Diet and Diabetes

It’s happened a few times. A Hannaford customer approaches me and asks why we don’t have an aisle devoted to the diabetic diet (or more like suggests that we create one). When I ask what they would like to see in a diabetic aisle they respond with a confused combination of suggestions like sugar-free foods and “foods they should choose to be healthy.” While I first must disappoint these customers with the knowledge that no such aisle could exist, I then proceed to explain why, and ultimately they do walk away on a healthier path.


So maybe you’re reading this and wondering just why I suggest a “diabetic” aisle can’t exist. While it’s true that we can move the sugar-free cookies, cakes, and candies to their own spot rather than having them distributed among their “sugarful” counterparts, this wouldn’t really benefit anyone. It comes down to one important understanding, which is that treatment for diabetes is a lifestyle not just a diet.

A diabetic lifestyle includes a combination of foods to control blood sugar, regular exercise, and other aspects of healthy living like a regular eating pattern, controlling stress, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. While it may seem like the way you sleep has little to do with the measure of sugar in your blood, it connects by being just one of the many factors your body counts on for remaining regular and balanced.


Naturally, a regular and balanced diet, which includes three key parts, is also critically important for controlling blood sugar. To begin, it’s essential that meals and snacks are never “just carbs,” but always also offer some protein and/or some fat. The reason this is so important is because protein and fat can slow down the digestion of carbohydrate (fruit, milk starches), thereby resulting in less of a blood sugar surge, a lower glycemic index, and improved satiety. In other words, a diabetic is better off with a small/medium apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter than just an apple alone.

Second, it’s very important for a diabetic (or anyone who wants to control their blood sugar throughout the day) to eat every two to three hours.

Last, when possible, it’s a better idea to choose complex, higher fiber carbohydrates (such as whole-wheat bread in place of white), as they are slower to digest and more nutrient-rich. However, it’s important to note that the diabetic serving remains the same regardless of the type of carbohydrate. If you aren’t familiar with the diabetic servings (exchanges), I recommend searching online for a list, as knowing these portions is key to following a proper diabetic diet.

Carbohydrates and ‘Added Sugar’

After considering the important aspects of a diabetic diet, it makes sense that it’s not about an “aisle of diabetic foods”, but rather about the proper approach to eating and living that an individual adopts. There is another important consideration, which is that sugar free doesn’t mean carbohydrate free. This means that just because something doesn’t contain sugar, it’s not a guarantee that it doesn’t contain a carbohydrate that will eventually breakdown in your system as sugar. Indeed, those sugar-free cookies are not “free” after all and could result in an elevated blood sugar.

A final thought on how to seek a diet that improves blood-sugar control. On some products and increasingly in the coming months, you will see the new nutrition facts panel. One of the very helpful changes to the food label is the addition of an “added sugars” line. With this additional information on sugar, you can see how much sugar is in the products you choose (like Greek yogurt, for example). It’s important to note that research has established that added sugar is particularly unsafe. Changing the food label to make it clear how much added sugar is in our foods is a positive change that is sure to help us all reduce our added sugar intake.

As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours or call (845) 855-0553 for more information.


Butternut Squash Curry (3 Guiding Stars)

To lower the saturated fat in this dish, consider using the unsweetened coconut milk drinks that are sold from the dairy-free refrigerated case. Look for the Guiding Stars on the shelf tags to help you pick the best option. Please visit online for more on the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program.


1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 small eggplant, cubed

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

2 red onions, peeled and chopped

1 cup mushrooms, quartered

¼ cup water

4 Tbsp. red curry paste

1¾ cups unsweetened cultured coconut milk

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

¾ cup quinoa, cooked

1 lime


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook all vegetables, stirring frequently, until they start to soften (10 – 15 minutes).

Add the water, curry paste, and coconut milk. Let it simmer until the vegetables are all thoroughly soft, adding water as needed to prevent the pan from going dry (20 – 25 minutes).

Stir in the parsley and cilantro. Serve hot over quinoa, topped with a squeeze of lime.