The CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report found 34 million Americans have diabetes, and 88 million American adults have prediabetes. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is a crucial part of managing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Proper nutrition can help control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and stave off cravings. 

If you’re unsure of which foods to place on your grocery list, refer to our helpful guide below to maintain a diabetes-friendly diet. Caregivers can also use this guide for home care meal preparation services to make healthy living easier for their clients.  

What to Add to Your Diabetic-Friendly Grocery List 

Vegetables

It’s no secret vegetables are part of a healthy diet. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and fiber, and can help you feel full to deter overeating. A good rule of thumb is make sure half of your plate is full of vegetables whether they are canned, fresh, or reheated from the freezer.  

Non-starchy vegetables:

  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Salad greens
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans

Starchy vegetables:

These vegetables are higher in sugar; however, people with diabetes do not have to exclude them from their diet. Keep portion sizes smaller, or combine them with non-starchy vegetables.

  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas

Fruits

While fruits are higher in sugar, they are also high in fiber and can satisfy sweet cravings. The sugar in fruit does not count towards free sugar like those in fruit juices, sodas, and sweets. Experts recommend keeping portion sizes to a half cup (less for dried fruit) and to consider pairing them with a protein to feel more full. Many fruits also have a low glycemic index and glycemic load, so it is less likely to cause a harmful blood sugar spike in people with diabetes. 

Add these low glycemic fruits to your grocery list:

  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Cherries 
  • Grapefruit 
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Pears
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes

Oils, Dressings, & Spreads

Oils, dressings, and spreads are delicious, but they can be high in saturated fats. Here are some healthier choices to add to your diabetes-friendly shopping list:

  • Canola oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Olive-oil based unsweetened dressing
  • Low sodium barbeque sauce
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Local honey
  • Olive oil
  • Olive oil spray
  • Olive-oil based mayonnaise (limit portion to a single serving)

Beans & Legumes

Dry or canned beans and legumes are excellent sources of plant-based protein, minerals, and dietary fiber to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Add these beans and legumes to your grocery list: 

  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans
  • White beans
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Garbanzo beans

Meats, Seafood, & Eggs

Lean proteins are satisfying, slow to digest, and cause mild increases in blood sugar. These are the best selections for individuals who eat meat and dairy proteins:

  • Fatty fish, including trout, tuna, sardines, and salmon
  • Chicken
  • Turkey breast
  • Eggs (limit to four to five eggs weekly due to high cholesterol content, or more if you eat egg whites only)

Plant-based proteins include beans and bean products, such as:

  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans
  • baked or refried beans
  • hummus
  • falafel
  • lentils
  • peas
  • edamame
  • tempeh
  • tofu

Whole Grains

Whole grains are satisfying and typically have a lower glycemic index to help individuals manage their blood glucose levels. 

  • Bulgar wheat
  • Barley
  • Farro
  • Amaranth
  • Cornmeal
  • Wild rice
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole grain cereal (check the added sugar)
  • Plain oatmeal (Consider substituting butter, brown sugar, and raisins for berries and nuts)

Dairy

Dairy products like yogurts may have added sugars, but dairy products also contain essential nutrients such as calcium and protein. Some dairy products to add include:

  • Yogurt (check the added sugar)
  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low sodium cheese like mozzarella

You can also switch these out for non-dairy alternatives like oat, soy, almond, or hemp. 

Snacks

Think natural, unprocessed foods when it comes to packing snacks. Try to choose snacks that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and low in sugar and simple carbs.

Here are some great diabetic-friendly snack food ideas:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Fruits like apples and bananas with nut spread
  • Vegetables like carrots bell peppers with hummus 
  • Whole wheat crackers and low-fat cheese
  • Low-calorie muffin 
  • Low-calorie yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Lean meat roll up
  • Edamame 
  • Trail mix 
  • Chia seed pudding 
  • Popcorn
  • Homemade protein bars 

Desserts

Desserts do not have to be off of the table! People with type 2 diabetes can consume sweets, but it’s important to limit portion sizes and eat them in moderation. If you want to indulge, here are some lower-calorie dessert options that won’t heavily impact your blood sugar levels:  

  • Low-calorie ice cream 
  • Fruit-based desserts like 100% fruit popsicles 
  • Fruit salad
  • Low sugar cookies 
  • Baked goods like muffins that use applesauce in place of sugar 

Foods to Limit or Avoid 

People living with type 2 diabetes need to limit or avoid foods that will cause significant blood sugar fluctuations. Health professionals recommend limiting the consumption or avoiding the following foods:

  • Pre-packaged foods such as chips  
  • Sweets like candy and ice cream
  • Fast foods like burgers and fries
  • White bread, pasta, rice (Substitute with whole-grain versions)
  • Sugary drinks like soda and juice
  • Sugary cereals
  • Sugary yogurt 
  • Processed meat 
  • Red meat 

In general, homemade items are best because you know what is in the meal and how it has been prepared. 

How Meal Preparation Services Help With Dietary Restrictions 

Daily living tasks like grocery shopping and preparing meals can be challenging for elderly, disabled, or chronically ill adults. Caregiving professionals can assist with meal planning and diabetic meal prep to encourage healthy eating habits. For instance, home caregivers can keep diabetic dietary restrictions and portion size in mind when grocery shopping and cooking meals. 

TruCare Homecare is a woman-owned, family-operated business centered on providing compassionate in-home senior care in the greater Philadelphia area. Our home care agency offers adult daycare in addition to home health care services such as meal preparation, grooming, mobility assistance, and transportation. Caregivers are dedicated to creating meaningful bonds with clients and their families, offering tailored care plans that best benefit individuals’ health care needs. For more information about our services, call our office at 610-878-2273 or visit our website.

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