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Healthy alternatives for diabetics: how to replace unhealthy food

healthy replacements for diabetics

We all know the kind of food we should be eating… Plenty of fresh vegetables, healthy fats, protein and limited carbs. That’s the ideal diabetic diet. But sometimes our diets are so far from the ideal that it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve shared this list of healthy alternatives for diabetics – choose a food you eat often, and replace it with a healthier option that will be much kinder to your blood sugar!

Healthy alternatives for diabetics

It can help to ease into a healthy diabetic diet slowly so that it becomes sustainable: part of a new lifestyle rather than a diet that can be picked up and put down. One way of doing this is to look at the foods we’re eating that we know are wrong for us, and instead of cutting them out completely (which is sometimes too difficult), replace them with healthier options.

Instead of thisTry this
Cordials and cold drinksSugar-free cordials and cold drinks.  Water with sliced berries or lemon for flavour.
Jams and marmaladeTry sugar-free alternatives.
GranolaHomemade seed and nut granola
Fruit juiceSparkling water with sliced lemon, mint or sliced strawberries.
Fruit, canned in syrupDon’t buy canned fruit – it’s loaded with sugar.
DessertsGrilled nectarines make a healthy dessert.
Make your own ice cream with cream cheese, almond milk, sugar-free sweetener and cocoa powder.
Flavoured milkUse cocoa, milk and sugar-free sweetener for a delicious hot chocolate.
Sweetened yoghurtPlain yoghurt with a few berries or granadilla
Energy bars and granola bars  Homemade trail mix (no dried fruit)
High-fibre crackers with peanut butter.
RusksLow-sugar rusks.
MuffinsHomemade muffins with grated carrots and almond or coconut flour
White breadFirst choice is Banting bread. Or at least switch to wholewheat or seed bread and limit your intake to 1 to 2 slices a day.
White pasta or riceWholewheat pasta or brown rice
Plain maize mealMaize meal with lentils, or samp and beans
High-energy, low-fibre snacksHomemade popcorn
Mash or potatoes without skinCauliflower mash or roasted turnips
Breakfast cereal without fibreHomemade seed and nut granola

Do you have any other healthy alternatives for diabetics to add? Let us know!

What to read next?

The basic diabetic pantry: outlines what you need to have in your kitchen to cook healthy diabetic meals.

The low carb diabetic pantry: Tells you what to buy to eat a healthy low carb diet.

The diabetes diet: all you need to know: Explains what carbs and carb counting are in more detail.

Photo by Wouter Meijering on Unsplash

What to read next
Join South Africans with Diabetes on Facebook

Join our diabetes community


  1. Shireen Shireen

    I am struggling with potatoes,

    • Linda Ferns Linda Ferns

      Potatoes are VERY HIGH IN CARBS!!!! Swap mash potato for Cauliflower mash or roast potatoes with roasted turnips

  2. Cynthia Cynthia

    Sourdough bread better than other breads?

    • Hi Cynthia,
      Sourdough bread isn’t noticeably better than other breads, no… Particularly if it’s made with white (refined) flour. Your best bet is wholewheat / wholegrain / low GI bread or replacing the bread with green veggies (best bet!)

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.