Love it or hate it, grocery shopping is an unavoidable task, especially now as restaurants are limiting service to help flatten the curve in the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC, diabetics and those with serious chronic medical conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from this new virus. Without a doubt, staying healthy is on everyone’s mind right now. 

If you have diabetes, either Type 1 or Type 2, you know your diet has a huge impact on your blood sugar levels. Now is a great time to practice healthy choices to control your blood sugar levels and strengthen your immune system. 

Here are a few ways diabetics can put extra thought into their grocery store haul. And, as always, don’t forget to keep your hand sanitizer close by when you shop. 


1. Embrace cooking from home and incorporate whole ingredients. 

We’ve all seen social media influencers demonstrate their meal prep system and thought, “Who has time for that?” Well, now you do. This is a great time to dig into your culinary creativity and craft delicious meals that incorporate the nutrients your body needs to help maintain level blood sugars, like healthy fats and fiber. Look online for recipes that use whole foods, which are those that have not been processed, like fresh fruits and veggies, raw meat, dairy and grains.

When you decide what to cook, use the Plate Method to make sure your meal is nutrient-rich. Think of your plate as a pie chart. Half of the plate should be non-starchy veggies, a fourth should consist of protein (lean cut) and the last fourth should be whole grains.

Don’t forget to prep for snacking! Working from home and moments of boredom may prompt mindless snacking, so be careful not to overeat. Low-glycemic fruits like berries, some dairy products like yogurt and lightly salted nuts are all good options for a quick snack. 


2. Don’t go to the grocery store without a shopping list. 

Before you leave the house, write down what you need to make the meals you plan to cook for at least a week. Having a game plan will prevent impulse-buying foods you love but need to limit to control your blood sugar numbers. Your shopping list should include at least one item in each of the following categories: healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, lean meat or fish and good fats. 

One tip for shopping during self-quarantine is to buy frozen foods if you can. Veggies, meat and fruit will last longer in your freezer and reduce the number of trips you need to make to the grocery store. 


3. Be cautious of what fruit you eat and how much. 

Fruit is recommended as a healthy alternative to many sweet tooth cravings. It’s definitely more nutritious, but still contains carbohydrates from natural sugars, so it will affect diabetics’ blood sugar levels. While a banana may be better than a pint of ice cream, diabetics should still be careful not to overindulge in their favorite fruits. One serving of fruit should be the equivalent of 15 grams of carbohydrates. Some good examples are half of an apple or a banana, one cup of blackberries or raspberries or one and a fourth cup of whole strawberries. 


While these tips will help you make healthy decisions in the short-term, talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the best long-term diet for you. Some nutritionists recommend that diabetics avoid complex carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta and white bread, but nutritional advice is not one-size-fits-all. All health decisions should be made with the help of a professional who is familiar with your situation. 


Dr. Lubna Maruf is the medical director at QualChoice Health Insurance in Little Rock.