A Diabetic Grocery List: How to Keep Your Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels in Check:
Now, while diabetes does not run in my family, I took the Gestational Diabetes diagnosis with my third child. I failed the one hour test, and not by a terrible amount, but I did not want to go through the three hour test, so I accepted the diagnosis without really knowing, and I led a diabetes-friendly life. In fact, now that I’m seven months postpartum, I still follow most of what I learned during those 2-3 months of the diagnosis. I want to avoid Type 2 Diabetes in the future, and even try to prevent pre-diabetes as well. I’m nursing now, which certainly helps, but I have learned other things people can do to help keep their insulin and blood sugar levels in check.
Your Diabetic Grocery List:
Preventing or managing diabetes is about being mindful of carb intake, or learning how to get it from better sources, like fruits, vegetables, beans, etc. It’s also about managing your portion sizes and choosing foods and meals that are packed with nutrients. So, let’s look at some types of foods, and which ones to add to your shopping list vs. which ones to mostly (or fully) avoid.
Vegetables are full of nutrients, and mostly low in carbohydrates. Plan to devote half of your dinner plate to vegetables. They will make you feel full and satisfied. Also, keep raw vegetables in your fridge for satisfying snacking. Here are some low carb vegetables:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
Here are vegetables that are higher in carbs, but still ok as part of a balanced diet:
- Potatoes (Sweet and White)
Fruits have natural sugars, but many have high fiber content as well. Fiber is important because foods that are high in fiber help your body absorb fewer carbs. Make sure to keep portion size to around a half cup, and consider pairing fruits with lean proteins. A great snack would be apples with a nut butter, such as cashew butter or almond butter.
Here are lower carb fruits, that are best paired with proteins/fats:
- Berries – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
- Small apples
- Small oranges
Some fruits are high in carbs, such as bananas, pineapples, grapes, and dried fruits, and are best in moderation, and as part of a balanced diet. Read more about foods, and fruits, to avoid here.
Cooking oils, dressings, dips, etc.
When you are creating your diabetic grocery list, it’s best to limit saturated fats. Here are a few good choices instead:
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Nut butters – almond and cashew are best, and peanut butter is great too
- Olive oil based salad dressing
- Low sodium sauces, like BBQ sauce and soy sauce
- Local honey from a farmer’s market
There are some foods to mostly avoid, like pastas and rice, but there are lower carb versions – especially of pasta made with peas, beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grain or vegetable/bean based pastas
- Whole grain cereal – be careful with this one
It’s important to be mindful of hot and cold cereals. Cereals especially are broken down into almost straight sugar. There are diabetic friendly cereals out there now, so always make sure to check the total carb count on the box. And if you make hot cereal, consider adding cinnamon and fruit for flavor.
This is perhaps the most exciting and versatile type of food to shop for as a diabetic, or to prevent diabetes. These foods can help give energy, and also help the body absorb fewer carbs.
- Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout (if pregnant, ask doctor about preferred fish options)
- Chicken and turkey, without the skin
- Leaner or reduced fat beef and pork
- Egg (some doctors recommend 3-4 eggs weekly, or eating only egg whites)
Be mindful when shopping for dairy products because there are added sugars in many products, including yogurts. Also, check with your doctor about full fat vs. lower fat. Many doctors recommend lower fat dairy products, however, many nonfat or low fat foods have added sugars.
- Plain yogurt (sweeten with local honey or berries whenever possible)
- Milk (check for high protein milks, like anything from Fairlife brand)
- Cottage cheese
- Low sodium cheeses, like fresh mozzarella and low sodium cheese sticks
Great snacks for on the go:
Snacks at home and on the go are important, to regulate your insulin and blood sugar levels. Pick lower carb fruits and vegetables when you can, as well as whole grains. Try to stick to snacks that have 15grams of total carbs, or less. And remember to pair your carbs with proteins and fats.
- Vegetable sticks, like celery or carrots
- Apples and nut butters
- Cheese sticks
- Cottage cheese and berries
- Hard-boiled eggs
And finally, desserts:
Being diabetic, or preventing diabetes, does not mean you have to skip dessert. Everyone needs to indulge their sweet tooth from time to time. Remember to watch sugar content, watch portion size, and pair dessert with a handful of almonds or hard-boiled egg.
- Fruit popsicles that have no added sugars
- Higher protein ice cream brands, or lower sugar brands (there are many)
- Baked goods made with unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar
Foods to avoid on your shopping list:
Remember that your diet makes a big difference in managing or preventing diabetes. You’ll want to avoid crash diets and other “quick fixes”, because they will not help you in the long run.
Here are some foods to avoid altogether, or else severely limit:
- Sugary sodas, fruit drinks, iced teas, vitamin water
- Unrefined sugars – use local honey, Stevia, maple syrup (in moderation) instead
- White breads, rices, pastas
- Canned fruits and vegetables, especially ones with added sugars, salt, etc.
- Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, corn, peas, etc.
- Processed food, that comes in cans, boxes, wrappers, etc. because they have added sugar, fat, and salt
- Saturated and trans fats that come from animal sources
- Fried foods, fried in partially hydrogenated oils
What else can you do to help insulin/blood sugar levels:
- Don’t skip meals – this can make your insulin and blood sugar levels swing up and down.
Mix up your diet and always choose foods with more nutrients, minerals, and fiber. And always watch your portion size.
Speaking of which, eat more than 50 grams of fiber a day to help balance your blood sugar. You can find fiber in beans, almonds, broccoli, lentils, oats, and more.
Take 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar daily, as it’s been credited with preventing insulin and blood sugar spikes.
Exercise regularly, as this can greatly help manage and/or prevent diabetes. Try cardio and aerobic exercise. Avoid sedentary behavior, as it’s important to live an active lifestyle.
Get a glucose monitor so you can monitor your blood sugar levels and spikes (or lack thereof) over time.
- And lastly, enjoy this free diabetic log book because keeping track of meals, medications, and glucose levels is super important in your journey.
The bottom line:
Taking these steps to keep your insulin and blood sugar levels in check can not only help you manage or prevent diabetes, but it can also greatly improve your life!