Going to the Grocery Store with Diabetes: The Dairy Aisle — Eggs, Milk, and Snacks

Today I’ll continue with my advice on navigating the dairy aisle. Given that this aisle is typically in fact a whole corner of the store, I wanted to make sure I addressed all the most important questions you may ask yourself when choosing foods in this section.

As the slogan goes, “The incredible, edible egg”! Don’t shy away from the eggs because you’re afraid of increasing your cholesterol or because you are confused by phrases like “cage free.” The authors of the new 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have removed the restriction on daily cholesterol intake. (And furthermore, research has shown that eggs do not contain as much cholesterol as once thought.) An egg a day — yes, including the yolk — is a great source of protein and is jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals. The type of protein that an egg provides is very high quality and easy for the body to use and is the perfect morning option for people with diabetes who are trying to watch their weight. As for cage-free eggs, these are from hens that are allowed to roam in an open area. However, just because a farm uses cage-free practices doesn’t mean that the eggs produced there are necessarily organic, for instance, or from chickens fed a special diet. Keep an eye out for the USDA Organic label if organic eggs are what you want. Buying from local farms is always a good bet as well.


The great milk debate
Whether you have always loved your milk or would rather munch on broccoli all day long then drink a glass of milk to meet your calcium needs, here are some important things to consider: With the rise in lactose-free options such as flavored soy and almond milks, you can have your cake and eat it too if you are sensitive or allergic to dairy. Almond milk can be a good substitute for regular milk, as it provides good fats and is high in antioxidants (substances that help protect cells from oxidative damage). The unsweetened version, which is ideal, contains only around 2 grams of carb per 1-cup serving, while the sweetened versions generally contain anywhere from 12 grams to 15 grams of carb per 1-cup serving. However, almond milk is also lower in calcium and protein than regular milk. With that said, if you really don’t like the taste of or can’t tolerate regular milk, go for a glass of chocolate almond milk right before bed if your blood sugar is starting to slip, and you’ll be very happy!

On another note, scientists have learned that organic milk has reduced amounts of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics compared to conventional milk. If you care about what is in your milk, take a good look at how and where it is produced and what the cows are fed. Regarding milk’s effect on blood glucose, be sure to consider the sugar content (including that of any added flavorings) for carb-counting purposes. To use full-fat milk or not is simply a personal choice. I do not advise clients to switch from low- or no-fat milk to whole milk — if you have always consumed full-fat milk and you are generally healthy and at your target weight, then by all means keep it up. But if you have always been a low- or no-fat milk drinker, stick with it. We get enough fat in our diets elsewhere. We can also consume the calcium we need from so many other natural sources that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you just can’t stomach milk. Some examples of other good sources of calcium are dark leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals and grains.

Sneaky snacks
In case you haven’t had a chance to really explore the new easy and convenient snack items in this aisle, here is a short list of a few you should check out: Keep an eye out for yummy hummus and pretzel packs; nut, cheese, and raisin trios; and avocado dips in individual serving sizes. These are perfect options for mid-morning munchies or to get a boost of energy during the afternoon drain. The only downside is they can be higher in sodium, but if you need some fiber, protein, and healthy fats to help you get through a busy day, these are great.

Remember to use your Nutrition Facts label skills and choose what works for your diabetes and health goals. Calcium and the other amazing nutrients we get from dairy products are better absorbed in our body from these natural food sources than from daily vitamins. Do what you can with real food and substitute as needed.

What are some areas of your life that you can monetize to help you earn a living with diabetes? Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to find out from nurse David Spero!

  • Regina Shirley

    Hi John, thank you for your comment. It sounds like you have found the nutrition ticket that best fits your health and diabetes needs. Keep up the good work and I’m glad you are enjoying my articles!