Diabetic Shopping List: Best And Worst Foods + FREE Printable

Diabetic Shopping List: Best And Worst Foods
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes?

Even more shocking is the fact that 1 in 5 don't even know they have it.

Diabetes is a chronic disease which occurs when the body can't effectively metabolize blood sugar and turn it into energy.

It has been linked with other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and kidney disease.

Type 1 diabetes is a condition which requires consistent insulin intake. This is a condition which one is born with and there is no cure for it. Type 1 diabetics have to take insulin for the rest of their lives.

In contrast, the onset of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes. If a person is taking medication for type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be taking it for life.

If a type 2 diabetic makes significant lifestyle changes and manages their diabetes well, there is a chance of recovery.

And one of the best ways to manage diabetes is through diet.

In this article, we'll cover the basics of what you'll need in order to start a diabetic meal plan.

In case you are prediabetic, check out our shopping list for insulin resistance diet instead.

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Focus your diet on non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat food options.
  • Opt for whole grains instead of refined grains.
  • Avoid processed foods, foods and drinks with added sugar, and high fat dairy.
  • Read nutrition labels carefully when shopping!

Diabetic shopping list of foods

Non starchy vegetables

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Garlic
  • Onion

Low glycemic fruits

  • Grapefruit
  • Green apples
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Kiwi
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Pears
  • Berries

Meat

  • Chicken
  • Turkey

Fish and seafood

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Herring

Other protein sources

  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Legumes
  • Nuts & seeds

Dairy

  • Low fat milk
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Low fat cheese
  • Cottage cheese

Alternative dairy options

  • Unsweetened soy milk
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Unsweetened flax milk

Grains

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Brown rice
  • Oats

Drinks

  • Water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Unsweetened coffee
PRO TIP: Add these items to a shopping list app to carry your diabetic shopping list with you wherever you go!

Diabetic shopping list printable

Click here to download the diabetic shopping list PDF!

How this food list helps regulate diabetes

Now that you have your diabetic shopping list ready, it is important to understand why exactly these foods are good for you and how they will affect your body and overall health.

Vegetables

Vegetables are a no brainer option for anyone looking to improve their health. You should always eat your vegetables, regardless of your current health condition.

That being said, for diabetics, not all veggies are alike.

Non starchy veggies listed above are your friend. They have a low glycemic index and will not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels once ingested.

Some non starchy vegetables will even go a step further - for example, broccoli balances blood glucose levels.

They are also incredibly low in calories, meaning you can pretty much eat as much of them as you want without fear of gaining weight.

On the other hand, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and similar should be avoided. They have a higher glycemic index and can cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels after eating.

Vegetables are also the best source for all kinds of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs to function properly.

Baskets of colorful vegetables for sale.
Photo by: Adli Wahid on Unsplash

Fruit

Just like veggies, fruits are an excellent source of vitamins and fiber.

But be mindful of the glycemic index in fruit. It would be great if you could stick to low glycemic fruit options, such as the ones we mentioned in our grocery list.

You can include berries and citrus fruits into your drinks, smoothies, and even salads.

Citrus fruits are especially good for you if you have diabetes, because they are high in vitamin C and some studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes require more vitamin C in their diet.

Meat

When following any low carb diet, it can be difficult to find foods that make you feel full.

Meat comes in handy, because it is a very low carb option, but it is also a great source of protein, which makes you feel full for longer periods of time. (At the same time, meat is rich in iron, which is essential for creating healthy red blood cells.)

Still, make sure you are avoiding red meat, and skipping the skin on poultry because it is high in cholesterol.

It is also important to watch out for the way the meat is prepared. Avoid fried, stuffed, and overly processed meat.

Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood are another great way to power up your meal.

Even though on a diabetic diet you should avoid high fat foods, healthy fats should still be a part of your meal plan.

Salmon, for example, is full of omega 3 fatty acids which are crucial for cardiovascular health.

In fact, a study has shown that fatty fish is better for regulating blood glucose levels than lean fish.

Alternative protein sources

Some alternative protein sources can also be effective for managing blood glucose levels and increasing the feeling of satiety.

For example, eating a low carb breakfast with eggs balances blood sugar levels throughout the whole day.

Tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds are also great vegan low glycemic food options

Dairy

Dairy is an amazing source of protein and calcium. It can also be effective at balancing your sugar levels.

For example, did you know that consuming Greek yogurt every day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 18%?

Yes, it's true!

However, make sure you are consuming low fat dairy options because dairy products can be full of saturated fats. Consuming a lot of saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.

Whole grains

Grains are full of carbohydrates so they should be consumed in moderation when following a diabetic diet.

It is very important to focus solely on whole grains like the ones from our list, because they have much lower impact on blood glucose levels than refined grains.

Home baked bread made from whole grain flour.
Photo by: Wesual Click on Unsplash

What 10 foods should a diabetic avoid?

After a comprehensive list of what should be on your diabetic shopping list, here is an overview of the food groups that you should steer clear from.

1. Sugar & sweets

This one should be self explanatory.

People with diabetes should not be adding sugar to any meal or beverage.

That includes all types of sweets, such as:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Chocolate
  • Candy, and similar

2. Processed grains

Processed grains are also not allowed on a diabetic diet.

That is because processed grains are extremely high in carbs and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels that are hard to control.

Avoid at all cost:

  • White flour
  • White bread
  • Pasta made from white flour
  • White rice
  • Pastries
  • Pancakes

3. Fried foods

Fried foods are high in trans fats and additives.

Trans fats have been linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Fried foods to avoid on a diabetic diet include:

  • French fries
  • Fried meat
  • Bacon
  • Breaded meat
  • Fried fish
  • Fried poultry such as chicken nuggets

4. High fat dairy

As mentioned before, dairy products are high in saturated fats which, together with diabetes, may lead to the development of heart disease.

Additionally, milk has the sugar lactose in it. Consuming lactose in large amounts can contribute to high blood sugar levels.

Dairy to avoid on a diabetic diet includes:

  • High fat milk
  • High fat yogurt
  • Sweetened yogurt
  • Cheese

Low-fat and fat-free dairy products, as well as non-dairy alternatives are the way to go instead.

5. Sweetened drinks

Having some soda or juice with your meal can seem harmless compared to eating, say, a big slice of cake.

However, sweetened drinks cause sugar spikes and should be avoided.

Watch out for:

  • Soda
  • Fruit juices
  • Sweetened dairy alternatives such as soy milk or almond milk with added sugar (Non-sweetened options are okay)
  • Sweetened coffee

6. High glycemic fruit & dried fruit

Although we all know we should be eating more fruit, individuals with diabetes need to be careful with fruits that have a high glycemic index.

Fruits to avoid if you have diabetes:

  • Ripe bananas
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Dates
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Dried fruit
Dozens of ripe bananas.
Photo by: Rodrigo dos Reis on Unsplash

7. Starchy vegetables

Some veggies are also to blame for increases in blood sugar levels.

That is why if you are diabetic, you should avoid eating these vegetables in high amounts:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet corn
  • Beetroot
  • Boiled carrots
  • Pumpkin

8. Processed food & snacks

Processed food is not good for the body regardless of your health status.

Avoid processed food and snacks such as:

  • Crackers
  • Sauces with added sugar
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs
  • Chips
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Ketchup with added sugar
  • Sausages
  • Doughnuts
  • Ice cream

9. Natural sweeteners

With all the hype about processed foods being bad for our health, it could be easy to assume that natural sugar substitutes would be a good choice for someone who is suffering from diabetes.

However, that could not be further from the truth.

Similar to sweet fruits, natural sweeteners also need to be avoided on a diabetic diet.

That includes:

  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Maple syrup

10. Poultry skin

When following a diabetic diet, poultry is a safe option for those who consume animal proteins.

However, poultry skin is high in trans fats and contributes to high cholesterol levels.

Therefore, make sure you always remove the skin when eating chicken or turkey.

Conclusion

Diabetes is a serious health condition that can be managed with lifestyle changes such as introducing a diabetic diet, increasing the level of physical activity, eliminating cigarettes, and similar.

There are many tasty food options for diabetics, including a whole array of veggies, salmon, chicken, and nuts and seeds.

Make sure you are avoiding high glycemic foods and anything with added sugar. Read labels carefully!

If you were inspired by this article, check out our healthy pantry staples list!

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