7 Diabetic Diet Myths You Can Safely Ignore

Weight loss can be difficult with diabetes, no thanks to popular misconceptions that can actually work against you. Among the more common myths:

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Myth: Desserts are off the menu

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The truth is, there’s room in your diabetic diet for most foods, as long as you control your total caloric intake (and grams of carbohydrate, if you tally them). Denying yourself your favorite foods can lead to binge eating and, ultimately, discouragement. (Related: You have to try some of these diabetic-friendly desserts!)

Myth: You have to lose lots of weight to make a difference

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The closer you can get to an ideal weight, the better. But small, sustained improvements at the beginning of a weight-loss program have the biggest impact on your health. Studies show that losing just five to 10 pounds can improve insulin resistance enough to allow some people with type 2 diabetes to quit medications. (Related: Be on the lookout for signs of insulin deficiency.)

Myth: What you eat matters more than how much

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Both matter, but recent research finds that the number of calories in your food is more important than where they come from. Example: A bagel might seem healthier than a doughnut hole, but dense bagels have the calorie content of six slices of bread. As long as you’re not eating too much fat in other foods, the (just one, please) doughnut hole wins. Check out these portion control tricks for quick weight loss.

Myth: If you work out, you can eat whatever you want

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That’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. You can’t lose weight if you reduce calories in one way but increase them in another.

Myth: Skipping meals makes you lose weight faster

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Actually, studies show that people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than people who don’t. And a 2014 study of 4,116 children found that breakfast helps keep blood sugar in check, with breakfast skippers showing higher A1C readings. If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep up a steady intake of small portions of food throughout the day to keep your blood-sugar levels stable and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. (Related: Follow these rules for a healthy diabetic breakfast.)

Myth: Starches are fattening

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If you are insulin resistant, your body may find it easier to convert carbohydrate calories to fat than to burn it as energy, but the fact remains that starches (and other carbohydrates) are less dense in calories gram for gram than other types of food. The main issue is calories, so if you load starchy foods with fat (sour cream and butter on a baked potato, for instance) or eat them in large quantities, the caloric load can add up.

Myth: Never eat fast food

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Never say never. Fast food can be worked into your meal plan if you choose well. Most fast-food places have healthy salad, which are great if you choose the low-cal dressing and skip crunchy or fried topping options. Some delis offer whole-wheat bread and low-fat sandwich fillings, and you can usually order a grilled chicken patty instead of burgers at many places. Whatever you do, avoid or scrape away high-fat condiments like mayonnaise, share a small-sized french fry order (better yet, choose a small side salad) to keep portion size down, and ask for water, unsweetened iced tea, or diet soda instead of sugary drinks. (Related: These 16 condiments are secret health bombs.)

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