Healthy Shopping Tips for Diabetics

October 29, 2010

November is National Diabetes Month - here are some tips from SupermarketGuru:

Scouring supermarket aisles can be an exercise in temptation for 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.

So what should you buy when grocery shopping? First, you should always be sure to eat before you shop and shop from a list. These are healthy grocery shopping tips for everyone – and you should always read labels for dietary information and ingredient lists. One important thing to look at on a food label is the total carbohydrate grams. This includes the sugar grams listed on the label as well as the other carbohydrates in the food. Saturated fat is listed, and the best choices have little or no saturated fat.

Controlling blood sugar levels is critical for diabetics; understanding the principles of carbohydrate counting, since lower carbohydrate intake is associated with lower sugar levels in the blood, is essential. The nutrient term for sugars can also be identified by looking for -ose at the end of a word (i.e, glucose, fructose, and sucrose are all sugars). Look for these on food labels to help identify foods that contain sugar.

Inside the supermarket, avoid those highly-processed foods. Don’t let yourself be swayed by any food that claims to be a diabetic food – read the labels carefully. Although they might seem to be lower in sugars, these foods often contain other substances that will raise blood sugar when they break down. Look out for sugar alcohols — including mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Sugar alcohols can increase your blood sugar level (although not as much as sugars), so should not be considered a “freebee” food. Additionally, products such as diabetic ice cream, cookies, and candy 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. Diabetic friendly vegetable selections include: celery, zucchini, peppers, and broccoli, as well as leafy greens. In the fruit family, choose grapefruit, berries, watermelon, cantaloupe and rhubarb. Fruits such as bananas, dates, mangos and pineapples should be consumed in moderation, as well as fruit juices.

When buying grains, choose whole grains such as whole grain breads, 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 high fructose corn sweetener or other sugars including sugar, cane syrup or honey, on their ingredient labels.

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications. So, it is also advised to avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and trans-fats. Fats that are solid at room temperature [like butter and Crisco] are saturated fats. Good options in the dairy aisle include 1 percent or skim milk, cottage cheese, non-fat yogurts, and non-fat cream cheeses.

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.

As with any healthful diet, you can still enjoy treats here and there. Indulge your sweet tooth now and then with a small piece of dark chocolate, whole grain bread with peanut butter (but check how many grams of sugars – should be less than 3 grams), popcorn or frozen (no sugar added) fruit bar. Be sure to read the label for sugar content on any treats you select.

Most people with diabetes can eat foods containing sugar as long as the total amount of carbs for that meal or snack is consistent. Many research studies have shown that meals which contain sugar do not make the blood sugar rise higher than meals of equal carbohydrate levels which do not contain sugar. However, if the sugar-containing meal contains more carbs, the blood sugar levels will go up.

Everyone's diabetes and individual nutritional needs are different. Still, the focus of any diabetes eating plan is pretty much the same as any healthful diet — a nutrient-rich 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 them for shopping tips based on your individual needs.

For more information or before you head to the grocery story, check out this virtual grocery store tour from the American Diabetes Association!