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Diabetes Knowledge

How to Grocery Shop as a Person With Diabetes

3/10/2021 by T’ara Smith

How to Grocery Shop as a Person With Diabetes

As a person with diabetes, it can be tough figuring out the right balance when it comes to food. One of the questions we often ask ourselves is: What can I eat?

This question is usually answered with generic advice like “eat healthier” and “eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables.” 


While people with diabetes have plenty of options for learning how to create a nutrition plan that works for them, what can be overwhelming is shopping at the grocery store. In this article, I’ll explore 7 ways to make grocery shopping easier. 


These tips will empower you to make healthier choices and buy the foods that meet your needs. You’ll learn about the importance of paying attention to nutrition labels, as well as the benefits of choosing frozen fruits and vegetables over fresh ones. 


Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, this article will make your next shopping trip a lot less overwhelming. 


1. Make a list 

Before heading out to go grocery shopping, take inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Make a list of things you’re running low on and only buy the items you need to prevent food waste. 


Making a shopping list can save you time and money. If you’re anxious about being in the store for too long, a list will help you stay focused on only buying the necessary items. If you’re worried about impulse purchases, your list is your guide to help you stick with the necessities. 


With that said, use this time to be honest about the meals you’d like to make, including some of your favorite fun foods. Craving a pasta dish from your favorite Italian restaurant but worried about the amount of carbs? Research similar recipes, including low-carb pasta options, and put them on your shopping list. Grocery shopping is more fun when you’re excited to recreate one of your favorite meals. 


2. Start with the outer aisles first 

Typically, the outer aisles, particularly the outer ones that are near the entrance, are where fresh produce is located. Along the other outside aisles, you’ll find meat, seafood, dairy, whereas in the middle of the store, you’re more likely to find processed foods. 


3. Pay attention to food labels 

Learning how to read a food label is one of the most important skills to learn as a person with diabetes. It helps you become an informed consumer because you learn how to identify which foods are as healthy as marketed. For example, a product marketed as low-fat could actually be higher in carbs compared to the regular version. When reading a food label, pay attention to the: serving sizes, % daily value, the order of the ingredients, as well as calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, fiber, and sodium. For more information on how to read a label, click here.¹ 


4. Buy foods in season (if possible) 

Have you noticed how strawberries or tomatoes picked in the summer taste better (and are less expensive) than if purchased in the winter? Buying seasonal produce is a cost-efficient way to get the best flavor out of fruits and vegetables. Seasonal produce is also more nutritious than when they’re picked out-of-season. 


5. Not in season? Go frozen or canned 

But what if you really like your strawberries and tomatoes in the winter? You can buy them frozen or canned. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen when they’re most ripe, and canned foods are also picked and canned at peak freshness. In these instances, produce retains its nutritional value. Another benefit to buying frozen or canned products is the cost-saving. Grocery stores usually offer deals on these items and unlike fresh produce, they won’t spoil in a few days. 


6. Don’t be afraid to go for the store brands 

No need to break the bank in order to buy name-brand items. Generic or store brands can be just as high-quality as name-brands while costing less.² Store brand products go through the same processing and quality requirements as their name-brand counterparts. 


7. Check for special hours during coronavirus 

If you’re worried about grocery shopping due to coronavirus, check out these tips on how to shop safely during coronavirus. As a person with diabetes, I find it helpful to go during the hours designated for high-risk populations, when I can expect the grocery store to be nearly empty, as well as opting for pick-up or delivery. 


Time to Go Shopping!


Need some ideas on what to shop for? Check out this clean eating grocery list to start developing healthy habits today.³ 


Personally, I find grocery shopping to be one of the ways to stay inspired and creative in the kitchen, which helps me manage my diabetes. It’s also an opportunity to find alternative ingredients or shortcuts to make cooking easier, such as finding minute brown rice, a healthier alternative to white rice, low-carb or whole wheat pastas, and sustainable seafood or poultry options. 


If you’re feeling anxious about your next trip, your feelings are validated. Going in with a game plan can help you feel less overwhelmed by the amount of choices provided at the store, and instead empower you to take control of your own food choices. 



All of the information in this article is based on the following sources:

1. Beyond Type 2, 2020. How to Read a Food Label. [webpage] Available at: [Accessed: 26/01/21]

 2. United States Department of Agriculture, 2015. Eat Right When Money’s Tight. [webpage] Available at: [Accessed: 26/01/21]

 3. Beyond Type 2, 2020. Clean Eating Grocery List. [webpage] Available at: [Accessed: 26/01/21]

The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.

Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

T’ara Smith

T’ara is a health and wellness blogger, diabetes advocate, and nutrition educator. T’ara was misdiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2017 and re-diagnosed with LADA diabetes in 2020. She’s passionate about cooking with fresh ingredients, body positivity, advocating for women of color within the health and wellness space. She enjoys sharing her journey on her blog, T’ara Talks Food. T’ara is also the Senior Project Manager of Beyond Type 2, platform of the global non-profit, Beyond Type 1, where people with Type 2 diabetes can find practical resources to live healthy, amazing lives with Type 2 diabetes without shame or facing stigma, as well as find a community with others with the disease.