Diabetes 101

April 14, 2011

Scouring supermarket aisles can be an exercise in temptation for all shoppers, especially diabetics. Find out stats and shopping tips here

Scouring supermarket aisles can be an exercise in temptation for all shoppers, especially diabetics. There are some simple grocery shopping tactics that you can learn to avoid the temptations and steer your shopping cart toward healthy, nutritious, and satisfying choices. This is very important as diabetes can inflict internal damage quietly, without blatant symptoms. Some 79 million Americans (1 in 3 US adults) are pre-diabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. Add to this the 26 million already diagnosed with both types of diabetes, the seven million who have diabetes but don’t know it, and the 16 percent of pregnant women who have gestational diabetes.

Supermarkets are filled with temptations that could veer care regimens off course. Even the most disciplined shoppers might misread package labels, fail to recognize the multiple names for sugar, or be physically unable to read fine print. So what should you look out for when grocery shopping?

First, you should always be sure to eat before you shop and bring a grocery list. Which is a great shopping tip for everyone – and you should always read labels. Controlling blood sugar levels is critical for diabetics; and keeping track of carb intake is essential as lower intake is associated with lower blood sugar levels. Finding added sugars in ingredient lists can get tricky; sugars can also be identified by looking for -ose at the end of a word, i.e., glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Look for these on food labels to help identify foods that contain sugar.

Inside the supermarket, be leery of foods that claim to be diabetic foods – read labels carefully. Although seemingly lower in sugars, these foods often contain other substances that can raise blood sugar when digested. Look out for sugar alcohols including mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol; which can increase your blood sugar level (although not as much as sugars), so should not be considered “freebee” foods. Additionally, products targeted towards diabetics may contain more calories than the foods they are replacing. Read labels and compare products!

In the produce aisle, select fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as fresh herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals. Remember, all fruits and vegetables have carbohydrates, although they are complex carbohydrates, they still have an affect on blood sugar. Fruits should be consumed in moderation, berries are best, and fruit juices should be avoided.

When buying grains, choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and, buckwheat and always make sure that the word whole precedes the word grain on things like breads and pastas. Look for breads and cereals that do not list sugars on the label – look out for: sugar, cane syrup and honey.

Diabetics are advised to avoid saturated fats, so when buying meats, avoid lunch meats and processed meats like sausage and bacon, select low-fat cuts without visible fat. Choose meat with seven percent fat or 99 percent fat-free ground meats such as turkey. Buy skinless poultry, fish or shellfish. Be sure to choose fish that are high in omega-3 fats, such as mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna, lake trout, and sardines. Also shop for low-fat or fat free milk and dairy products.

Everyone's individual nutritional needs are different. Still, the focus of any diabetes eating plan is pretty much the same as any healthful diet, a nutritious blend of foods that are low in fat and calories, and based on moderate serving sizes. If your local supermarket has an in-store dietician, ask for shopping tips based on your needs.

Don't forget exercise! Studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by losing seven percent of body weight, through 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week, and healthy eating. Park further from the store to get a little more exercise rather than waiting for the closest spot in the lot.

For more information or before you head to the grocery story, check out the American Diabetes Association