Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Supermarkets are wonderful places. You can buy all different kinds of food, including some imported flavors and products you would never see otherwise.

Supermarkets are also food swamps, filled with unhealthy products and additives that can raise your blood sugar and poison you in a dozen subtle ways. How do you get the benefits of the modern food industry and avoid the dangers?

Stay out of the swamp
Almost all supermarkets are laid out with the good stuff on the outside. Produce is usually on one side, meats and dairy on another, and if there are fresh baked goods, they will be on a third side. That’s because those products are perishable and profitable. Store owners want them to move fast, so they make them easily accessible.

The packaged foods—the cookies, sugary cereals, frozen dinners, processed dressings, everything with lots of additives—are displayed on the inside aisles. Pretty packages! Chocolate-coated! Danger! Quicksand!

It’s much easier to avoid temptation than it is to resist it. So you want to “shop the perimeter” first. Only go into the swamp to buy specific items that you know you need. You’ll save money and have healthier food too.

Don’t go hungry
The fronts of supermarkets are always stocked with sweets. You’ll be attracted to them if you’re hungry. Even the packages look good enough to eat.

It’s also a good idea to leave the kids out of the shopping trip if possible. Children are subject to endless advertising that makes them think they “must have” certain unhealthy foods. (Of course, adults fall victim to these ad scams too.)

Other tips
The Web site Revolution Health had some good shopping tips recently.

Dietitians Marlee Zweifach and Kathie Swift cautioned people to check any packaged food carefully that claims to be “sugar-free,” “dietetic,” or “diabetic.” “Most ‘dietetic’ foods are a highly processed ‘chemical soup,’” they say, “lacking in fiber and most often containing a mix of artificial ingredients including sweeteners, colorings, or sugar alcohols (xylitol, etc.) that offer no nutritional benefits.”

Swift recommends checking the ingredient list. “Ask yourself, ‘How close to nature is this food product?’ Then make a choice. In addition, ‘dietetic’ foods often are costly, so not only [are people] robbed of good nutrition, they are paying a high price for it!”

Whose bottom line?
The food industry isn’t trying to poison you. They’re just trying to make money. Unfortunately, they sometimes do the former to accomplish the latter.

You can protect yourself by staying out of the processed food swamp. Stay on the perimeter where the natural food is. You won’t even need to read food labels, because the foods on the perimeter don’t need them.

You can see more about shopping supermarkets at the American Diabetes Association’s “virtual grocery store.”

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