9 Foods to Avoid When You Have Type 2 Diabetes
Eating a healthy diet isn’t just about choosing the right foods; it also means avoiding foods that can spike your blood sugar and increase your risk of diabetes complications.
While fiber-rich whole fruits are considered healthy carbohydrates for people with diabetes, fruit juice is another story. People with diabetes should avoid drinking juice, even 100 percent fruit juice. Fruit juice contains more nutrition than soda and other sugary drinks, but the problem is that juices have concentrated amounts of fruit sugar and therefore cause your blood sugar to shoot up. Plus, sipping fruit juice doesn’t fill you up the same way that eating a piece of fruit does. If you want a refreshing drink, go for zero-calorie plain or naturally flavored seltzer with a spritz of lemon or lime.
Having a quick bite to eat in the afternoon or before bed is a habit many people might not think twice about. However, after someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it seems like every eating habit gets scrutinized, including snacks. Since adjusting lifestyle factors like diet and exercise are among the first steps in managing type 2 diabetes, snacking in a healthy and controlled way can help manage the condition.
Living With Type 2 Diabetes: Should I Snack?
Not everyone with type 2 diabetes should snack regularly. Snacking patterns should be tailored to an individual’s preferences, schedule, and medication. For example, someone taking insulin can use a snack to help prevent a drop in blood sugar between meals. Someone else might have a snack while preparing dinner, to relieve hunger and keep from overeating before dinner is ready. Snacking in general can help spread out food intake over the course of a day, helping to lower blood lipids and glucose for people with type 2 diabetes.
Choosing the Right Snack for a Diabetes Diet
Choosing the right snack and the right time to eat are equally important. Here are some tips for selecting that perfect snack:
Choose quality. Lorena Drago, MS, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator with the American Association of Diabetes Educators, has a catchy way to remember the important criteria for a good snack: “I tell my patients to mind their Ps and Qs — P stands for portion and Q for quality.” Keeping snack portion sizes small is important, but so is choosing quality, healthy snacks. For example, three crackers with one slice of cheese is a better-quality snack than a chocolate bar.
Get educated. Educate yourself about basic nutrition components like carbohydrates, fat, and protein so that you are comfortable reading nutrition labels. Drago advises choosing snacks with “staying power,” those that will prevent you from eating too much later in the day. This means your snacks should include some fat and some protein, to slow food absorption and keep you feeling full longer. Stay away from foods heavy in carbohydrates, like sugary desserts.
Plan ahead. Plan snacks in advance to make sure healthy choices are available and to prevent overeating.
Type 2 Diabetes: The Dark Side of Snacking
Snacking can work against you if you take it too far. Thomas Wolever, MD, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, says that research shows that when people with type 2 diabetes eat six meals a day, instead of three, they tend to overeat and, in turn, gain weight, which overrides any potential benefit of managing blood glucose and lipids.
Since weight control is often a primary concern for people with type 2 diabetes, snacking carefully and strategically is very important. Some people with diabetes may have a hard time stopping after eating one handful of tasty cashews — a tightly restricted eating schedule might work better for these people.
People with type 2 diabetes should examine their own lifestyle, personality, and medication before deciding whether snacking is a healthy approach for tackling their diabetes. Diabetes educators can help you make these decisions and offer suggestions for how to fit different approaches into your lifestyle. The best snacking pattern for you is a custom plan that will fit comfortably into your lifestyle and help keep your type 2 diabetes under control.