5 Foods You May Think Are Unhealthy For Diabetes–But Aren’t

5 Foods You May Think Are Unhealthy For Diabetes–But Aren’t


If you have diabetes, you may have heard that some foods are good for you and some are not. While these tips may help you choose healthier options such as vegetables, and limit added sugars, you may also be avoiding foods that you think are bad for your condition but are really not.

The following are five foods many people say you should avoid, but you actually don’t have to: sugar, beets, carrots, grapes and rice.


Sugar is one type of carbohydrate. Although sugar doesn’t have important nutrients, you can include small amounts in your meal plan as long as it fits into your carbohydrate budget. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) meal plans include breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. Each meal has about 45–60 grams of carbohydrate. A teaspoon of sugar contains only 4 grams of carbohydrate. That small amount can fit into your meals easily. Here’s how:

Total 51 g
Food Carbs
1 cup of cooked
10 g
½ cup of
cooked pasta
22 g
½ grilled
chicken breast
0 g
1 small apple 15 g
cup of tea with
1 tsp of sugar
4 g



break down
into glucose
in the body.


Carrots and beets are sweeter than many other vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, so many people think of them as being higher in sugar. But sweeter doesn’t always mean higher in carbohydrates. Carrots and beets are also great, natural sources of essential vitamins.

Compare the Carbohydrate Content of Carrots and Beets with Other Foods

Food Item Weight Volume Carbs
Carrots 100 g 2/3 cup 8 g
Beets 100 g 2/3 cup 10 g
White boiled potato 100 g 2 baby potatoes 20 g
White rice cooked 100 g 2/3 cup 28 g
Cooked broccoli 100g 1 cup florets 7 g
Corn 100 g 2/3 cup 24 g


Grapes are a fast, portable snack. They are also a good source of potassium. But are grapes diabetes-friendly? Yes, they are. The calorie and carbohydrate content of grapes, like any other food, depends on the portion size.

A bunch of 15-17 grapes
have about 60 calories and
15 grams of carbohydrate.

A small orange, apple and peach each have approximately 60 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate. Enjoy your grapes, as long as you count them.


Rice is a staple in Asia and in many Latin American countries. People with diabetes often mention that one of the first foods they cut out of their diet is rice. They do this because they heard that rice will make them fat, is “bad” for diabetes, and will cause them to have high blood glucose levels. Let’s tackle some of these rumors:

White rice vs. Brown rice

One cup of cooked white rice has the same amount of carbohydrates (45 g) as 1 cup of cooked of brown rice.

Why do healthcare experts urge people to choose brown rice over white rice if the calorie and carbohydrate contents are the same? Brown rice has more fiber, magnesium and zinc, and slightly fewer calories. A cup of cooked rice has about 240 calories.

Is Rice Worse Than Pasta?

One cup of cooked pasta has the same amount of carbohydrates as 1 cup of cooked rice. If you like rice, choose brown rice. It’s the best option and provides the most health value. But, don’t forget to measure your portion. The amount of rice you eat matters, whether you choose brown or white.


1. All vegetables have carbohydrates.

2. A single serving of vegetable is ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw.

3. Non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, asparagus, and summer squash, contain about 5 g of carbohydrate per serving.

4. Starchy vegetables like corn, peas, winter squash, cassava, yams, taro, and potatoes have three times the amount of carbohydrate (15 g) as non-starchy vegetables.

5. A serving of a starchy vegetable, such as ½ cup corn, has the same amount of carbohydrate as 1 slice of bread (15 g of carbohydrate).

6. Salad greens like chicory, endive, lettuce, romaine, spinach, and arugula are free foods that you can enjoy in any amount.

7. For lunch and dinner, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

By Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE

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