Diabetes Food Intolerance

Grocery lists for type 2 diabetes: What to buy and what to avoid

Diabetes is best managed by being mindful of carbohydrate intake, eating smaller meals regularly, and choosing nutrient dense, healthful options.

Knowing what food to eat can make a huge difference to controlling, and, potentially, reversing type 2 diabetes. Making informed food choices can be helped by writing out a grocery list of foods that improve overall health, and benefit someone who has type 2 diabetes.

Lists of good foods

[young woman carrying a brown bag of groceries]
Buying healthful foods at the grocery store is easier if you bring a grocery list.

A person who has type 2 diabetes can make it easier to avoid buying unhealthful foods by going to the grocery store armed with a list.

Choosing healthful, satisfying foods that meet individual nutrition requirements can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition.

By making smart food choices and buying the right foods, a person can ensure they have enough diabetic-friendly ingredients on hand to take them from breakfast through to the last meal, or snack, of the day.


Vegetables are the base of a healthy diet. Not only do they offer excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, but they are fibrous, too, and help the body feel full and satisfied. This in turn can deter overeating, which may cause blood sugar issues.

Some vegetables to add to the shopping list include:

  • salad greens
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • squash
  • green beans
  • asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts
  • red, green, orange, or yellow peppers
  • onions

Beans and legumes

Beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein. They can often be used in place of a portion of the protein that is needed in a diet. Here are some examples of what beans to pick up in either their canned or dried forms:

  • black beans
  • lentils
  • white beans
  • chickpeas
  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans


Despite their high sugar content, fresh or frozen fruits pack a powerful nutritional punch with their high content of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

[strawberries blueberries blackberries raspberries]
Berries are full of vitamins and fiber.

The following fruits make a solid addition to the diet of anyone who has type 2 diabetes.

  • nectarines
  • all berries
  • oranges
  • grapes
  • kiwis
  • tomatoes
  • bananas
  • apples
  • apricots
  • cherries

Whole grains

Unlike simple carbohydrates, whole grains break down slowly, which means that blood sugar levels can be more easily controlled. This is because whole grains do not cause the blood sugar spikes the same way refined carbohydrates do.

Swap popular bleached and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, for some of the following:

  • whole-wheat pasta
  • whole-grain bread
  • quinoa
  • brown or wild rice
  • 100 percent whole-grain, or whole-wheat flour
  • cornmeal
  • oatmeal and other whole-grain cereals
  • millet
  • amaranth


Dairy products contain important nutrients, including calcium and protein. Some research even suggests that dairy has a positive effect on insulin secretions in some people with type 2 diabetes. Some of the best options to add to the list are:

  • Parmesan, ricotta, or cottage cheese
  • low-fat or skimmed milk
  • low-fat or fat-free Greek or plain yogurt

Meats, poultry, and fish

[salmon on a wooden board]
Fish such as salmon and tuna are good sources of protein for people with diabetes.

Proteins are important for people with diabetes. Similarly to whole grain foods, proteins are slow to be digested and do not cause spikes in blood sugar. Here are some of the best sources of protein to choose from:

  • skinless, boneless chicken breasts or strips
  • salmon
  • white fish fillets
  • skinless turkey breast
  • tofu
  • tuna
  • eggs

Dressings, dips, spices, and condiments

There are plenty of flavorings and dressings that can be great for those trying to manage blood sugar.

It is recommended to limit high-sugar and high-fat condiments, and be sure to account for carbohydrate intake when using most condiments, particularly barbeque sauces, ketchup and certain salad dressings. The following are some safer options that people with diabetes can choose from:

  • vinegar
  • olive oil
  • mustard
  • any spice or herb
  • any variety of extracts

Dessert foods

People with type 2 diabetes can have desserts when they eat them sparingly, and portion sizes are carefully chosen. Here are some of the safer dessert options:

  • no sugar-added popsicles
  • 100 percent fruit popsicles
  • dessert made with sugar-free gelatin
  • sugar-free pudding
  • sugar-free ice cream


For between-meal cravings, a person can try:

  • popcorn (avoid premade or sweetened varieties)
  • nuts (avoid sweetened varieties)
  • carrot or celery sticks
  • hummus


There are many options besides water that are suitable for people with diabetes. Just be sure to account for the carbohydrates found in certain drinks, such as milk and juice, as they will impact your blood sugar. Here are a few options:

  • sugar-free mix packets
  • reduced sugar fruit juices or 100 percent fruit juice
  • iced or hot tea, unsweetened
  • coffee, unsweetened
  • low-fat or skimmed milk
  • sparkling water

Diet sodas and other diet drinks are not generally recommended for other health reasons

Foods to limit or avoid

People with type 2 diabetes should limit or avoid foods that are not only bad for overall health, but which cause extreme blood sugar fluctuations. Foods to avoid include the following:

  • foods high in simple carbohydrates
  • foods high in saturated and trans fats
  • sugary food, such as candy, ice cream, and cakes

Foods for other conditions

Diabetes often coexists with other diseases, such as kidney and cardiovascular disease. In some cases, the dietary needs between all these conditions change very little. In other cases, diets may need to be much more carefully followed, which may help to address some of their symptoms.

Here are examples of foods to eat or avoid with some coexisting diseases.

Diabetes and hypertension

People who have hypertension may follow a similar dietary plan to those who have diabetes. However, people with hypertension should also reduce sodium and caffeine intake. Individuals with both diabetes and hypertension should look for foods with low sodium counts, avoid coffee or caffeinated beverages, and avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats.

Diabetes and celiac disease

[person saying no to bread celiac disease]
While there is a wide range of gluten free foods available, people with celiac disease should always check the label to ensure the product is suitable for them.

People with celiac disease need to avoid products made with wheat, barley, and rye, as their bodies are unable to process the gluten found in these products.

A person with both celiac disease and type 2 diabetes should check food labels to ensure the food they buy is gluten-free.

Eating gluten-free foods is now a popular dietary choice, and this has meant that there is a wide range of traditional foods that are now available in gluten-free varieties.

Diabetes and obesity

People who are obese should follow the same food rules as people with diabetes. For example, they should avoid foods high in carbohydrates and saturated and trans fat. It is important that people with diabetes who are also obese, should reduce the size of the portions they eat.

They should also limit their salt intake to help avoid complications from high blood pressure. People with these two conditions should eat a healthful diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and high-fiber carbohydrates.

Things to look out for on food packaging

Food packaging can be confusing. Though nearly all food items are required to have a nutrition facts label, it does not necessarily mean a person knows how to read it or what to look for. Here are some helpful tips to better understand the packaging:

  • Claims on the box can be deceptive: Just because a food claims to be lower in fat or reduced sugar, does not mean it actually is. It is important to look for and read through the nutrition fact section of the packaging to understand what the food contains.
  • Nutrition facts: These offer a confusing range of information for people to digest when buying food. The most important fact for people with diabetes to look for is the total carbohydrate amount per serving, and to understand exactly how big a serving is.
  • Counting carbohydrates: Dietary fiber may be listed underneath the listing for total carbohydrates. Dietary fiber is not digested by the body and can be subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrates present in food. This gives the net carbohydrates and will give a more accurate count of how much of the carbohydrates that affect blood sugar are present.
  • Look at the ingredients list: The ingredients are listed in order from the highest total content to the lowest.
  • Look for hidden sources of sugar: Sugar can hide in foods under many different names including corn syrup, fructose, and dextrose. Being aware of sugar’s multiple identities makes for an informed shopper.
  • Limit or avoid artificial sweeteners: Studies have shown that these can have a negative impact on health, and can encourage sweet cravings. Some popular artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, neotame, saccharin and acesulfame potassium.

Sample grocery list

A grocery list will usually vary from week to week, based on needs and wants, but here is a sample list to get started with:

  • golden raisins – one box or package
  • nectarines – four to seven
  • tomatoes – two small ones
  • whole strawberries – 1-2 pints
  • fresh or frozen vegetables
  • corn – 4-6 ears
  • cucumber – one or two small ones
  • fresh basil – 1 bunch
  • one salad bag
  • onion – a small one
  • red bell pepper – one or two small ones
  • Romaine lettuce – 1 head
  • yellow or green squash or zucchini
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • wild-caught salmon fillet – 1 filet
  • 1-2 percent milk – ½-1 gallon
  • fresh mozzarella cheese – 1 ball
  • Parmesan cheese – about ¼ pound
  • 100 percent whole-wheat crackers – 1 box
  • brown or wild rice mix – 1 package
  • honey or agave nectar
  • light dressing – 1 bottle
  • low-sugar, low-sodium barbecue sauce – 1 bottle
  • olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • black pepper
  • reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • salt
  • coffee
  • walnuts, almonds, or other raw nut

Impact of diet on diabetes

There are several factors that directly affect how well diabetes is controlled. Many of these factors can be controlled by the person with diabetes, including:

  • what is eaten, how much of it, and how often
  • carbohydrate intake
  • how frequently the blood sugar is monitored
  • amount of physical activity
  • accuracy and consistency of medication dosing

Even small changes in one of these areas can affect blood sugar control.

When a person eats mindfully, measures portions every day, incorporates daily activity, and takes medication as directed, they can greatly improve blood sugar levels.

With greater control comes a decreased risk of diabetes-related complications, such as coronary artery disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

It is important for people with diabetes to keep an eye on their weight. They can control this by managing what they eat and ensuring they take their medication regularly.

A dietitian or a doctor can help to create a food plan that is suited to each individual’s needs and lifestyle.

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