Eating unhealthy foods can have a number of effects on the body, including weight gain and high blood sugar levels. In many cases, there are healthy options to replace unhealthy foods. Here are 10 foods to avoid if you have diabetes, along with some healthier replacement options.
1. Processed meats
Processed meats – such as bacon, ham, salami or beef jerky – contain many harmful chemicals that are not present in fresh meat. They have also been linked to diseases such as cancer and heart disease in numerous studies.
Replace processed meats with leaner, more natural protein choices, such as chicken, tuna or hard-boiled eggs.
2. Full-fat dairy products
Full-fat dairy products primarily contain saturated fat (the “bad” fat), which increases the risk of heart disease. As well, because higher-fat foods naturally contain more calories, full-fat dairy products may contribute to an increased risk of obesity.
Replace full-fat dairy products with low-fat or non-fat dairy products and non-dairy milks (for example, almond or soy milk). When choosing low-fat products, always be on the lookout for other unhealthy ingredients that may have been added to replace the fat, such as sugar or saturated fats.
3. Packaged snacks and processed baked goods
Most packaged pastries, cookies and cakes are made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour and unhealthy fats (such as shortening, which is high in trans fats). They also contain a number of chemical ingredients, including preservatives, and colouring and flavouring agents. As well, the carbohydrates in processed foods are usually refined, “simple” carbohydrates, which cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Replace packaged snacks and processed baked goods with hummus and vegetables, a handful of almonds or apple slices topped with nut butter.
4. White carbohydrates
The “white” carbohydrates in white bread, rice and pasta all have virtually no nutritional value. They can also cause blood sugar spikes and weight gain, as well as increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol).
Replace white carbohydrates with whole grain carbohydrates, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain pastas and breads.
5. Sweetened breakfast cereals
Breakfast cereals are some of the most commonly consumed processed foods that are high in added sugars. In fact, most of them list sugar as the second or third ingredient. Starting the day with a high-sugar breakfast cereal will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. Excess consumption of sugar may also increase your risk of obesity, as well as heart disease and cancer.
Replace sweetened breakfast cereals with oatmeal, homemade granola, or packaged breakfast cereals that contain little or no added sugar.
6. Dried fruits
Dried fruits are a delicious way to satisfy your appetite and your sweet tooth, and they generally contain a goodly amount of fibre. Unfortunately, they’re loaded with sugar. In fact, a small box of raisins (43 grams) contains 25 grams of sugar; a 50-gram serving of dates also contains 25 grams of sugar.
Replace dried fruits with fresh fruits. Grab an apple or a banana for a quick and healthy snack on-the-go.
7. French fries
Because French fries are deep fried in oil that contains unhealthy saturated fats, they are very high in fat and calories. This can pose a number of serious health risks (for example, heart disease and obesity) if you eat French fries on a regular basis. French fries may also contain a lot of salt, which can contribute to increased blood pressure levels.
Replace French fries with vegetable sticks or baked sweet potato wedges.
8. Higher-fat cuts of meat
Meats that are higher in fat include beef or pork ribs, prime rib, rib-eye steak and beef brisket. A number of studies have shown that consumption of high-fat meats – especially red meat – is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Replace higher-fat cuts of meat with leaner meats, such as chicken or turkey breast, sirloin or eye of round steak, or pork tenderloin.
9. Foods with trans fats, or high amounts of saturated fats
Unlike unsaturated fats (which help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels), trans fats and saturated fats have no known benefit to human health. They also increase low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and decrease high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). Common foods that contain trans fats and saturated fats include: cakes, pies, doughnuts and cookies (especially when they have frosting); crackers and potato chips; fried fast foods; and frozen pizza.
Replace foods with high levels of trans fats and saturated fats with foods that contain natural sources of vegetable fats (such as nuts and seeds, or avocados) and foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, tuna or mackerel).
10. Sugary foods
Everyone craves sugary foods at some point, whether it’s chocolate, cake or candy. However, foods that are high in added sugar usually contain no protein or fibre, so they can cause your blood sugar levels to spike quickly and then drop sharply. Sugary foods are also associated with increased weight gain when eaten regularly.
Replace sugary foods with fresh fruits, yogurt and berries, or homemade healthy ice cream.