Improving Diabetes Care and Outcomes on the South Side of Chicago

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Shop right, eat right!

If you are trying to eat right with diabetes, you know it’s key to shop right! Here are tips and tricks for planning your healthful shopping and eating.

Walk around the edges of grocery store and you’ll find all the necessary food groups to be “heart healthy”–perfect for your diabetes!  Making food choices can be overwhelming. These tips will help guide you through the store to make the purchasing a lot easier.

Let’s start off with the food groups that have the biggest impact on blood sugar control…

…Grains, Fruit and Milk.  Each of these food groups contain the major nutrient:

Carbohydrates

Carbs, as we call them, is our body’s quick energy source that increases our blood sugars the fastest.  Since carbs increase our blood sugars, many people think that people with diabetes cannot eat them.  That is not true.  These carb food groups supply our body with vitamins and minerals that other food groups do not have.  For example, the milk group provides a rich source of calcium and the fruit group contains vitamin C.

However, it is important to measure your carb food groups to know how much you are eating.  Just like we are taking a prescribed amount of medication, it is important to measure your foods so that we know how much carbs you are eating.  Your foods and medication both can affect your blood sugars.  By monitoring your blood sugar, you will learn how each carb food affects your blood sugar.  In fact, some people write down their carbs in their blood sugar logbook, along with their blood sugar and medication.

By meeting with a dietitian, you will learn how many carbs you need on a daily basis.  It can be in the form of carb grams, carb choices or servings. When you read a Nutrition Fact panel on a food package, look at the “Total Carbohydrates.” You will see different items under this panel, as types of fiber (soluble or insoluble) and sugar.  Realize that all carbohydrates turn to sugar so focus on the “Total Carbohydrates.”  Some carbs will be simple like fruit juice (sugar on the label) which will move fast in your body and other carbs will be complex (these have fiber) and will move slower.  However, looking at “Total Carbohdyrates” is the most important.

A serving of carbs is typically 15 grams or 1 carb choice or serving.  Use 15 to determine how many servings it is.  If math is difficult, just remember to look at the “Serving size” on the Nutrition Fact which is a helpful guide to how much we need to eat.  Following you will find specific information about the different food groups needed in our meal plan.  Remember the carb groups:  the Grains, Fruit and Milk groups.  Another plus for these food groups is that they have very little or no fat which makes them doubly good to eat.

Grains, Cereals and Breads:

Purchasing foods with fiber (you’ll find it under Total Carbohydrates) on the Nutrition Fact panel of the product packaging is a heart smart rule to do for your diabetes.  Fiber helps to slow down your digestion to make your blood sugar rise slowly.  That’s a good thing!  Try to reach a fiber goal of 25-35 grams a day. How do we do that?  Look for the word “whole grains.”  Although the price of higher fiber foods may be a concern, remember having appropriate portions can help to stretch those dollars for you and your family. Examples of a diabetic portion size: 1/3 cup pasta or rice or 1 slice (1 ounce) of bread.  Each of these portions equal 15 grams carbohydrates.  You may have more than one serving at a meal; talk with a registered dietitian to get your daily diabetes meal plan.

GOAL: Buy foods with fiber.

Fruits and Vegetables:

Fruits and vegetables have fiber and are low in fat. People with type 2 diabetes many times can eat unlimited (no fat added) non-starchy vegetables (greens, carrots, tomatoes) since they are low in carbohydrates (only 5 grams in ½ cup cooked serving!) so typically your blood sugar will not rise.  To be “heart healthy,” buying fresh or frozen is a better choice than canned which will be higher in salt.  Eating whole pieces of fruit, like an apple or orange, or canned fruits packed in its own juice (not syrup, which increases the carbohydrate content) is a better choice than drinking a lot of fruit juice or fruit drink (juice with added sugar).   Examples of a diabetic portion size:  1 small fruit (banana or peach) or 2 small fruits (plum or kiwi), ½ cup juice, or ½ cup starchy vegetable (potato, corn, or peas). Again, each of these servings of fruit provide 15 grams carbohydrates (vegetables contain about 5 grams of carbs).

GOAL: Buy fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables with no added sugar or fats.

Milk and Yogurt:

Finding the low-fat options is the best for your diabetes.   This will include 1% or non-fat milk or yogurt.   If you are drinking whole or 2% milk now, purchase 1% milk to begin your “heart smart” food purchase. For people with diabetes, there are a few important points to remember: 1) cheese is in the meat group since it contains very little carbohydrates, 2) sour cream is in the fat group, again little carbohydrates, and 3) milk and yogurt count as a carbs, so you have to accurately measure it to include in your meal plan.  Examples of diabetic portion size:  1 cup milk or plain yogurt with 12 grams carbohydrates.  .

GOAL: Buy 1% or non-fat dairy products.

Meat and Meat Substitutes:

Many times people with diabetes think that meat is free since it contains no or little carbohydrates which raises your blood sugar. However, all people (with or without diabetes) need to follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association to eat no more than six ounces of meat a day due to the fat and cholesterol content.  What is a serving?  A serving is 3 ounces of meat or cheese, which is the size of a deck of cards or a palm of a women’s hand.   So buying one pound of meat/cheese at the store would feed a family of four or 4 servings.  Meat is not only beef but also pork, poultry or fish.  Many times a whole chicken can be more economical than boneless chicken breast.  Cooking meat with the skin can produce a tenderer, moist product but remember to take of the skin and fat before eating.  Also, use cooking styles with no or very little fat, such as baking or broiling.

GOAL: Buy 1 pound of meat for four servings.

Fats:

Although purchasing fats in a liquid form (oil) is better than solid (lard, chicken/bacon fat or butter), the portion size of that fat is the most important.  Examples:  1 tablespoon oil for sautéeing (cooking) meats or vegetables in a skillet, 1 teaspoon (eating) of soft margarine on your bread, or 1 tablespoon salad dressing on your favorite vegetables.  Remember that many of our snack foods contain added fats such as potato chips, chocolates and cakes.  A registered dietitian will help you to know how many fats you can have each day to be “heart healthy” for your diabetes.

GOAL: Buy vegetable oils but use measuring spoons to control portion sizes used in cooking and eating.

A trip to your favorite grocery store can be fun but overwhelming. Now you can see that all foods can fit into your meal plan to control your blood sugars.  Remember these purchasing tips and portion sizes as you shop. You’ll help you and your family control your diabetes–or even prevent diabetes in your family members!

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