Expert Q&A

Diabetic Foods: Shopping Tips

How do I shop for appropriate diabetic foods?

Do not be swayed by any food that claims to be a diabetic food. Although they seem to be lower in sugars, these foods often contain other substances that will raise blood sugar when they break down. Be extra careful of diabetic ice cream, cookies, candy, etc., because many of these products contain more calories than the foods they are replacing. Also, they usually contain a bulk sweetener, such as fructose or sugar alcohols, which raise blood sugars and can have a laxative effect. Diabetic foods are unnecessary and offer no special benefit to people with diabetes. (Also see the following article on sugar substitutes suitable for diabetics.)

So what should you buy when grocery shopping? Start by staying on the outer perimeter of the store. In the produce isle, select fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as fresh herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals. When buying grains, choose whole grains such as whole grain breads, and always make sure that the word whole precedes the word grain. Look for breads and cereals that do not list high fructose corn sweetener on their ingredient labels.

In the dairy isle, choose low- or non-fat items. Good options include 1 percent or skim milk, cottage cheese, non-fat yogurts, and non-fat cream cheeses. Select trans fat-free margarines. Choose strong flavored cheeses such as sharp cheddar so you use less. Buy skim milk mozzarella or laughing cow cheese.

When buying meats, select low-fat cuts without visible fat. Choose meat with 7 percent fat or 99 percent fat-free ground meats such as turkey. Buy skinless poultry, fish or shellfish, and check out soy-based meat replacements products.

Avoid buying chips, pastries, candy, soda pop, and other highly refined foods. These foods add extra sugar, fat, and calories to your diet; and will make it hard to control your diabetes.

For further information on what diabetics should eat see the following article from TheDietChannel: Diabetes & Diet: General Info.

Megan Porter, RD/LD
Contributing Expert

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