Eleven Tips for Food Shopping With Diabetes

Ah, the grocery store. Some love it, most dread it. The sight of flower bouquets and smell of freshly baked bread can wake up your senses. But more often than not, there are no parking spots, long lines, grouchy people, and screaming children throwing juice pouches.

Couple all of that with trying to pay attention to a shopping list while battling low blood sugar, and it can be a small nightmare for someone with diabetes.

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Many of us walk into the grocery store without a plan. We often know we have a budget and that we may need essentials, but for the most part, we let our cravings get the best of us. Here is some advice to help you plan for your next trip to the grocery store:

1. Pick your recipes for the week, or at least the proteins you want to eat and two or three of your favorite types of fruits and vegetables. Now make your list of ingredients or items. (If you have a family with children to cook for, I will be providing additional tips in future entries of this series.)

2. Make a separate list of all of your non-food items, such as paper plates, foil, cat food, and cleaning supplies. Often times these items are marked way up at the grocery store because they know you will buy them out of convenience. You can frequently get these goods much cheaper at your local variety or dollar store or online.

3. Try to go at a time when you can concentrate, if you’re someone who would rather avoid crowds. Or take someone with you who can help you tackle the overwhelming aisles and noise.

4. Check your blood sugar before going into the store, and treat accordingly. Luckily, you will be surrounded by food and beverages in the event of a low, but it’s only going to be more daunting if you have to stand there with your cart and choice of sugar in hand, only to remember that you still have to go through the entire store. Same goes for high blood sugars: You are automatically hungrier when you are high, so those cravings may get the best of you when walking down the baking or dessert aisle.

5. Allow yourself some treats. Don’t completely deprive yourself of a couple of the not-so-healthy items that you like and instead only fill your cart up with healthy options that may just end up sitting in your fridge.

6. Walk the perimeter of the store FIRST. This is wholesome grocery shopping 101. (This is also where the cost tends to be higher, as there is more fresh produce, meats, and dairy, but we will discuss how to handle this in another blog entry.)

7. Check expiration dates. (First in, first out — use the items with the earliest expiration dates first.)

8. Don’t be confused by all the terms like “reduced,” “low,” or “free.” The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shared the following definitions of these terms:

Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving

Low cholesterol: 20 milligrams or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving

Reduced: At least 25% less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product

Good source of: Provides at least 10% to 19% of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving

Calorie free: Less than five calories per serving

Fat free/sugar free: Less than 1/2 gram of fat or sugar per serving

Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving

High in: Provides 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving

9. Don’t let marketing fool you. Read packaging closely and understand how to read a food label.

10. Do remember that you’re not a nutritionist, so give yourself a break and do the best you can. Jot down questions for your next visit with your certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian.

11. Make sure you never grocery shop when you are hungry…as your stomach will win all the time.

Just for the record, a nutritionist and dietitian may or may not be the same thing — dietitians must complete certain coursework and be legally certified to use the title. I am a registered dietitian who studied food, nutrition, and biology. My expertise is in understanding how the body processes nutrients to help with both acute and chronic conditions, as well as how the foods we eat may affect these conditions. I will fully disclose to you whether or not I agree with any of the health claims of fad diets from a medical and scientific point of view. When it comes to your diabetes, it’s important to recognize that any food and nutrition trends you are considering trying should first be discussed with your health-care professional to assure that they won’t negatively interact with your treatment plan.

I fully believe in the good old advice of healthy eating, eating when you are hungry (conscious eating), and everything in moderation. Next week, I will review the details of the ever-changing Nutrition Facts label with you, so that when we finally start traveling down the brightly lit aisles of the grocery store, we can all be armed with the information we need!

For now, start jotting down your grocery list… Have a good week!

Your dietitian with diabetes,
Regina

Diabetes costs money. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune back in tomorrow to learn how to keep diabetes from breaking the bank from nurse David Spero.