Kathi Valeii is a freelance writer covering the intersections of health, parenting, and social justice.
Ashley Baumohl, MPH, RD, is a board-certified dietician who provides medical nutrition therapy at Lenox Hill Hospital.
When you have diabetes, you’ll want to limit the amount of sugar in your diet. With diabetes, your body doesn’t make or use insulin well. Insulin is a hormone your pancreas makes to metabolize food for energy. A lack of insulin can cause glucose (blood sugar) to build up in your blood.
High-sugar foods contribute to high blood glucose levels. Unmanaged, high blood glucose can lead to serious health complications, like eye disease, circulatory issues, heart problems, stroke, kidney disease, and skin conditions.
This article explains what high-sugar foods to avoid with diabetes and alternatives.
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Sugary drinks, like sodas, lemonade, sweetened teas, and sports drinks, are full of added sugars. Added sugars and naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit) have the same effect on the body. They include cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, fructose, and sucrose.
One can of soda may contain as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar. This equals 150 calories from sugar.
People should limit their added sugar to less than 10% of calories per day. People with diabetes need to be even more cautious when it comes to added sugar.
Instead of sweetened beverages, try these sugar-free alternatives:
For people with diabetes, breakfast is essential because eating the right food can help you start your day with stable blood sugar. However, while breakfast cereals are a convenient way to get in a meal, they can unfortunately also be a high-sugar food. Some cereals contain as much as 18 grams of added sugar per cup.
Not all breakfast cereals are high in added sugar, but the ones that do are usually pretty easy to spot. Avoid cereal with frosting and artificial colors, but read labels to be sure.

Not all cereals are off-limits. The best breakfast cereals for people with diabetes are those with low or no added sweeteners.
Oatmeal is a great whole grain, hot cereal option. You can dress up oatmeal in a variety of ways, including with:
Processed fruits include dried fruit (dried raisins, cherries, cranberries, and apricots), jams, and canned fruit with syrup. While dried and canned fruit can be a nutritious addition to your diet, read labels carefully and watch portion sizes. People tend to eat more dried fruit in one siting than they do a whole fruit.
There's a reason dried fruit is so sweet and delicious—it's a form of highly concentrated sugar. Just one-quarter cup of raisins, for instance, contains 29 grams of sugar.
You can enjoy processed fruit in moderation, but the serving size may make other options more appealing and filling. Instead, canned fruit packed in its own juice, whole fruit, or nut butter topped with chopped fruit may be good options when you have diabetes.
While packaged brownies, cinnamon rolls, donuts, and other baked sweets may be convenient and taste great, they are (not surprisingly) loaded with sugar. Some of these treats contain more than 30 grams of sugar in a single serving—over the daily recommended added sugar for an adult without diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you can still indulge in sweet treats—but you may need to be more strategic and selective. Consider the following desserts that are more healthy for people with diabetes instead:
Condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, salsa, and salad dressings are often loaded with sugar. For example, ketchup has almost 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon.
It may seem like no big deal since most people use condiments sparingly, but eliminating or replacing condiments with lower-sugar options is an easy way to reduce your overall sugar consumption.
Fortunately, it's pretty easy to find no-sugar-added condiments, including ketchup. Some people even enjoy making their own.

Protein bars are a convenient on-the-go snack that are often packed with nutrients. But they are also often loaded with sugar. Some have as much or more sugar as a candy bar.
People with diabetes can enjoy snack bars, but you may have to do a little digging to find one that is lower in sugar.
Instead of grabbing a convenience bar, try chopped fruit and nuts, a hard-boiled egg, corn tortilla chips and salsa, a sandwich on whole grain bread, or some cheese and whole grain crackers.
You may not think of soup when considering high-sugar foods, but it can be a surprising source of added sugar. For example, half a cup of condensed tomato soup has 12 grams of sugar. Read labels when choosing canned soups to find ones that won’t spike your blood sugar.
You can still indulge in canned soup once in a while. As with many packaged food items, the key here is to read labels carefully. While some soups have as much as 10 grams of sugar per serving, others have as little as 1 gram. In addition, by making your own soup, you can eliminate sugar.
To manage their condition, people with diabetes must avoid foods with high sugar content. High-sugar foods to avoid with diabetes include sugary drinks, sweetened cereals, processed fruit, packaged baked goods, condiments, protein bars, and packaged soups.
If you have diabetes, it may seem like all indulgent (and even everyday foods) are off-limits. Fortunately, you don't have to eliminate sugar. To limit the risk of diabetes complications, it's crucial to find lower-sugar alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Many people with diabetes benefit from working with a nutritionist to develop a dietary management plan that meets their needs. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think a nutritionist could help.
The best fruits are fresh, frozen, or canned without added sugar. Avoid or strictly limit dried and canned fruit with syrup because of their high sugar content.
Research has found that reversing type 2 diabetes may be possible. However, there is not one single food that could achieve that goal. Instead, low-calorie diets and carbohydrate restrictions may lower glucose levels within normal ranges. While reversal may occur, it is also possible that levels will spike again; therefore, reversal is referred to as "remission."
Vegetables with the highest sugar content include onions, sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, and bell peppers.
National Library of Medicine. Diabetic diet.
National Library of Medicine. Diabetes complications.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. How sweet is it?.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rethink your drink.
American Diabetes Association. Eating well: Fruit.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Raisins.
Priya G, Grewal E, Kalra S. Sweet cravings in diabetes: desserts that are not so sinfulJ Pak Med Assoc. 2019;69(4):595‐597.
Constantin OE, Istrati DI. Functional properties of snack barsIntechOpen; 2018. doi:10.5772/intechopen.81020
Hallberg SJ, Gershuni VM, Hazbun TL, Athinarayanan SJ. Reversing type 2 diabetes: A narrative review of the evidenceNutrients. 2019;11(4):766. doi:10.3390/nu11040766
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nutrition information for raw vegetables.
By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.  

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