What Food Can Diabetics Eat Freely?

What can I eat?  That’s the number one question I’m asked in my work as a diabetes nutritionist.  After I explain carbohydrate counting, and how a person with diabetes can use their carbohydrate budget to get anything they want within reason, the question that sometimes follows is, “But what if I’m still hungry?”

I don’t want anyone to go around hungry, so my answer is that there are a number of foods that people with diabetes can eat freely.  Unfortunately, chocolate isn’t one of them.  🙂

People with diabetes can freely eat foods with little to no carbohydrates

As a general rule, these categories of food DO contain carbohydrates:

  • Sweets

  • Snack foods like chips and pretzels

  • Milk and yogurt

  • Fruit and juice

  • Starchy foods like bread, cereal, rice, pasta, and potatoes

These broad categories of food contain little to no carbohydrates:

  • Vegetables

  • Meat

When you look at the long list of foods that do contain carbs and the shortlist of foods that don’t contain carbs, you might start to feel deprived, already.  Never fear — my long list is near!

Forty-one vegetables people with diabetes can eat freely

If you have diabetes and you like vegetables, you’re in luck.  I’ve created a list of over forty vegetables you can eat without worrying about your blood sugar.  Without further ado, here they are:

  • Amaranth or Chinese spinach

  • Artichoke or Artichoke hearts

  • Asparagus

  • Baby corn

  • Bamboo shoots

  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)

  • Bean sprouts

  • Beets (not candied)

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Brocolli

  • Cabbage

  • Carrots

  • Cauliflower

  • Celery

  • Chayote

  • Coleslaw (without sugar in the dressing)

  • Cucumber

  • Daikon

  • Eggplant

  • Greens (collards, kale, mustard, turnip)

  • Hearts of palm

  • Jicama

  • Kohlrabi

  • Leeks

  • Mushrooms

  • Okra

  • Onions

  • Peapods

  • Peppers

  • Radishes

  • Rutabega

  • Salad greens (chickory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)

  • Sprouts

  • Squash (Cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)

  • Sugar snap peas

  • Swiss chard

  • Tomato

  • Turnips

  • Water chestnuts

  • Yard-long beans

Will spices, sauces, and condiments raise my blood sugar?

Once people find out that there’s a whole world of vegetables they can eat without raising their blood sugar, they start thinking about how to make those veggies more interesting.  That’s when our conversation usually turns to spices, sauces, and condiments.  So, what can you put on those vegetables to add flavor without adding carbs?

These “extras” can be eaten freely:

  • Powdered or dried spices such as basil, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, etc.

  • Pepper:  black, red, cayenne

  • Vinegar

  • Mustard

  • Mayo (yes, that’s right…mayo has less than 1 gram of carb per Tablespoon).  If you prefer Miracle Whip, it has just under 2 grams of carb per Tablespoon, so don’t go crazy!

These condiments DO have carbs and are better left alone or used sparingly:

  • Ketchup

  • Barbeque sauce

  • Sweet salad dressings such as French or honey mustard

The gray area:

Some foods are relatively low in carbohydrate, but they’re loaded in fat and calories.  Condiments that fall in this category are things like Bleu cheese dressing, cheese sauce, and Ranch dressing.  They won’t immediately raise your blood sugar, but they’re not going to improve your overall health, either.  So…they’re what I sometimes refer to as “yellow light” foods.

Don’t go around hungry with diabetes

To sum it up, there’s no reason to go around hungry with diabetes.  There’s a whole world of vegetables out there that you can eat all day long without raising your blood sugar.  You can literally eat from the list above from sun up to sun down without making a dent in your blood sugar, and you’ve got a list of extras to go with them.  So, don’t go around hungry!  You deserve to eat good food and good health!

Julie Cunningham

How many carbs do YOU need?

Use my carb calcutor to get a personalized estimate of exactly how many carbs your body needs at each meal & snack in under one minute.

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