
All pasta raises your blood sugar, Malkoff-Cohen says. “If you really want to have some, order it as an appetizer and share it with the rest of the table.” Pasta should never be consumed as a dish, she adds. “Most restaurants serve way more than a cup anyway.”
“No juice is recommended,” Malkoff-Cohen says. “This is straight sugar.” High-fructose corn syrup, one of the worst kinds of sugar, is often added. Fresh fruits are good for you because of their fiber content, most of which is lost when they turn to liquid. The best kinds are apples and berries. Stay away from sweet fruits like watermelon and pineapple.
“They are terrible,” Malkoff-Cohen says. Sugar is often added when they are dried. Most dried fruits, which are a more concentrated source of nutrients, are more than 50 percent sugar. Also, people tend to overeat them, she adds.
Choose low-fat 1 percent or skim milk, and make sure that you count it in your meal plan, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). One cup of skim milk provides about 12 grams of carbs, 80 calories, calcium, and vitamin D. If you are lactose intolerant or don’t like milk, you can try fortified soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk instead.
Avoid fatty meats, butter, cream sauces and anything with high level of unhealthy fats. They raise blood cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart disease. People with diabetes are at high risk for cardiovascular illness, and limiting saturated fat intake can help lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, ADA says.
Trans fats should be avoided in general, but diabetics should be especially careful. They are produced when liquid oil is made into a solid fat. They raise cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Also, fried foods are usually breaded, which means extra carbs. To include more monounsaturated fats, try to substitute olive oil when cooking.
Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) shortly after drinking and for up to 24 hours afterwards, according to ADA. If you have diabetes, you have to be careful when drinking. Don’t consume alcohol on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low, especially if you are on insulin and diabetes pills, which lower blood glucose by making more insulin. Moderation – one or two servings per day – is key.