‘Good’ Habits to Give Up for Type 2 Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo, MD on April 17, 2021

You know managing type 2 diabetes isn't just about taking medicine. So you've been trying to make better food and lifestyle choices. But figuring out what's healthy and what isn't can be confusing.

Take these habits. They may seem like they're good for you, but they could actually be sabotaging your efforts.

1. Buying 'sugar-free' foods

The supermarket is full of things that appear to be diabetes-friendly because they don't have added sugar. But many have sugar substitutes that contain carbs. That means they could send your blood sugar levels soaring.

Before you put something in your cart, check the nutrition facts to see how many grams of carbs are in each serving and how much sugar is added. Knowing how many total carbs per serving are in foods helps you manage your blood sugar levels.

2. Swapping meals for meal replacement bars

Losing weight can help, and meal replacement bars may seem like an easy way to slim down.

Many meal replacement products are aimed at athletes. So they can be high in calories. Others contain ingredients like sugar alcohols (sorbitol and mannitol, for example), which can cause stomach trouble.

Occasionally, munching on a bar for breakfast when you're pressed for time is OK as long as you pay attention to the nutrition info. But it's smarter to stick with real meals or calorie-restricted bars that are complete meals and nutritionally balanced .

3. Loading up on vitamins and supplements

A diet with lots of fruits and vegetables should give you all the nutrients you need. A multivitamin may help fill in the gaps, but it still can't match the real thing -- food.

Some people take supplements like cinnamon or chromium to try to keep their blood sugar levels stable. These may or may not help. If you choose to try them -- or any supplement --discus it with your doctor. They can make sure it's safe for you and won't interact with any medication you're taking.

4. Drinking juice

Natural doesn't always mean healthy. One cup of apple juice, for example, has 25 grams of sugar and just 0.5 grams of fiber.

An apple, on the other hand, has less sugar (19 grams) and more fiber (4.5 grams). It will satisfy you longer and help stabilize your blood sugar. What's more, a study found that drinking juice every day can raise the risk of getting diabetes. But regularly eating whole fruit can make it less likely. It is better to eat your fruit rather than drinking fruit juice

5. Downing diet soda

It may be calorie-free, carbohydrate-free, and sugar-free, but you can still overdo it. One study found that overweight people who rely on diet soda end up taking in more calories from food. Why? Diet-drink lovers may think they're "saving" calories on drinks and can afford to splurge on food. Artificial sweeteners also confuse your body because they taste sweet but don't provide calories.

If you're craving a cola once in a while, it's fine to treat yourself. But you should usually fill your glass with water and other unsweetened beverages like plain iced tea.

6. Avoiding all high-fat foods

A little fat is good for you, assuming you choose the right kinds. You should limit saturated fats (found in meat and dairy products) and avoid trans fats completely. But monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy.

In fact, certain high-fat foods seem to help people who have diabetes. Eating nuts along with higher-carb foods may prevent blood sugar levels from going up too sharply. Other studies have shown that people who eat avocados are less likely to get metabolic syndrome. That's a cluster of symptoms that includes high blood sugar.

Just remember to keep portion sizes small. The calories can add up quickly.

7. Nibbling on 100-calorie snack packs

Many people open pack after pack because each one seems so tiny. They end up eating more than if they'd started with a "regular" container. In one study, people who were given nine small bags of chips ended up eating almost twice as much as those who were given two large bags.

So be honest with yourself: Can you really stop after one? If not, put the box back on the shelf.

Show Sources


American Diabetes Association: "Fats."

Bleich, S. American Journal of Public Health, March 2014.

Fulgoni, V. Nutrition Journal, Jan. 2, 2013.

Joslin Diabetes Center: "Can I Eat as Many Sugar-Free Foods as I Want?" "Meal Replacement Bars: OK for Those with Diabetes?" "Vitamin Supplements for People with Diabetes."

Kendall, C. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2010.

Muraki, I. The BMJ, Aug. 29, 2013.

News release, Purdue University.

Scott, M. Journal of Consumer Research, October 2008.

Swithers, S. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, September 2013.

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database: "Apple juice, Canned or Bottled, Unsweetened, Without Added Ascorbic Acid," "Apples, Raw, With Skin."

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