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Nutrition Articles  ›  Special Concerns

''Free'' Foods for Diabetes

A List of Foods That Don't Impact Blood Sugar

-- By Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator
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In diabetes meal planning, blood sugar control is the main goal. Typically, people with diabetes are advised to follow carbohydrate-controlled diets in order to minimize blood sugar spikes and manage their disease. Since many foods contain carbohydrates, this can be a challenge. One must learn not only which foods contain carbohydrates, but how to control those portion sizes and divide the carbohydrate foods appropriately into meals and snacks for the day. 

During this process of learning and planning, you may also hear about "free foods." In the diabetes world, ''free'' foods are defined as foods (or drinks) that contribute a very small amount of carbohydrates and are also very low in calories. There are two categories of ''free'' foods.

Category #1: Even though this group is called "free," people with diabetes cannot eat them with reckless abandon (the name is slightly misleading). Rather, these foods are considered "free" because when eaten in specified portions, they do not need to be added to a person's allotted carbohydrate amount for a meal or snack. That's because these particular foods, although they may contain a small amount of carbohydrates, have a very minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
  • In order for a food or drink to be in this category (and not count as a carbohydrate food in diabetes meal planning), it must contain fewer than 5 grams of carbohydrates and less than 20 calories per serving.
     
  • These foods should be limited to no more than 3 servings per day, spread throughout the day. If all three servings were eaten at the same meal or snack, the food would in fact impact (raise) your blood glucose levels. Refer to the serving sizes listed in the charts below--not the food label--to measure proper serving sizes.
     
  • Remember: Carbohydrate and calorie content were the criteria used for these listings. These foods were not selected because of a certain nutrient aspect or health attribute. Continued ›
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About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.