How can I grocery shop wisely if I have diabetes?

Kodi Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Many grocery stores now offer dietitian services, at least on occasion. If this service is available, shopping assistance is typically offered. A dietitian can take you through the store and show you how to choose diabetic friendly foods.

Cassie Vanderwall
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

It is important for persons with diabetes to pay special attention to what and when they eat. Most foods will fit into a diabetic lifestyle. It is important to choose foods with limited added sugar, and that are higher in fiber. A good rule of thumb is to choose foods with less than 10g sugar per serving, and more than 3g fiber per serving. Unfortunately, this is not applicable to all types of foods.

It is a strong recommendation to visit a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator for personalized nutrition education for diabetes. Also, your local grocery store may provide tours led by a registered dietitian. Happy shopping!

Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Keep your blood sugars in control have a cookie too? The good news is that moderation is the primary goal of a balanced diabetic eating plan! This means that even working in sweets like a cookie, in controlled portions to your eating routine is okay, even for a diabetic.

When you're selecting foods, look at their food labels so you know how many grams of carbohydrates are in an item per serving. And here are a few items to focus on getting in your cart most every shopping trip: a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals (aim for 3 grams of fiber or more per serving), 100 percent whole wheat bread, low fat milk, lean meat and poultry.

Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

A healthy diabetic grocery list can include:

  • Wholegrain foods such as bread, cereal, crackers, oatmeal, brown rice
  • Whole fresh fruits and vegetables/frozen vegetables and fruits
  • Lean protein choices such as skinless chicken breasts, egg whites, salmon, tuna
  • Low fat/non-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt
  • Healthy fats such as nuts, olive oil, canola oil
  • Herbs and spices in place of salt to season and flavor food



Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Whether you have diabetes or are just wanting to have a healthy diet here are some words of wisdom when grocery shopping:

  • Fruits and vegetables are a healthy base. Fresh, frozen or canned provide excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Frozen or canned items have nutrition facts labels to allow you to compare and make the best choice. When buying canned fruits purchase water packed fruits- these have less added sugars thus fewer carbohydrates for a serving. Make sure to avoid the “extras” such as frozen vegetables with added fats—such as cheese and butter.
  • Breads, cereals and pastas should be whole grain and lower fat. These all come with labels so make the time to read and compare to find an item you like and enjoy, but that gives you the most nutrition for your calories. Watch the labels! It is better to take plain pasta and add your own flavorings then to purchase pre-flavored pasta that may have added fat and sodium.
  • For protein sources low fat dairy, eggs, lean meats, poultry and fish are healthy choices, but watch how they are prepared. Purchase these without breading or being pre-fried to avoid extra carbohydrates and extra fat that can sabotage your healthy intentions.
  • Lastly—be careful what you dip, drizzle or dollop your foods with. You can enjoy sour cream on your baked potato, but make sure it is low-fat, and you watch how much you add.

Your registered dietitian can help you tailor your shopping list based on your taste preferences and overall diet habits. All foods can fit into your diabetes meal plan. Your first trip to the store might take some time, but that investment is worth a lifetime of health.

Nadine Pazder
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

In general, if you understand your prescribed meal plan you will see that you have lots of options for healthy meals in your local grocery store.

Be sure to get a good balance of lean meats, poultry and fish, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and whole grains. And don't forget to include healthy fats in the form of oils, seeds and nuts.

If you don't have a meal plan that has been tailored to you, following the guidelines of the MyPlate tool ( is a good starting point until you can make an appointment with a registered dietitian. With the holidays coming, a visit with an RD is a great gift of good health to give yourself.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

A diabetic person should shop with a grocery list for a nutrient dense diet of unprocessed, whole foods. All foods can be included in your diet when carefully planned. 

  • Produce Section—Choose unlimited non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, herbs, cabbage, celery, mushrooms and peppers to provide most of the bulk of your meals and snacks. Avocados with healthy fats and lower carbohydrate content are good salad and sandwich fillers. Then include higher carbohydrate content foods with lots of vitamins and fiber such as starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, and fruits such as blackberries, and grapefruit to eat in planned moderate portion sizes to control blood glucose.
  • Dried Food Section—Pick up some dried beans high in fiber, and protein with some carbohydrate for meatless meals. Add to shopping cart low carbohydrate, nuts and nut butters that have healthy fats for snacks that provide fullness.
  • Condiments—Choose mustard and vinegars as condiments for flavor without added sugar.
  • Baking Needs Aisle—Pick up sweeteners without calories or carbohydrates such as Stevia. Agave nectar has a lower glycemic load to substitute for sugar. Pick up whole wheat and whole grain flours, canola and olive oil for baking and sauteing.
  • Cereal and Snack Food Aisle—Pick up whole grain foods such as steel cut oats, and air popped popcorn. Remember that convenient pre-packaged foods in small individual serving sizes can help you to control portion size.
  • Beverages—Choose unsweetened coffee, tea and seltzer water to add with fresh fruit for infused flavor.
  • Dairy Cooler—Include plain low fat yogurt, low fat milk and reduced fat cheese to provide vitamins, minerals and protein with carbohydrate content to account for in your meal planning.
  • Meat and Seafood Counter—Choose high protein foods with no carbohydrate content including skinless chicken, salmon and shrimp high in beneficial omega 3 fatty acids for heart health.
  • Frozen Food Section—Ezekiel brand bread high in fiber and low in glycemic load, frozen vegetables and fruits for convenience.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration regulate food labels. Most manufacturers are required to display food labels, except distributers of fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood. You’re probably quite familiar with the black and white “Nutrition Facts” labels on foods. The Nutrition Facts label is an essential tool for eating healthfully. Here is the valuable information contained on a food label.

  • Serving Size
  • Servings per Container. Keep in mind that there may be many servings per container in a frozen pizza or bag of chips.
  • Amount per Serving: Calories and Calories from Fat
  • Daily Values: Total Fat (Saturated and Trans Fat), Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrate (Dietary Fiber and Sugars), and Protein.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Look for foods with healthier ingredients, such as whole-wheat flour, listed first. 
  • The percent daily value tells you how much of the total daily intake you use up when you eat one serving of a food. These numbers assume that you are eating 2,000 calories each day. For many people, the true percentages may be higher or lower depending on how many calories you need, which you can learn from a registered dietitian.

Choose foods that will help prevent diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Also include foods you like and that are important to you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.