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"Healthy" Foods That Actually Aren't Because of Carbs

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Love sipping that smoothie or crunching on granola? Some seemingly healthy foods can be diabetes diet disasters. Learn about some healthy substitutions instead.

Basically, watch out for carbs and processed foods.

Fruit juice. “There’s nothing in juice but sugar,” Randall says. Most people don’t think about juice as a food, but a 16-ounce glass contains 60 grams of carbohydrates, which is as many as should be in an entire meal, she says. Worse yet, all of the healthy fiber in fruit is removed during the juicing process. Eat a piece of whole fruit instead.

Energy or protein bars. These snack foods are often jam-packed with the wrong things — calories, fat, and carbohydrates, Randall says. Cereal bars are a little better, but usually still too high in sugar and carbs to be included in a healthy diabetes diet. Have a bowl of high-fiber (whole-grain) cereal with fat-free milk instead.

Granola. Think of granola as whole grains gone awry. Most granola is sweetened with sugar or honey, and if dried fruit has been added, you're getting even more carbs in the mix. Dried fruit can be a good source of fiber along with carbs, but save it as a snack rather than using it as a topping on another source of carbs. Like juice, granola is a source of concentrated carbs, so a small serving can add up to too much carb. And you might not be satisfied with the volume of food you're getting for your carb allotment, Randall warns. If you want some crunch, add a handful of nuts to a salad instead.

Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. Because it's made from milk, yogurt has carbs. If you add sweetened fruit puree, you've pretty much negated the protein and calcium value of the yogurt. Instead, top fat-free, plain Greek-style yogurt with a handful of berries or ½ cup of fresh or frozen fruit chunks.

Smoothies. Most smoothies start with a base of multiple servings of pureed fruit (much more than the single serving limit in any given meal for a diabetes diet) and then ice cream or whole milk and sugar are added. Because just one piece of fruit is equal to one serving of carbs, that store-bought smoothie can cause a carb overload. When you have a hankering for a smoothie, make one at home so you can control the carb content. Use frozen chunks of fruit, fat-free milk, and ice. Remember that you can enjoy a reasonable portion and save the rest in the fridge for later.

"Low-fat" packaged foods. Often low-fat versions of foods that are naturally fatty, such as peanut butter and salad dressings, are made with added sugar to replace the flavor lost when the fat was reduced. This is often from a thickener, such as corn syrup, which gives it a creamy texture — and lots of empty carbs. These foods can also be more expensive and less tasty. Choose regular peanut butter and salad dressing instead, but eat smaller portions.

Flavored oatmeal. Check out the labels of popular varieties of oatmeal and you'll see that the value of its fiber is lost in a swirl of added sugar and other unwanted ingredients. Buy plain oatmeal instead, and flavor it yourself with a pinch of cinnamon or a bit of vanilla bean.

Whenever you're unsure of whether something is truly a healthy food or not, count the ingredients, including the types of sugars, so you can determine whether it fits into your diabetes diet.