6 Common Eating Habits That Are Problematic for People With Diabetes

If you have diabetes, the foods you eat aren't the only concern. Your eating habits may be problematic, too.

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After years (decades, even) of meal planning, cooking, and eating, odds are you are used to a certain way of making choices about your food. And if you're honest with yourself, some of them may not be the healthiest. We all make sacrifices for time and convenience.

But if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, you know that the disease requires you to make a significant change in both your eating habits and your diet. Some habits are worse than others and need swift attention. Others, while problematic, change with time, as you begin making healthier plans and picking better foods.

We spoke with two dietitians to get a better understanding of the worst eating habits people with diabetes need to change.

As always, talking with your healthcare provider for personalized plans and steps to take to care for your health.

1. Skipping Breakfast

"The highest glucose spike often occurs in the morning," says Sara Thomas, Ph.D., R.D.N., a research scientist and dietitian at Abbott specializing in diabetes, "but people often skip breakfast."

Make sure to eat something in the morning to control blood sugar for the rest of the day. A good breakfast will balance those carbohydrates with proteins and healthy fats. Something like an egg with avocado toast or Greek yogurt (no sugar added) with fresh berries.

2. Skipping Any Meals, Really

It's not just breakfast that's important. Eating consistently and regularly is important if you have diabetes, and you'll want to wait no longer than four hours in between eating.

"When you fast or skip meals, your body starts to crave sugars," says Holly LoRusso, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for Yale New Haven Hospital. "It'll also cause you to eat more, which will in turn raise your blood sugar."

3. Not Planning Ahead

It's easy to find yourself in a bind if you don't take the time to plan ahead. This is where the unintended treats come in — cookies in the office, a less healthy choice at a restaurant. Thomas suggests peeking at the menu before you go out to eat so you can have a plan.

"Restaurants often provide nutrition information online, so check it out," she says, "This will help you feel less influenced by what others order or as tempted by the bread basket."

And in the office, keeping something like almonds in your desk drawer when everyone else is snacking will make that leftover birthday cake less tempting when you're lagging on energy.

4. Consuming Sugary Drinks

Sodas, sports drinks, even juices and smoothies can be dangerous territory when you are dealing with diabetes.

"That extra sugar can cause an immediate spike in blood sugar," says LoRusso. Even if some of those green juices and smoothies appear healthy, they often contain too much fruit (which means too much sugar) without the fiber to help slow the absorption of sugars.

The same goes for mixers if you are having a cocktail.

5. Piling Carbs Into One Meal

Saving all of your carbs to indulge in a big pasta dinner later in the evening? Probably not the best idea.

"It's best to spread your carbohydrates throughout the day," LoRusso says. When you are eating carbohydrates at dinner, it's best to balance them out.

"If you have a meal with white rice, for example, pair it with a higher protein item to stop glucose from spiking," Thomas says.

In fact, protein is very important for diabetes. A recent study shows it helps decrease the chance of some of the functional decline associated with the disease.

6. Eating Too Many "Convenience Foods"

It's easy to veer off a healthy diabetes eating plan when you grab for packaged snacks or fast foods. So many of them have added sugars, salt, and an outsized number of carbs and fat. What's not easily found in most of these foods? Fiber, protein, and vitamins.

Packaged foods don't need to be avoided altogether, but you'll want to make sure to look for ones that are lower on the glycemic index. Avoid anything with added sugars. Where possible, opt for ones with protein or filling fiber.

"Look for snacks with three grams of fiber or more," LoRusso says. She recommends a choice like pretzels and hummus.

"And always pay attention to portion size," Thomas says.


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