Shopping Smart with Diabetes June 11, 2012

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Have you ever gone to the grocery store and forgot what you were buying? Or maybe you bought a pound of tomatoes when you already had some at home? Grocery store decisions can result in waste, and extra expense, not to mention the risk of eating the same thing for three nights in a row.

Eating right is so important for persons with diabetes and this can make the trip to the grocery store difficult because of the decisions you have to make. Here are six proven strategies to make shopping easier and help you to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your food dollar too.

1. Plan your meals for the week- just like you have a weekly calendar of upcoming events, make a weekly calendar of the meals you will serve. A plan let's you manage your grocery purchases and this will lower your food cost.

2. Make a list of the foods you need to create the menu- after you have planned what your meals will be the week. Look through your pantry and refrigerator to see what ingredients you have and do not have. The list will also keep you from buying foods you do not need. Use a dry-erase board on the refrigerator to note staples that are in limited supply. These items are added to your grocery list just before you go shopping, but anyone can check the list when they are making a trip to the store.

3. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. When fruits and vegetables are in season, they cost less. The table below lists seasonal fruits and vegetables for Texas.

Season Fruits Vegetables
Winter
(January-March)
apples, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, and lettuce
Spring
(April-June)
strawberries, oranges, cantaloupes, watermelons, peaches, honeydew melons, and tomatoes carrots, onions, corn, cucumbers, and green peppers
Summer
(July-September)
cantaloupes, watermelons, and peaches cucumbers, onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots
Fall
(October-December)
tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, apples, and tangerines carrots, avocados, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and green peppers

4. Read the Nutrition Fact Label. If you have diabetes, you will want to note total carbohydrate, fiber and sugar content. Remember the higher the fiber and the lower the sugar, the better the carb choice is for you. Ingredients can give you a hint about how processed a food is. Keep total fat low (goal is less than 40 grams per day) and choose lower sodium food options (goal for sodium is 1500 mg/day or less)

5. Compare unit pricing. The unit price is the cost per unit of an item-it might be shown as price per pound, quart, or other unit of weight and volume. The unit price allows you to compare the price between brands and see which item costs less based on the cost per unit. If you look at the total price per package you can be fooled into buying a more expensive item, because the size of the package varies. The example below shows you the difference between two cereal brands. Brand A has a total price of $1.45 and Brand B has a total price of $1.69. Based on the total price, the cheaper option would be Brand A because $1.45 is less than $1.69. Now let's compare unit price. Brand A costs 8 cents per ounce and Brand B costs 7 cents per ounce. If you were to buy a 24 oz box of cereal at 8 cents per ounce, Brand A would actually cost you $1.92. You actually would spend 23 cents more for the same amount as Brand B. Imagine if you compared unit price for one whole year? You could be saving hundreds of dollars.

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6. Stay away from the center aisles of the store. Processed foods are higher in sugar, fat, and salt and they tend to cost more. Limit convenience or packaged foods and look for easy recipes to fix at home instead. The healthiest foods in the middle aisles include baking ingredients, spices, and herbs.

7. Always eat before you go to the grocery store. Research shows that you spend more money if you shop on an empty stomach. If you see a bag of chips or ready-made foods, you are more likely to put them in your cart because of the hunger-these foods are much more expensive. By eating a small snack before you go to the store, you are able to focus on the foods that you need to buy and make better decisions.

An important benefit of smart shopping is that you save more money. By following these easy steps you are more likely to not only shop smarter, but also healthier.

About the Author

Danilea Fuentes is a volunteer at Seton Diabetes Education Center and a nutritionist with the Women, Infants, and Children Program. She has her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Seton Diabetes Education Center offers a comprehensive diabetes education and medical nutrition therapy services for persons with diabetes and pre-diabetes. If you feel individual or group education would benefit you, call 512/324-1891 to learn more about upcoming program offerings.

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