A great way to ensure success with managing diabetes is to eat nutritious meals and snacks by having plenty of healthy foods on hand. It can be overwhelming at times when trying to make the right choices to stock your kitchen for better meal planning.  With all the food trends, clever marketing and changing nutrition information it can be tricky to decipher what items in the grocery store are good for you and which ones are less desirable to include on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at some commonly considered “health foods” that are not necessarily the best choices and better options to add to your meal plan instead.


Skip: Fruit-flavored yogurt

Make no mistake, yogurt can indeed be healthy, but do not fall into the trap of choosing a regular fruit flavored yogurt. These varieties even if they are low-fat or non-fat have A LOT of added sugar, many containing as much as 25-30 grams per serving which can increase blood sugars and add excess calories that work against weight control.


Choose:  Nonfat Greek or Light yogurt

Selecting healthier varieties of yogurt allows you to keep all the nutritional attributes like the gut-friendly bacteria called probiotics, protein, and calcium without the extra sugar and fat. Greek yogurt is a thicker, strained yogurt that is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.  There are lower-sugar varieties with fruit flavoring, or you can choose plain and add your own fresh fruit for a delicious breakfast or snack. Yogurt labeled as “light” has alternative sweeteners (like sucralose or stevia) to keep carbohydrates and calories low while still remaining quite tasty.  Select a yogurt with 15 grams or less of carbohydrates per serving and choose nonfat Greek or light yogurt instead of whole or low fat, to cut out the excess calories and un-heart-healthy saturated fat.


Skip: Granola

While granola can conjure up images of health foods stores and all-natural food co-ops, it is not necessarily the nutritious product it is cracked up to be.  While it does contain whole-grain rolled oats, granola is made with a lot of high fat oil and sugar coming from honey, brown sugar, molasses, dried fruit, and other high-carb ingredients like chocolate chips.  One cup of granola, common portion size for cereals can add up to as much as 400-500 calories, 60-80 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of sugar and 20 grams of fat, which can work against blood sugar and weight control.


Choose: Unsweetened whole-grain cereals or oatmeal

Keep the benefits of whole grains without all the sugar and calories by choosing cooked oatmeal or an unsweetened cereal like cheerios or bran flakes. This way you can have a filling high fiber and vitamin-packed breakfast from healthy carbs for a closer to 100-200 calories and 15-30 grams of carbohydrates with little to no sugar.  You can top it with fresh fruit or a small number of chopped nuts and a dash of cinnamon to liven things up.  And if you are not ready to give up granola entirely, work it into your meal plan in small portions like a few tablespoons on top of yogurt or fruit.


Skip: Store-bought or pre-packaged smoothies

Smoothies and juice bars are all the rage these days, but if you don’t choose wisely you can end up with more than you bargained for. Fruit-based commercial smoothies are loaded with sugar from not only fruit but often fruit juices and regular sweetened yogurt which can fill you up with a ton of sugar and calories that can defeat your plans to keep blood sugars and weight in check.


Choose: Green juice or homemade versions

If you are choosing at a juice bar- skip the fruit and yogurt-based smoothie and go for a green/vegetable based juice with just a small amount of fruit added, so you can get the benefits of the vitamins and minerals that the veggies and fruits offer with a lot fewer calories, sugar and carbs. Another alternative is to make smoothies at home where you can control what is added.  Start with a lower calorie base like yogurt or nonfat milk/plant-based milk and keep the fruit you put into one cup or less to control the carbs and sugar.  You can pump up the protein by adding a scoop of protein powder or use Greek yogurt as the base.


Skip: Low fat/fat free dressings

It is easy to want to reach for a bottle of dressing touted as low fat or fat free…but if you flip the bottle around to look the nutrition label you will often find quite a long list of ingredients, many of which are not the best for the body.  Less than natural stabilizers and gums, salt and often sugar from table sugar or high fructose corn syrup are added to compensate for the flavor from the fat that is missing. Many lower fat dressings still contain larger amounts of calories and carbs than what you expect which can add to your weight and blood sugars.


Choose: Your own homemade dressings. lemon juice or vinegars

Making your own homemade dressing is easier than you would think using natural and nutritious ingredients like low fat buttermilk, vinegars, lemon juice, fresh herbs and olive oil.  You can add less oil to control calories and skip syrups/honey to keep carbs low.  Even a dash of fancy vinegars like balsamic, rice or champagne or a simple squeeze of lemon can be delicious and is low in calories and carbs and a tasty way to dress up your salad.


Skip: Trail Mix:

Grabbing a bag of colorful trail mix can be tempting to have as a snack but many of them are not as healthy as you would think.  The dried fruits, chocolate chips and candies they contain add quite a bit of sugar, carbs and calories to the mix. Plus, it is often harder to control portions and grabbing for several handfuls can lead to sky high calorie and carb content, leading to weight gain and blood sugar spikes.


Choose: Fresh fruit and nuts/nut butter

Satisfy you savory plus sweet cravings by eating fresh fruit with a small handful of nuts or nut butter. Think fresh berries topped with a small handful of chopped walnuts, apple slices with peanut butter, or a juicy orange with a handful of unsalted almonds.  You will get plenty of filling fiber, some vitamins and minerals and healthy fats/protein/carbs for a satisfying snack with a lot less calories, carbs and sugar.


Skip: Vegetarian “meats”

Vegetarian meats are all over the grocery store shelves and it can be enticing to fill your cart with alternative sausages/veggie burgers/mock chicken strips or deli meats in an attempt to go more plant-based.  Unfortunately, many of these products are chocked full of sodium and additives that are not necessarily the healthiest to consume on a regular basis. Many have breading and fillers too that can sneak in more calories and carbs.


Choose: Tofu and soybeans

If you want to add more plant-based choices to your meal plan, stick to more natural sources like tofu or edamame (soybeans)-this way you lose all the additives, chemicals that are used during processing. Add flavor to your tofu by adding your favorite sauces, low sodium soy sauce, fresh ginger and garlic or salsa in dishes like stir fries and scrambles. Enjoy steamed edamame atop salads, in soups or by the handful as a high fiber snack.  Tofu and edamame add a protein packed meat alternative that is low in calories and carbs.