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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.

Editor's Note: Food Pyramid Replaced

In June 2011, the USDA replaced the food pyramid with a new plate icon.

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 applesauce
  • 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 applesauce
  • Fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit juice drinks

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