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Grocery Shopping on a Diabetic Diet

Grocery Shopping on a Diabetic Diet

Many people diagnosed with diabetes worry that they will have to give up their favorite foods and follow a strict diabetic diet. However, current guidelines show that no food is off limits, and you don’t have to sacrifice taste to effectively manage your condition. Read on for information about grocery shopping with diabetes.

To manage diabetes, it’s important to watch more than just your intake of sugars. Nutrition experts recommend eating a variety of foods in moderate amounts, while watching the type and amount of carbohydrates and fats in your diet. Fruits, vegetables and grains—especially whole grains—should be emphasized as part of planned meals and snacks on a diabetic diet. Of course, regular physical activity is also a key factor in managing diabetes.

When you have diabetes, advice on eating well is easy to find, but it can be confusing to apply when it comes to making daily food choices. Working with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator should be a first step, as he or she can help you develop a meal plan that is right for you. Make a shopping list and read food labels in the grocery store so you become familiar with foods that fit your meal plan, and give you the taste you enjoy and the nutrition you need. The following tips can help you get started.

Fruits and Vegetables

On a diabetic diet, fresh, frozen or canned whole fruits and vegetables are great choices to put in your shopping cart. Go easy on fruit juice.

  • Look for colorful choices—a clue that the produce is rich in nutrients. For example, dark-green leafy spinach or kale, vibrant red strawberries, deep-yellow peaches or bright orange peppers all supply important nutrients.
  • Consider convenience items, such as an in-store salad bar or bagged salad greens, when you are short on time.


Make half your grain food choices whole grains.

  • Look for the words “whole grain” as the first or second ingredient in the ingredient list on food products.
  • Choose whole grain cereal for breakfast; brown rice or whole wheat pasta for side dishes; whole grain bread for sandwiches and whole grain crackers for snacking.

Dairy Foods

Nonfat (fat free) or low fat milk products can help you manage your fat intake without compromising taste or nutrition.

  • If you drink whole or reduced fat (2%) milk, gradually switch to milk with a lower fat content.
  • Choose nonfat yogurt, low fat or nonfat cottage cheese or reduced fat cheese. Individual portions of dairy foods make great snacks.

Protein Foods

Let your food choices and how these foods are prepared work to your advantage.

  • Opt for lean meat, skinless poultry or fish. Trim any excess fat before cooking. Bake or grill your choice instead of frying.
  • Each week, select one night to prepare a vegetarian dinner. Experiment with a meatless ethnic dish based around beans or lentils combined with colorful vegetables.

Desserts, Snacks and Condiments

All foods you eat count as part of your daily meal plan, so remember to account for desserts, snacks and condiments, too.

  • Check out low calorie and/or sugar free desserts. Read the Nutrition Facts label to see how a serving of a “sugar free” option fits into your eating plan.
  • Choose desserts and snacks that are already prepared and portioned to help you manage the amount of food you eat.
  • Use condiments such as barbecue sauce, salad dressing, mustard or reduced fat mayonnaise to add flavor; watch portion sizes to manage calories, sodium.


Don’t allow extra calories and carbohydrates to sneak into your diabetic diet plan through beverages.

  • Choose sugar free beverages that are low in calories, such as flavored seltzer or sugar free soft drinks.
  • Opt for water or unsweetened coffee or tea.

Practice Safe Shopping

Take note of the “sell by” or “use by” dates on packages before and after you buy them. While in the store, inspect meat, poultry and fish to be sure packaging is not damaged or torn, and that canned goods are free of dents, bulges and leaks. Select frozen and refrigerated foods, as well as any cooked items from the deli, just before you check out. Check that frozen foods feel solid and refrigerated foods feel cold; get these foods home promptly; then quickly store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator.

Grocery shopping with diabetes and maintaining a diabetic diet doesn’t have to be daunting—it’s just a simple lifestyle change to help you stay healthy. For more tips and tricks, recipes or guides like this, be sure to visit My Food and Family.

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