Grocery Shopping Tips for Diabetes PlanningNovember 6th, 2012 | by Pam Stuppy
Published in: Articles
Printed in Seacoast Online
The grocery store can be a daunting place if you have blood glucose issues like diabetes. The good news about a diabetic diet is that when done well, it can be an excellent example of healthy eating for almost everyone.
Someone with diabetes has a higher risk of heart disease, so the guidelines for keeping blood pressure and cholesterol/triglycerides within the normal range, also apply. Instead of thinking of these as restrictions, think of these guidelines as an opportunity to make positive eating and exercise changes. These recommendations are consistent with the Guidelines for Americans that are in place to promote a healthy lifestyle for all Americans.
The overall goals that pertain to choices at the grocery store would be to increase fruit and vegetable intake, increase fiber (whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds), choose plant-based protein foods more often (beans/legumes, nuts, seeds, nut butters, soy products), choose lean animal protein foods and consume in moderation, use heart healthy oils (olive, canola, etc.) in moderation in place of saturated/trans fats, and include low-fat calcium sources (low-fat dairy or calcium-fortified foods like soy milk).
The goals would also include food quantities and choices that contribute to a healthy body weight. For weight loss, this means enjoying “extras” (foods or beverages high in sugar, refined carbs, and/or fat; foods that do not fit into a healthy food group) less often and in smaller amounts. Foods should also be lower in sodium to keep daily intake below 1500 mg/day. Combining sources of protein, fiber, and healthy carb sources at meals/snacks can be helpful.
Hints for the grocery store — follow a grocery list as this can reduce impulse buying (often less healthy choices), read food labels, consider trying some new healthy foods for variety, and shop often enough so that healthy foods are always available.
The produce section should fill a large percentage of your cart. These colorful foods are high in nutrients, but many are low in carbs and calories. Remember that at least half your lunch and dinner plates should contain foods from this area of the store. The fresh herbs in this section can enhance food flavors without the need for added salt.
In the dairy aisle, look for lower fat products that you enjoy — low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese. Choosing lower fat can help you save calories. Some studies are suggesting that low-fat dairy products can also promote fat loss when total calories are appropriate for gradual weight loss. These foods also contain protein which, when combined with carb and fiber sources, can reduce the surge in blood sugar you would otherwise get from consuming a carb source alone.
Other proteins that can help moderate blood glucose levels are found scattered throughout the store — lean meat, poultry (preferably without the skin), fresh fish, canned tuna, shellfish, reduced sodium canned beans or dry beans/lentils/split peas, unsalted nuts/seeds, peanut butter/nut butters.
Omega three fatty acids in the form of fish oils (EPA, DHA) can help to reduce the inflammation associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Flax seed and some nuts are examples of another source of omega three’s (ALA) that is positive for health but not as potent for heart health as the fish oil or algae forms. The Dietary Guidelines encourage at least two servings of fish per week.
In the frozen food aisle, pick up frozen fruit and vegetables (not the ones with added sodium or high fat sauces), but limit how often you buy frozen dinners. These are generally high in sodium, do not contain enough of the food groups represented, are often low in fiber, and may be low in protein. If you decide to buy these products, look for the ones lower in sodium, lower in fat, and add some additional vegetables on the side when you prepare the meal. Adding a low-fat dairy product to the meal (like a glass of low-fat milk or some low fat yogurt for dessert) can help boost the protein.
When passing down the aisles of canned and jarred products, read food labels for sodium. The numbers can be extremely high. Fortunately, there are many products appearing on the shelves that have reduced sodium and are still very flavorful. Buy the low-sodium broths for making healthy soups, instead of buying the higher sodium prepared soups. Foods like low-sodium canned tomatoes/tomato sauce and canned pumpkin/squash can add healthy nutrients like antioxidants.
In the bread aisle, look for products where whole grains are the first ingredient. Some labels are also including the number of grams of whole grain a serving contains. The goal for adults is at least 48 gms of whole grain a day. Examples of other higher fiber grains are brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, bulgur, and barley.
In the cereal aisle, add a box of oatmeal — great heart healthy fiber and nutrients. Try grinding up oats and adding them to pancake batter or baked good recipes in place of some of the flour. Other whole grain hot cereals may also be available. Look for dry cereals that are low in sugar and high in fiber/whole grain. These can be used for breakfast or a snack with low fat milk or yogurt, or can be part of a healthy train mix (about ¾ cup of the cereal and ¼ cup of unsalted nuts/seeds).
In the baking aisle, choose whole grain flour, heart healthy oils and nuts. Look for some interesting seasonings that do not contain sodium. Herbs or herb mixes work for marinades, rubs, soups, and add flavor to many other recipes. The sweet spices (like cinnamon) can add a sweet taste so you can often reduce the amount of sugar noted in a recipe. Vinegars and mustards are other options for flavor enhancement.
In the snack aisle, look for unsalted baked chips, air-popped popcorn, low sodium/low fat/high fiber crackers. Be aware that many of the calorie-controlled snack packs may not be the healthiest choice — they may have a set calorie content but not necessarily contain healthy ingredients.
By making healthy choices in your weekly shopping trips, you are more likely to be following the guidelines meant to provide you with better health outcomes.