Diabetes Diet: 5 Common Myths Busted

April 14, 2021

Figuring out what to eat after being diagnosed with diabetes can be difficult. Maybe you’ve heard that fruit is off-limits or that you must cut out sugar. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to controlling diabetes, but there are guidelines to maintain your blood sugar at safe and healthy levels.

How you manage 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. Other habits, such as keeping a food journal, calorie counting and watching your carbohydrate intake,  also can help keep you healthy.

This makes managing your diet effectively sound easy enough. But there are several myths floating around that can make it difficult to find the right information.

Here are five myths – and the straight talk -- about how you should eat after a diabetes diagnosis.

1. Myth: No more carbs. Ever.

Fact: Carbohydrates have a bad rap since 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 you will find 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. Plan on having dessert? Skip the bread with your main dish.

2. Myth: Fruit is off-limits.

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

  • Choose whole fruits over fruit as 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 healthy bodily function, so choose healthy fats. Steer clear of saturated and trans fats that can increase your blood 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 here, as 1 gram of fat has a higher calorie count than either 1 gram of protein or 1 gram of carbohydrates, so it’s easier to overindulge.

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

Fact: Medication helps stabilize your body’s glucose levels, 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 before 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 to see results. 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 Management for Diabetes

Besides eating in moderation and calorie counting, meal planning can help with blood sugar control. Create balanced plates with lean protein, healthy fats, starches and carbs. Paying attention to how much, when and what you’re eating helps, too. Try keeping a food journal.

After your diagnosis, your doctor likely will refer you to a registered dietitian to help guide your dietary changes. The dietitian will work with your doctor to ensure that the changes you’re making are lowering your glucose levels and improving your overall health. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can never enjoy the foods you love. You just have to make wise choices every day.


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