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Busting 5 Myths of a Diabetes Diet

September 01, 2021

By Lisa Cianci, Editorial Contributor

A diabetes diagnosis can be scary, especially when you realize you must change the way you eat to keep your blood sugar at safe levels. But having diabetes doesn’t mean you can never enjoy the foods you love, says Dr. Steven Seltzer, a primary care doctor at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg Medical Group Internal & Family Medicine. You just have to make wise choices every day.

Here are five myths – and the straight talk – about what you can eat if you are diabetic.

1. Myth: No more carbs. Ever.

Fact: Carbohydrates have a bad rap because they raise your blood sugar, but you can still have them in moderation. Choose healthy, high-fiber carb sources, including whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and quinoa. Avoid empty carbohydrates, such as those found in:

  • Sodas
  • Candy bars
  • Cakes
  • Sugary cereals

If you’re having more carbs during one meal, limit them in other meals and snacks during the day. Planning to have dessert? Skip the bread with your main dish.

2. Myth: Fruit is off-limits.

Fact: All fruits have natural sugars, but they also contain nutrients, minerals and fiber, so they are an essential part of a balanced diet. Choose fruits lower in sugar and higher in fiber, such as berries, citrus and apples. Stick to palm-sized portions and follow these guidelines:

  • Choose whole fruits over fruit that is an ingredient in another product.
  • Buy fruit canned in water instead of syrup.
  • Eat dried fruit sparingly because sugars concentrate when dried.
  • Drink water infused with sliced fruit instead of fruit juices.

3. Myth: All fats are bad.

Fact: A certain amount of fat is important for bodily function, so choose healthy fats. Steer clear of saturated and trans fats that can increase your cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are commonly found in animal products, including milk, cheese, yogurt and meats — especially red meat. Trans fats used to be common in fast foods, such as fries, margarine and processed foods, but they are now banned.

Eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation. Monosaturated fats can be found in:

  • Avocados
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts, including almonds, cashews and pecans

Polyunsaturated fats can be found in:

  • Flax seeds
  • Fish high in Omega-3s, including salmon and trout
  • Corn oil

Portion control is important. One gram of fat has a higher calorie count than 1 gram of protein or 1 gram of carbohydrates, so it’s easy to overindulge.

4. Myth: I’m on medication, so I can eat whatever I want. 

Fact: Medication helps stabilize your body’s glucose level, but eating freely could counteract the medication’s positive effects and any progress your body has made. To manage your diabetes, stick to a balanced diet and take your medication as prescribed. Talk to your doctor before trying any supplements or taking other medication.

5. Myth: I need to lose a lot of weight immediately.

Fact: While losing weight can help balance your blood sugar and insulin levels, this doesn’t mean your weight loss has to be dramatic. A healthy weight loss goal is about 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight. This can be achieved with calorie counting, following a balanced diet and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Long-Term Diet for Diabetics

Managing your lifestyle, including your diet, should focus on controlling your blood glucose and making sure your blood pressure and cholesterol are in a healthy range. Keeping a food journal, calorie counting and watching how many carbs you eat also can help keep you healthy.

Besides eating in moderation, meal planning can help with blood sugar control. Create balanced plates with lean protein, healthy fats, starches and carbs, Dr. Seltzer suggests. Along with how much and what you’re eating, paying attention to when you’re eating helps, too.

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