Simple cooking swaps for easier diabetes management

You want a cheesy pizza—your blood sugar says, “Hard pass.” Here’s how you can still have your fave foods while living with diabetes, without compromising your health goals.
Published 15 September 2022 | Updated 28 June 2024

If you have diabetes, which foods are off-limits? Answer: None. Everything has its place in a balanced diet, even if you’re living with diabetes. That said, eating more of some foods and less of others can make managing your blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose) a lot easier—something that’s important for feeling good now and staying healthy for years to come.

“Significant fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to diabetes complications,” says Amy Stephens, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist in New York. For example, hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar) can bring on shakiness, anxiety, confusion, nausea, weakness, fatigue, headaches, and more. On the other hand, hyperglycemia (very high blood sugar) can up your thirst and make you need to urinate more often. In the long term, high blood sugar also raises your risk of serious health issues like cardiovascular disease and kidney problems. “That’s why it’s so important to minimise blood sugar swings as much as possible,” says Stephens. “When you do, you’ll feel better throughout the day.”

To keep your blood sugar steady, Stephens suggests eating every three to four hours and relying more on foods that incorporate fibre, protein, or fat (which slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream) and less on those made up of simple carbs (which cause glucose to spike), like white bread and pasta. The good news? The WeightWatchers® diabetes program is designed to guide you toward foods that are higher in the former. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some simple swaps that will let you enjoy your favourite foods without rocking your blood sugar.

You like: Soft drink > Try: Flavoured sparkling water

Swap soft drink for flavored sparkling water

“In terms of blood sugar, drinking a can of soft drink is like eating two slices of white bread,” says Stephens. Your blood sugar shoots way up, setting you up for a crash later. Instead, reach for a can of flavoured sparkling water—there are endless varieties available these days. Or go the DIY route and drop strawberry slices, watermelon pieces, or pineapple chunks into plain sparkling H2O. This is also a perfect way to use up fruit in your fridge that’s just past its prime.

You like: Pizza > Try: Low-carb wrap topped with tomato sauce and shredded cheese

Classic pizza dough is pretty much a giant disk of carbs—something that can really impact your blood sugar levels. Try spreading your favourite toppings (green capsicums, mushrooms and cheese) on a low-carb wrap and heat it up in a sizzling frying pan to mimic that charred crust taste.

You like: Noodles > Try: Chickpea or lentil pasta

Swap Noodles for Chickpea or lentil pasta

Regular noodles made with wheat are carb-heavy, spiking your glucose when you eat them. Dried pasta made with chickpea or lentil flour contains more fibre and protein compared to traditional varieties—which means they’re lower in Points and a great choice for people living with diabetes. “Fibre and protein are really important for slowing digestion and blunting that blood sugar spike,” says Angela Goscilo, M.S., RDN. Plus, the latest varieties are so tasty, you won’t be able to tell you made a swap.

You like: Smoothies > Try: Overnight oats

Swap smoothies for overnight oats

Smoothies can quickly get sugar-laden and drive up glucose fast—especially ones made with flavoured yoghurt or fruit juice. When you want a quick, grab-and-go breakfast, start your day with overnight oats instead. Just mix rolled oats with milk or some plain yoghurt, along with fresh or frozen fruit, chia seeds or flaxseed, and nuts. That combo will provide your body with protein and fibre, along with carbs, says Goscilo.

You like: Ice cream > Try: “Nice” cream

Ice cream is packed with simple sugars and not much in the way of fibre, making it not such a smart choice for your blood sugar. “Nice” cream is made by whirling frozen bananas in a food processor. The end result, an impossibly creamy, Froyo-like treat. The best part is that nice cream is endlessly customisable, meaning you can tweak it to fit whatever flavour you like says Sherry Rujikarn, WW food director. “Add in additional fruit, nuts, or even some crumbled sugar-free biscuits,” she suggests. To get started, try our banana and peanut butter 'ice-cream'.

You like: Pretzels > Try: Pistachios

Swap Pretzels for Pistachios

If you’re a fan of salty snacks, switch from pretzels (which have quick-digesting carbs that raise blood sugar) to pistachios, nuts that provide the perfect trifecta of protein, fibre, and healthy fats. Research also shows that when eaten as part of a weight-loss diet, pistachios decrease one’s consumption of sweets. Buy pistachios in their shells if you can; “cracking open the shell takes time and slows down your eating,” says Leslie Fink, M.S., RDN, a registered dietitian and a nutritionist and food editor at WW.