Your essential diabetes food shopping list

Eating the right foods is key to controlling diabetes. Here’s what to buy when you shop.

24 January 2017
by Glynis Horning

Keeping healthy, nutritious foods in your fridge and on your kitchen shelves makes it much simpler to eat well – and when you have diabetes, that’s crucial as your body is unable to process food as it should. Sticking to the right foods can help you manage diabetes by keeping your blood sugar stable and your weight down.

If you don’t control your diet it can lead to uncontrolled diabetes, which can cause serious damage to your body, including kidney failure, cardiovascular (heart) disease, nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) and blindness.

Here’s what to put on your shopping list.

1. Vegetables

These are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, low in kilojoules and carbohydrates, and have little effect on your blood sugar levels. “Make them the bulk of every meal,” advises Ria Catsicas, a Gauteng dietitian with a special interest in diabetes.

Get a variety of colours for a range of phytonutrients (natural chemicals that keep you healthy and help prevent disease). Fresh is best, or frozen (more convenience, less waste). “The only vegetables with a starch content close to grains are potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn – eat them in place of refined starches,” she says.

2. Fruits

Fresh fruits too are healthy as they contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, says Catsicas. “But consuming too much fruit at a time can affect your blood glucose levels, so check with a dietician as to how much you can enjoy. Quantities of food consumed depend on your age, gender, activity levels and weight. A dietician can formulate a plan taking these into consideration.” (Visit the Association for Dietetics in South Africa to find a dietitian in your area.)

If buying canned fruit, go sugar-free with natural juice.

3. Grains

Stick to whole grains to keep your blood sugar steady – stock up on rolled oats, oats, brown basmati rice, wild brown rice, pearl wheat (stampkoring), barley, buckwheat and quinoa. “Get heavy wholegrain or pure rye breads – watch their salt content though, or bake your own with crushed wheat and digestive bran,” suggests Catsicas.

4. Proteins

Get lean cuts of red meat, skinless chicken and especially fatty fish, of all kinds – mackerel, trout, tuna, salmon, sardines, pilchards, either fresh or canned. “White fish is economical and contains half the calories of red meat,” Catsicas says.

Eggs are another good source of protein and iron and help keep you feeling full. Although legumes (soya and other beans, chickpeas and lentils) are starches, they can be used as protein, she says. "They’re low in fat, high in fibre and good for glucose control," she says. Drain and rinse the canned variety to avoid excess salt, and add to soups and stews.

5. Herbs and spices

You only need a quarter of a teaspoon of salt a day. As you know, excess salt can lead to the so-called ‘lifestyle’ diseases, including high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, heart disease, obesity and stroke.

Instead of using salt, lay on your favourites for flavour – think fresh or dry basil and coriander, and powdered oregano, rosemary, turmeric, cinnamon, curry and garlic.

6. Dairy

Buy plain milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese for calcium and protein, preferably low fat (flavoured varieties mostly include sugar).

7. Healthy fats

“All margarines on the market are now free of unhealthy transfats,” says Catsicas. Also, stock up on olive and canola oil and nut butters, avocado pear and raw unsalted nuts. Again, check on quantities with your dietician, as they are high in kilojoules.

8. Don’t buy these!

  • Sugary or processed foods (pastries and other bakery items, most breakfast cereals)
  • Refined starches (white bread, white rice, pasta)
  • Saturated fats (butter, coconut oil)
  • Processed fatty meats (bacon, sausages, polony, viennas)
  • Fizzy cooldrinks and flavoured milks, yoghurts or waters (high in sugar)

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Clicks Clinics will help you prevent, identify and manage diabetes with their wide range of screening tests and health assessments.

These include:

  • Glucose Screening with Consultation
  • Urine Test (tests for blood, protein and glucose)
  • Blood Pressure Test
  • Cholesterol Testing and Consultation
  • Lipogram Blood Test (to determine different types of cholesterol)
  • Foot Screening Consultation (to check for diabetes-related foot problems)
  • Clicks Full Basic Screening (BP, Body Mass Index or BMI, meal guide and exercise plan)
  • Clicks Screening Measurements only (BP and BMI)
  • Clicks Comprehensive Screening (BP, BMI, Glucose and Cholesterol screening, plus meal and exercise plan).

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics.

Shop now at Clicks.co.za for healthy snacks

Make use of the convenience of online shopping and try the Clicks Smartbite range for healthy snacks and raw foods that are suitable for the whole family.

IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Read More: Diabetes Super Section