Stay Out of the Swamp

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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6 thoughts on “Stay Out of the Swamp

  1. Dear David. Has anybody tried low Carb bread. I know this sounds impossible. I love bread but it is the most toxic substance on earth for diabetics. There are good carbs: broccoli, cauliflower, sauerkraut, beans all not as yummy as bread. You can eat yourself silly in these carbs and not affect the BG that much. My wife used to grind wheat with a special kitchen aid attachment and use a bit of special stone ground flour as a binder, was yummy and not as toxic as the store made ones. A lot of work and since I have not died yet maybe unnecessary.

  2. Regards so called healthy sugar free products for diabetisc,Zero Carb, Low carb, Carb Well, etc.

    That’s very true. Not only this kind of food designated as “for diabetics” or “sugar free” is unhealthy,cont. xylitol, maltitol,etc. giving in many cases unpleasant site effects (diarrhea) they are also usually twice the price of regular but not sugar free products and one half the weight. The claims that the sugar alcohols have no or minimal effect on BG are not true at all, I can say from the personal experience of a friend of mine. In addition they are terrrribly sweet. Bad, bad, bad and overpriced.

  3. Dear CD,
    We might want to ask Amy about the breads, but I know some people who very much like flour made from beans. I’ve had some of their home made breads and cookies and they’re great.
    The favorite seems to be garfava flour (garbanzo + fava beans). I don’t know what their effect on blood glucose is, but it should be less dramatic than flours made from grains.

  4. Aha! A bread question has been raised. I, too, have looked for a more carb-friendly and healthier bread alternative and have been stymied by the ingredient lists on many of the options. One thing that I have noticed, tho, is that bread made from sprouted wheat berries has a much lower carb count and a higher fiber count per serving. I’d love to learn more about how sprouting and grinding wheat berries gives a lower carb count than using regular ground flour. Is this for real, or is it some sort of hocus-pocus?

    Also, I can say that I’m a much smarter/savvier shopper now than I was four years ago, pre-diagnosis. Still, there’s a lot I need to learn (which I’m working on).

  5. The new store in town is the ALDI’s Foodmart. It takes the grand magazin design popular in Europe and inverts it. Aldi’s is Europe’s Walmart and as soon as you walk in you are surrounded with a maze of isles selling nothing but what you referred to as the swamp and you actually have to go to the center of the stores before you find any fruits and vegetables. But their prices are great.

  6. I’ve found the perfect break, at least for me. It does not increase my blood sugars. I even eat a slice toasted with Smart Balance Butter and Smuckers Low Sugar (no artificial sweetners) strawberry preserves as a “sweet” snack. I make sandwiches almost daily with this bread and eat it often with my other meals. I love the taste and texture. Great Harvest Bread Co, a nation-wide chain, makes “Low Car Dakota” full of nuts and seeds. Unfortunately, each Great Harvest franchise decides which breads to make, so not all have LCD. Ingredients listed on the label: “freshly stone-ground 100% whole grain wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, water, tofu, flax meal, wheat bran, olive oil, whole eggs, oat bran, rolled oats, yeast, honey, salt, falx seeds, millet seeds, pumpkins seeds, sunflower seeds.” Per slice: “90 calories, total fat 3.5g, saturated fat .5g, trans fat 0g, cholesterol 5 mg, sodium, 125mg, total carbs 7 g, dietary fiber 2 g, sugars 2 g, protein 5g.

    Pardon me, while I go toast a slice!

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