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Type 2 Diabetes Grocery List: Shopping Secrets

colorful spread of fruits and vegetables

Eating well with diabetes means knowing what to choose at the grocery store. You can learn how to go grocery shopping, and train your taste buds so that you can eat balanced, low-sugar meals.

In this article, we’re discussing:

  • What type 2 diabetes is.
  • The benefits of a low glycemic diet.
  • What to eat to improve your health.
  • What foods to put on your grocery list.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

This funny word “diabetes” comes from the Greek word that means to “siphon” or “pass through.” One of the symptoms of diabetes is to “pass” excessive amounts of urine.

This happens when too much sugar builds up in your blood. Your kidneys will work harder to filter the extra sugar. If there is too much sugar than you will urinate more.

Diabetes is when your blood glucose levels are too high. Glucose is a form of sugar.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not use the insulin it has. Your cells have become insulin resistant. Your pancreas will try to make extra insulin. But after a while, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin. Blood glucose levels then stay high, which is dangerous for your health.

How Does a Low Glycemic Diet Help Type 2 Diabetes?

The glycemic index (GI) is a number given to carbohydrates. A high GI food will raise your blood glucose more than a low GI food.

A general rule is that high GI foods are:

  • Sweet
  • White
  • Processed

Foods that contain carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels. Choosing foods that are low on the glycemic index keeps your blood glucose levels in a healthy range.

1. Reduce the Need for Medication

Eating foods lower on the glycemic index helps keep your blood sugars in a normal range. This will reduce your need for medication. Most medications for type 2 diabetes force your pancreas to produce more insulin. By eating less sugar, you reduce the amount of insulin your body needs.

2. Change Your Taste Buds

Changing your diet can help you crave fewer sweets. Research has shown that when you eat sweets, you crave more sweets. Eating more whole foods has been shown to change your taste buds.

At first, when you cut added sugar out of your diet you really miss the sweet taste. Foods can taste bland and boring. But as you continue eating whole foods a change happens. Food starts to taste good again. You will be surprised to taste sweetness in foods that never seemed sweet before.

3. Reduce Inflammation

Sugar has been shown to cause inflammation in the brain. Cutting out sugar improves your brain health. You can also reduce your risk of dementia by limiting sugar and heart disease.

What are Good Food Choices for Type 2 Diabetes?

If you look at cutting out processed foods you might be wondering, “what is there left to eat?” Your body needs good sources of energy. Energy is produced from the foods that you eat. Eating well with diabetes means knowing what to choose at the grocery store. You can learn how to go grocery shopping so that you can make balanced meals.

Here are the BIG tips to keep in mind when choosing foods for type 2 diabetes:

  1. Load up on non-starchy vegetables.
  2. Enjoy all fruits and vegetables.
  3. Add in a good source of protein.
  4. Focus on eating healthy fat.
  5. Limit (or cut out if you can) all added sugar.

Focus on what you CAN eat. It is better to make a list of the foods that are good for you than to make a list of what you can’t eat.

We’ve put together a grocery shopping list for type 2 diabetes that includes over 180 foods you CAN eat. You don’t have to deprive yourself to eat healthy!

colorful chopped vegetables

How to Eat More Vegetables

Vegetables will give you plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. But you get all that goodness with few calories and carbohydrates. Load your cart and your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

Here are some quick ways to add more vegetables to your meal.

Replace some or all of a carbohydrate with a vegetable. For example, look at a typical pasta meal. Instead of starting with a plate of spaghetti, try half a plate of spaghetti and half zucchini noodles. Serve with a flavorful tomato sauce and meatballs. Try vegetables like:

  • Zucchini
  • Peppers
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Carrots
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower

If you like rice, try decreasing the amount of rice on your plate and replace the rice with more veggies in a stir-fry. Or try making cauliflower rice.

Instead of a sandwich or burger on a bun, try a lettuce wrapped hamburger patty.

Or just start your meal with a green salad.

Get creative! Always look for ways to add more vegetables to your meal.

woman picking strawberries

How to Eat More Fruits

Fruits and fresh veggies make excellent snacks throughout the day. Whole fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can be a yummy part of your day. Fruit is naturally sweet. A fresh juicy peach will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Fruits and some vegetables are higher in carbohydrates and need to be balanced with low carb foods. But they can be enjoyed instead of a processed form of carbohydrates. Have an apple and peanut butter instead of a granola bar. Try cucumbers and hummus instead of chips and dip.

Always try to eat whole fruit instead of fruit juice. The fiber in the fruit slows the effect the carbohydrates have on your blood sugar levels.

How to Eat Lean Protein

Protein and fats are important to add to your grocery list. Protein comes in 2 forms. There are plant-based proteins which include:

  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Soy

Plant-based proteins can provide fat and fiber. Beans will have carbohydrates so they will need to be balanced with low glycemic foods.

Vegetables can also be high in protein. Try:

  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel Sprouts

Meat, eggs and cheese are also good sources of protein. In the grocery store, look for meat that is unbreaded and not in a sauce or processed.

Whole meat that is fresh or frozen is a good choice. Beef roasts, pork chops, chicken pieces, fish and turkey are all great proteins with no sugar or carbohydrates.

How to Eat Healthy Fats

The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing monounsaturated fats. These include:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil and olives
  • Peanut butter
  • Sesame oils

Also, choose foods that contain Omega 3 fatty acids. These types of fat are also recommended:

  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Tofu
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

How to Limit or Cut Out Added Sugar in Your Diet

A grocery list for a type 2 diabetes should include few products with added sugar. Most foods in a can, box or jar will have added sugar.

Shop the outer ring of the supermarket and avoid the processed food aisles. Around the edges of the store, you’ll find the produce, seafood, meats and dairy sections.

The easiest way to avoid extra sugar at the grocery store is to focus on buying:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Dairy

Then stock up on condiments like:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Vinegar
  • Fresh herbs

Buy mostly unprocessed food and your diet will have less sugar. Not only will this help with type 2 diabetes, but you’ll protect your brain from cognitive decline as well. Try to learn how to make your own easy salad dressings, sauces, soups and drinks at home.

You can use the grocery list to fill your fridge and cupboard with great healthy choices. Grocery shopping for type 2 diabetes might be easier than you thought!

Read: Stop Eating “Lazy” Foods and Get More Energy


American Diabetes Association: Type 2

Diabetes symptoms: When diabetes symptoms are a concern

Sugars, Sweet Taste Receptors, and Brain Responses


About The Author

Crystal Jo is a Registered Nurse who is passionate about helping older adults live happy, healthy lives at home. As a freelance writer, she enjoys educating and inspiring seniors, and those who love them, to choose a healthy life.