Shopping tips for diabetics..
by Deborah Condon
Whether you have type 1 or type 2
diabetes, a healthy and balanced diet can help you to control the condition
more effectively. Diabetics need to make the right choices when shopping for
food. However, this does not need to be a complicated ordeal of label analysis
and sugar content measurements - in fact, the ideal shopping list for people
with diabetes is very much the same as for anyone trying to eat a healthy,
According to Paula Mee, food and nutrition
manager with Superquinn, anyone, whether they have diabetes or not, can benefit
from the 'diabetes shopping list'.
"Like most diseases, diabetes is
multi-factorial. Because diet is only one factor, we cannot say for definite
that those who have good diets will never develop it. But it is true to say
that if people eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay within the healthy weight
range for their height, they are probably less likely to develop
diabetes", explained Ms Mee.
Practically speaking, the ideal shopping
list for a person with any type of diabetes contains more fresh foods, that are
low in fat and sugar - a completely sugar-free diet is not necessary, however
you do need to cut down. Food should also be high in the right type of carbohydrate,
fibre, vitamins and minerals.
So what kind of foods should you be
looking out for in the supermarket? As with any healthy diet, fruit and
vegetables are a must and all types are suitable for your diet. But as fruit is
a natural source of sugar, spread your portions out during the day, i.e. do not
eat three pieces of fruit at the same time.
At the salad bar or deli, watch out for
foods containing mayonnaise, Ms Mee advises. Full-fat mayonnaise has up to 80%
fat and is therefore high in calories, so if you are watching your weight,
avoid foods such as coleslaw and potato salad. Even low-fat mayonnaise should
be used sparingly. If possible, opt for salads in vinaigrette dressing instead.
At the bakery, chose wholemeal and
wholegrain bread whenever possible - the best choices are heavy grain breads
such as granary. Pitta bread and chapattis are also good choices. Rather than
sugar or honey-coated buns or biscuits, choose English muffins, plain pancakes,
fruit loaf or banana cake.
At the butcher, always choose lean meats.
Opt for lower fat pork sausages or try chicken sausages, which are also lower
in fat. Pates are quite high in fat, so choose a reduced fat pate.
General tips for shopping
Some other tips to remember when shopping
-Use low or reduced sugar jelly
-Ordinary whole fruit, no added sugar jams
and marmalades can be consumed, but in very small amounts
-Peanuts and most other types of nuts are
a good source of monounsaturated fats and therefore should be included in your
diet. However this should only be occasionally if you are watching your weight,
as they are high in calories. Consider popcorn as an alternative - it contains
less fat and calories.
-Avoid drinking high sugar drinks and do
not add sugar to tea/coffee. Use sugar-free/low sugar or diet minerals where
-Artificial sweeteners, such as Canderal
and Spenda, can be used in food and drink. Spenda can also be used when
-Limit salt intake, as too much salt may
increase your blood pressure. Salt is used as a preservative in processed
foods, so check labels for low-salt varieties. Use garlic, herbs and spices
instead of salt whenever you can.
According to Ms Mee, people should not
spend their money on 'special diabetic products', such as 'diabetic chocolate'.
"A person with diabetes can eat the
same type of chocolate as the rest of us - they simply need to watch the
amount. A diabetic should only eat a small amount of chocolate at a time. They
do not need to be spending money on these types of products, which are
inevitably more expensive", she said.
Ms Mee points out that 'special diabetic
foods' usually contain too much fat and unhelpful ingredients such as sorbitol,
a sugar substitute.
"Sorbitol can raise your blood sugar
and when it eaten in large amounts, one of the side effects of it is that it
acts as a laxative. So you may have a person who believes that because this is
a 'special diabetic' product, they can eat more of it, which can result in this
side-effect", she explained.
As weight control is so important in both
the prevention and management of diabetes, cutting down on fat is key, however
not all fats are the same.
So-called 'good' fats are monounsaturated
fatty acids, which are mainly found in vegetable oils, such as olive and peanut
oils. Polyunsaturated fats are also good and are found mainly in vegetable oils
such as sunflower and flaxseed oils. These are also the same oils found in oily
fish (known as the omega 3 fats) and they help prevent blood clotting.
Fats which should be limited are saturated
fatty acids. These are found primarily in animal sources such as meat, poultry
and dairy products, like milk, cream and some cheeses and butter. Some
vegetable oils are also saturated, such as coconut oil. These fats encourage
cholesterol to deposit on the artery walls.
But what about carbohydrates? When you are
trying to lose weight or control diabetes, carbohydrates with a low glycaemic
index (GI) are better for you. GI ranks carbohydrate foods on how they affect
the blood sugar levels, measuring how much your blood sugar will increase two
to three hours after eating. The GI scale ranks foods on a scale of one to 100.
Low GI foods give a smaller rise in blood
sugar, helping to control established diabetes. A low GI diet can also help a
person to lose weight and can improve the body's sensitivity to insulin. Low GI
foods include apples, oranges, beans, spaghetti, porridge, All Bran, skimmed
milk and diet yoghurts.
Medium GI foods, which should be bought in
moderate amounts, include bananas, honey, jam, Shredded Wheat, Weetabix and
ice-cream. While high GI foods, which should only be used sparingly, include
watermelon, white bread, rice cakes, cornflakes, Rice Krispies, potatoes and
So, finally to alcohol. Research shows
that if your diabetes is under control, a moderate amount of alcohol has only a
minimal effect on blood sugar. However alcohol has a lot of calories and very
few nutrients. You should consult your doctor about how much alcohol you can
have with meals, as this may depend on the type of medication you are on. Never
drink on an empty stomach and drink slowly.
A moderate amount is defined as no more
than two alcoholic drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women. One
drink equals a half a pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a 25ml shot of
whiskey. If your blood sugar is not under control or you have diabetes-related
complications, alcohol should be avoided.
The key, according to Ms Mee, is quantity,
both when purchasing and eating food. Buy large amounts of fresh, non
processed, low GI foods and avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, but
little else. When eating, keep an eye on your blood sugar and try to balance
your meals with some exercise.