Healthy Alternatives to Foods You Don’t Like (Or Can’t Eat)

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Healthy Alternatives to Foods You Don’t Like (Or Can’t Eat)

If you have diabetes, you likely know that some of the “rules” around eating with this condition include limiting carbohydrate foods, watching your intake of fatty, fried foods, and fitting in a lot of nonstarchy vegetables. But if your food choices have become a bit, well, boring, or you’re still struggling to learn how to enjoy eating fish, maybe it’s time to branch out and find some alternatives to your basic healthy foods. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life!

Omega-3 fatty acids

How often have you been encouraged to “eat more fatty fish”? Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat. From a health perspective, omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent heart disease and stroke, help to control rheumatoid arthritis and skin conditions, and may even improve depression and other mental health conditions. That’s great news if you like fish. But what if you won’t or can’t eat fish? Can you still reap the benefits of omega-3s? You can! Here’s how.

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You might have never thought to eat seaweed but consider trying it. Nori, wakame, kombu, and dulse are but a few of the edible marine algae that are tasty and good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, they’re low in carbs and calories. To learn more about the different types, visit the MasterClass website.

Whole grains

Whole grains and whole grain foods have plenty to offer, including lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and inflammation. Yes, all grains and grain-containing foods have carbohydrate, but that doesn’t mean you have to ban them from your diet if you have diabetes. Whole grains tend to be more filling than refined grains (such as white rice or white pasta), and they are also less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. But if you’re getting tired of brown rice or quinoa on your plate, what other whole grains are there? Here’s one to consider:


Sorghum is a grain native to Africa that is also a booming crop in the U.S. It happens to be gluten-free and offers up fiber and protein (good for blood sugars), as well as magnesium, iron, and antioxidants. You can purchase sorghum flour for baking and serve cooked sorghum in place of any other cooked grain. Make sure to look for whole-grain sorghum to reap the benefits.

Nut (and seed) butter

Peanut butter has long been a staple of lunchbox sandwiches, and it seems that one never outgrows their love for this tasty spread — unless you happen to have an allergy to peanuts, that is. Other nut butters can be an option, such as almond or cashew butter, but many people are allergic to tree nuts. Is there an alternative to nut butter if you have allergies? Or are you looking switch up your PB&J for something a little different? Consider this.

Sunflower seed butter

This “butter” is made from roasted sunflower seed kernels. While it doesn’t taste like peanut butter or almond butter, it’s a nice alternative to try. Plus, sunflower seed butter is a source of healthy fats, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Look for sunflower seed butter without added sugar and salt.


Yogurt and yogurt products have become so popular that they’ve practically overtaken the dairy aisle in most grocery stores. More than half of the U.S. population are avid fans, according to the website Statista. But many people don’t care for the tangy “yogurt” taste. Is there another option? Yes!


This traditional Icelandic product, pronounced “skeer,” is a thicker, creamier cousin to Greek yogurt. It’s also milder in flavor, which might just win over those who shy away from yogurt. Nutrition-wise, unsweetened skyr boasts plenty of protein, calcium, and potassium, with only a moderate amount of carb (as long as you steer clear of sweetened varieties).


Speaking of dairy foods, plant-based milks have been having a moment for, well, quite a while now. It used to be that soy milk was the only viable nondairy milk, but now there’s a lot to choose from, including almond, rice, coconut, oat, and pea milk. Ready for one more?

 Barley milk

Say hello to barley milk! One brand, Take Two Barley Milk, is made from barley that’s been used to make beer. This “upcycling” saves millions of gallons of water and avoids greenhouse gas emissions. Nutrition-wise, unsweetened Take Two Barley Milk contains 5 grams of protein per 1 cup serving, along with calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. It does contain rice and pea protein, however. But it doesn’t have any added sugars, and there’s just 3 grams of carb per 1 cup serving. Try it in coffee, smoothies, cooking, or baking.

Want to learn more about eating well with diabetes? Read “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” “Strategies for Healthy Eating,” and “Cooking With Herbs and Spices.”

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Good Measures, LLC, where she is a CDE manager for a virtual diabetes program. Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition & Meal Planning, a co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet, and has written for  publications including Diabetes Self-Management, Diabetes Spectrum, Clinical Diabetes, the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation’s newsletter,, and

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