The 6 Worst

The grocery aisles are full of food products that promise tons of health benefits. But many of these products are not actually very healthful and can even wreak havoc on blood sugar management if you have diabetes.

Here are a few "health" foods to avoid—and some better-for-you options:

  • Protein bars. Most protein bars are little more than glorified candy bars, full of sugar and fat. Skip the meal-in-a-bar and opt for real food.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages. Sweetened teas, fruit cocktails, and sodas are full of sugar, which spikes your blood glucose. Water, coffee, and tea (without cream and sugar) are good alternatives.
  • Pretzels. Many people think of pretzels as a healthy snack alternative; however, they are made from processed white flour. Instead, try rice cakes with reduced-fat cheese, pistachios (in the shell), or non-fat Greek yogurt, suggests Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition expert for the Today show.
  • Fruit juice and dried fruits. Fruit juice—even 100 percent fruit juice—is just pure fruit sugar and, although it provides more vitamins and minerals than soda, it may elevate blood glucose just as much as a soda. Similarly, the process of dehydrating fruit to make dried fruit causes the natural sugars to become very concentrated.

    "Your best choice is to eat small portions of whole fruit, which contains fiber and takes longer to digest," says Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Fruit will still elevate blood glucose levels, but if consumed in moderation, it is a good choice."

  • Sweetened yogurts. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit, nuts, and spices (try cinnamon). It’s much healthier than buying sweetened yogurt, which is loaded with sugar.
  • Cereal. Many cereals are marketed as whole grain and healthy, even though they are loaded with sugar. Choose cereals with fewer than five ingredients and that have five grams or more of fiber per serving. Skip those with added sugar.

Finally, limit all foods with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and added sugars.

"It is important for everyone, not just individuals with diabetes, to limit added sugars in the diet," says Massey. "The American Heart Association recommends women limit added sugars to no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day and men nine teaspoons or less."

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, reviewed this article. 


Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, Mercy Medical Center, email message to author, October 28, 2014.

D. Eric Walters, PhD. "Can Diet Soft Drinks Make You Fat?" Medscape Medical News. September 16, 2013, accessed October 15, 2014. 

"6 Worst Foods for Diabetes." Accessed October 15, 2014. 

"Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes." The Nutrition Source Accessed October 15, 2014. 

"10 Dangerous Foods for Diabetes." Accessed October 15, 2014. 

Susan B. Dopart, MS, RD, CDE. "Junk in a Box: 4 Popular Foods Marketed as Healthy." Huffington Post July 21, 2012. 

"Added Sugars." American Heart Association. Accessed October 29, 2014.