Five Foods to Avoid in Diabetes

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Anyone with diabetes knows how difficult it can get to keep the blood sugar levels under control. The constant check on your diet, the cumbersome need to carry your glucometer everywhere, requirement to keep sugar pills with you in case of a drop in sugar levels, and so much more.  

We all know that following a healthy diet can help keep sugar levels under check, but even that can get overwhelming if it just ends up being a list of Do's and Don'ts. Constant unhealthy eating and drinking habits may lead to an increase in cholesterol and raised blood glucose levels. Which is why along with following a diet plan, it is even more important to understand food categories, which foods have positive effects and which ones are so detrimental that just avoiding them can result in improved glycemic levels and reduced complications.

Five Foods to Avoid in Diabetes

1. Trans Fats

The reason why this comes under the category of what foods to avoid with diabetes is that it can have a direct and damaging impact on the cholesterol levels in the body. This, in turn, could cause an effect on the proper functioning of the heart. A good way to identify the trans fats in any food would be to check the nutrition index on the labels. Avoiding as many trans fats as possible would help lead a healthier lifestyle after the onset of diabetes. 

Examples – Some foods with higher trans fats would include – fast food items like French fries, chips of all kinds, sweet baked products like cakes, muffins, cupcakes, mousses, etc. 

What can you eat instead – Focus on polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats that do not affect the LDL cholesterol levels – olive oil, sunflower oil, cashews, almonds, etc

2. Processed Grains

Processed grains are high in carbs. Such grains are also digested quickly which results in an almost immediate spike in sugar levels. If you are a diabetic, you may have noticed how hyperglycemia can increase the hunger pangs causing you to want to eat more. The drawbacks here would be that on one hand the blood sugar levels are already high and on the other hand, because you want to eat more food, the spike will only increase. This is why processed grains are not recommended for people with diabetes. 

Examples – Rice, refined wheat flour (maida), corn, white bread, etc. All of these fall under the unhealthy category of food for diabetics.

What can you eat instead – Grains with properties of Vitamin B and that are rich in antioxidants can be consumed. Whole wheat or gluten-free bread, oats, quinoa, wheat, etc.

3. Processed or Fatty Meats 

Certain meats can be healthy but processed meats certainly fall under what not to eat with diabetes. These are meats that are preserved in unnatural manners possibly with the use of chemicals. Anything that is smoked or salted or canned is considered processed and harmful. They are linked with various forms of heart-related diseases and even cancer. Recent studies have shown that these meats also increase the risk of the onset of diabetes by 11%.

Examples – Sausages, ham, corned beef, smoked meat, etc. Consumption of these meats even in a small amount may be considered harmful for a diabetic.

What can you eat instead – Fish rich in omega 3, whole eggs, skinless chicken and even skinless turkey, beef without fat, etc.

4. Saturated Fat

Unhealthy fat can cause an impact on cholesterol levels, this is particularly true if you are a diabetic. It also leads to insulin resistance which may become problematic as insulin is important in the proper control of sugar levels. Saturated fats are primarily present in processed foods, animal products, certain oils, etc. These may not directly come under what food causes diabetes but they can be a significant contributing factor during the onset, and even post-diagnosis. 

Examples – butter, full-fat cream or mayonnaise, fast foods like burgers, potato chips, pizzas, etc. 

What can you eat instead – Eating polyunsaturated fats like salmon or tuna fish, walnuts, tofu, flaxseeds, etc would be helpful. 

5. Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

Sweetened breakfast cereals are definitely on the list of what foods to avoid with diabetes. This is because of the unnaturally high sugar levels and carbs present in these which also lead to a very high GI. This causes an immediate and high spike in the overall blood glucose levels. Many doctors also advise the patients about what fruits diabetics should avoid for the same reason of a high GI. 

Examples – Corn flakes, fruit loops, chocos, etc have very high sugar content. 

What can you eat instead – A cereal balanced with protein, healthy carbs, and fiber would be best. Oatmeal, parathas out of whole wheat flour, vegetable, or a healthy fruit should do the trick.

Diabetic Food Chart

A diabetic food chart need not be restrictive and you can occasionally enjoy your favorite food and not worry about its negative impact. It is prudent to remember that apart from what you eat, there are many other factors like portion size, amount of carbohydrates consumed, type of carbohydrate consumed, time when meal is consumed, medications and the extent to which other lifestyle factors like exercise, alcohol, stress etc. are impacting your overall glycemic health.


An overall goal in your diabetes diet plan should include avoiding liquid sugars, refined carbs, processed grains, and unhealthy fats. Aim to eat foods that won't cause any sharp or sudden fluctuations to your blood sugar levels. Frequent changes in your glycemic levels over time may lead to you developing other comorbidities or additional complications, that make it harder to achieve reversal. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and a good diet plan not only helps in stabilizing blood glucose levels but also enhances or boosts insulin sensitivity that gradually leads to diabetes reversal. Read more about the foods and drinks to avoid with diabetes.

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