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Shopping Smarter

Shopping Smarter With Type 2 Diabetes
Shopping Smarter With Type 2 Diabetes

Shopping smarter with type 2 diabetes

Learn how to recognize healthy foods, so when you go grocery shopping you can explore the wide range of diabetes-friendly foods available!

It takes a little know-how to shop smarter. Here, we’ll review the basics of shopping smarter and learn the meaning behind packaging claims and terms. We’ll also get to the bottom of all those facts and figures listed on food labels.

Shopping smarter can take a little up-front planning. So give some thought to the diabetes-friendly meals you want to prepare. Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you will need. Then, stick to the list.

And don’t shop hungry—we all know how that can turn out!

Get the scoop

What does it really mean when you see the words “fat free” or “low calorie” on a product’s packaging? Not always what you think. Choose a category below to see the facts behind common product claims.


Calorie claims

  • Calorie Free: Less than 5 calories per serving
  • Low Calorie: 40 calories or less per serving
  • Less Calories: At least 25% fewer calories per serving compared to a similar food

Total fat claims

  • Fat Free: Less than 0.5 g of total fat per serving
  • Low Fat: 3 g or less of total fat per serving and 30% or less of calories from total fat
  • Less Fat: At least 25% less total fat per serving compared to a similar food

Saturated fat claims

  • Saturated Fat Free: Less than 0.5 g of saturated fat and 0.5 g trans fat per serving
  • Low Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per serving and 15% or less of calories from saturated fat
  • Less Saturated Fat: At least 25% less saturated fat per serving compared to a similar food

Cholesterol claims

  • Cholesterol Free: Less than 2 mg of cholesterol per serving
  • Low Cholesterol: 20 mg or less of cholesterol per serving
  • Less Cholesterol: At least 25% less cholesterol per serving compared to a similar food

Sodium claims

  • Sodium Free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
  • Low Sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
  • Less Sodium: At least 25% less sodium per serving compared to a similar food

Sugar claims

  • Sugar Free: Less than 0.5 mg of sugar per serving
  • Less Sugar: At least 25% less sugar per serving compared to a similar food

How to read a nutrition label

Nutrition labels are a great place to find the details you need to make healthier food choices. Once you know how to read them, you’ll be on your way to eating better.


Trying to lose weight? You need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. Calorie content can help you choose foods with fewer calories. Ask your dietitian or certified diabetes educator to tell you how many calories you need each day.

Total fat

Total fat tells you how much fat is in a food per serving. It includes fats that are healthier for you, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and fats that should be avoided, such as saturated and trans fats. Fat is calorie dense. Per gram, it has more than twice the calories of carbohydrates or protein.


Your body needs cholesterol, but too much can lead to serious health problems, such as heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol from the foods you eat may increase your blood cholesterol, so it’s a good idea to limit cholesterol from your diet to less than 300 mg per day.


Sodium does not affect blood sugar levels. However, a healthy meal plan with less salt can help you manage your blood pressure. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends reducing sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg/day for people with type 2 diabetes.

Total carbohydrate

Total carbohydrate on the label includes sugar, starches, and fiber. Foods that contain carbohydrates raise blood glucose. By keeping track of how many grams of carbohydrates you eat and setting a limit for your maximum amount to eat, you can help to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range.


If you have type 2 diabetes, you need the same amount of fiber as other people for good health. Dried kidney and pinto beans, fruits, vegetables, and grains are all good ways to add more fiber to your diet.

Added sugars

Added sugars on the label includes sugars added during the processing or packaging of foods, and also includes sugars from syrups, honey, and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. The added sugars are listed in grams and as a Percent Daily Value (%DV) on the nutrition label.