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Everyday Foods That Can Spike Blood Sugar Levels

7 min read

By Emily Lockhart

Medically Reviewed by Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can present an individual with a number of significant health challenges that require substantial lifestyle changes. Of those changes, the most important and immediate may involve adjustments to one’s diet, and specifically keeping tabs on foods and beverages that have a demonstrable impact on blood sugar levels. After all, it’s failing to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels that can lead to serious health problems for people with diabetes, including damage to major organs, from the liver and kidneys to the heart and even eyes.

The first step to finding the right diet for your situation requires learning more about the foods you eat. For people with diabetes, it’s crucial they become aware of the foods and drinks that can pose problems for their blood sugar levels. Now, let’s take a look at some foods you may not even realize can put your health in danger.

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The first and most obvious food group to watch out for following a diabetes diagnosis: breads and cereals. It’s a tough group to leave behind, as many of us treasure foods like breakfast cereal and fresh bread with butter. The good news is that you don’t have to abandon these foods altogether; the bad news is that you do need to monitor your consumption of them.

In this group, bagels might pose the greatest threat. Often dense and filling, they can provide the same amount of carbohydrates as six slices of bread or 4 to 6 bowls of breakfast cereal. While you may not have to ditch bagels altogether, it may be wise to consider seriously limiting their consumption or making adjustments, such as eating only half a bagel at a time.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is often sweetened with additional sugar, which can throw your blood sugar levels into overdrive. But even if sugar hasn’t been added, dried fruit presents a problem because the natural sugars inside can be substantial. Additionally, because dried fruit has had all of its water removed, it can take much longer for you to feel full — meaning you’re way more likely to over-indulge.

This means, even if you think you’re being healthy by putting dried fruit in your trail mix instead of chocolate, it’s not necessarily much better for you.

Fruit Juice

Following a diabetes diagnosis, many individuals make the wise decision to limit their consumption of sugary soda, like cola, root beer, and cream soda. But fruit juice can pose just as much of a problem as soda, even if it’s made from fresh fruit.

That’s because fruit juice contains a lot of sugar, even if it’s just natural sugar. Consider that making your own juice from actual fruit can require going through many individual pieces of fruit — something anyone with a home juicer will know. Of course, if you’re buying fruit juice in the store, there’s a good chance it’s had sugar added to it, something that’s usually the case when the juice is made from concentrate. If you love fruit juice, don’t worry — you won’t need to ditch it, though you should definitely consider cutting back.

Sports Drinks

A lot of people think sports drinks are a healthy choice simply because they contain the word “sport” in the name. Others might feel that, because they’re usually less sweet than fruit juice or soda, they’re a healthy selection. But that’s rarely the case; in fact, unless you’re a very active individual competing at a high level, you probably don’t need to consume sports drinks at all.

In most cases, sports drinks contain a substantial amount of sugar, which can seriously affect your blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, that’s a huge problem, particularly if they’re not actually using these drinks for playing competitive sports. If you’re just looking for something to get you through a tough workout, look for low-sugar sports drinks or consider sticking with old-fashioned water.

Alcoholic Drinks

Few people look forward to a Friday or Saturday night because it will mean consuming lots of soda or fruit juice. But many social butterflies and partiers do consume a huge amount of alcohol to celebrate the weekend or a special event, like New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, or just the start of a summer vacation.

For anyone keen on watching their blood sugar levels, such as people with diabetes, that’s a huge issue. Why? Because many alcoholic beverages are loaded with sugar or carbohydrates and drinking just one or two of them can cause blood sugar levels to spike. And because many partiers enjoy far more than one or two, the potential for disaster is significant. If you do expect to over-indulge in alcohol, try mixing your own drinks using low-sugar options like vodka, gin, water, and club soda.


On its own, coffee doesn’t pose a huge problem for people, like people with diabetes, who may be watching their blood sugar levels. But relatively few people drink their coffee “black,” meaning they don’t add anything to it. Rather, many coffee fans like to spice things up by adding milk, cream, sugar, or specialty syrups that add a kick of vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut.

Obviously, that’s a serious problem, particularly if you’re not making the coffee yourself. Many of the biggest coffee chains in the world do a serious business selling coffee-like beverages that are simply loaded down with sugar and can cause your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Ideally, you should ask for black coffee and add your own sugar, being mindful of those blood sugar levels, afterwards.


Many of us like to think tea is a healthy beverage, and in some cases it can provide some notable health benefits. Chamomile tea can help you relax and go to sleep; green tea may help boost metabolism; ginger tea can settle an upset stomach; cranberry tea could help prevent urinary tract infections. And black tea, such as English breakfast or orange pekoe, can give us a nice little boost of energy through caffeine.

But tea can be quite unhealthy if it’s loaded down with sugar, cream, or heavy milk. And that’s often how many people drink it, especially from popular tea or coffee shops that offer their own speciality flavors. As with coffee, the best idea is to get your tea plain while adding sugar yourself — if need be.

White Rice

Rice often accompanies some very healthy dishes, like a home-made soup or stir fry. It’s simply delicious when paired with fresh vegetables, from broccoli to asparagus, bell peppers, celery, carrots — the list goes on.

But it’s important to remember that white rice can present significant health problems for those people watching their blood sugar levels, as it can cause those levels to spike very fast. Like white bread, white rice is a simple carbohydrate that’s processed quickly in the body. For something that won’t have such a dramatic impact on blood sugar levels, try brown rice, which is also high in fiber.


For generations we’ve been told that drinking milk is an essential part of healthy growth. Why? Because milk contains protein and calcium, which can help in the development and maintenance of healthy muscles and bones, respectively.

But milk also contains sugar and some types of milk, like chocolate milk, contain a lot of sugar. In fact, most types of milk contain lactose, a form of sugar that’s relatively easy to digest. The good news is that milk doesn’t pose as much of a threat as soda, fruit juice, or sugary alcoholic beverages; the bad news is that you shouldn’t feel safe to drink as much as you like.


Yogurt has been experiencing a major resurgence in popularity in recent years. This is largely because of the sensation surrounding probiotics, which can be found in many types of yogurt and which can help enhance the digestive process and increase “regularity.” For individuals with digestive problems, such as excess gas or constipation, yogurt containing probiotics can be hugely helpful.

But it’s important to remember that most types of yogurt contain their fair share of added sugars, with only plain yogurt (not to be confused with vanilla yogurt) relatively low in added sugars. Keep this in mind if you’re monitoring your blood sugar levels.


We like to think that anything found in the produce section is healthy and, for the most part, that’s true. But there are some fruits that contain high levels of natural sugar and that could pose serious problems for those carefully monitoring their blood sugar levels, like people with diabetes.

Bananas are among the sweetest and therefore more dangerous types of fruit. Like grapes, mangoes, and cherries, eating them can cause blood sugar levels to spike very rapidly. That said, bananas do represent an excellent source of potassium, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to avoid them altogether. As always, moderation is key.

Source: Shutterstock


Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

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