Shop with care | Diabetes Hub

Learn what to watch out for when you go grocery shopping for diabetics.

Healthy Eating

Shop with care

Shopping tips

  • Make a shopping list – plan in advance what you intend to prepare for every meal
  • Avoid food shopping when you are hungry as you will be likely to buy more food than required
  • Choose fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables
Healthier Choice Symbol
Nutri Grade Label
  • Choose food items with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) – these are healthier options compared to others in its category. Even if it's a healthier option, do eat it in moderation
  • Reduce intake of pre-packaged beverages with Nutri-Grade mark C and D. All pre-packaged beverages are graded from A to D (from healthiest to least healthy), based on their sugar and saturated fat contents

Look out instead for pre-packaged beverages with Nutri-Grade mark A and B or with the HCS logo. (Learn more about Nutri-Grade)


Understanding food labels

Food labels provide nutritional information which can help you make informed decisions to choose healthier food products.
What’s on a food label?
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Note: The ingredient list and nutrition information are particularly useful in making healthier food choices.

Beware of hidden ingredients

Ingredient lists are listed in descending order according to their weight or amount.

Be aware that some ingredients, such as sugar and salt/sodium, can be listed as other names in different lists.

Sugar is also called:
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose
  • Fructose
  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Brown sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Molasses
Sodium is also called:
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Sea salt
  • Rock salt
  • Celery salt
  • Table salt
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Meat extract
  • Stock cubes
  • Baking soda
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Soy sauce
  • Vegetable extract
  • Yeast extract

Nutrition information panel

The Nutrition information panel (NIP) provides information on the nutritional value of the food product. This includes:
  • Serving size and servings per package
  • Energy or caloric content
  • Nutritional components, including carbohydrate, sugars, dietary fibre, protein, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium
The amount of each nutrient is listed in two formats:
  • Per 100g or per 100ml
  • Per serving

How to read food labels

Things to pay attention to:
  • Ingredients list – for example, sugar might be referred by another name such as sucrose
  • Serving size – the food item may contain more than one serving size
  • Calorie (or energy) content
  • Carbohydrate content
    • "Sugar-free" does not mean carbohydrate-free – starch also contributes to carbohydrate content
    • "No sugar added" does not mean no carbohydrates. The food item may contain naturally occurring sugars (e.g., fruit juices) or other carbohydrates such as starches
    • Fat-free products can still have carbohydrates which contribute to caloric intake

How to use nutritional information to compare foods

Wholemeal Bread
White Bread
*1 kcal = 4.2kJ

As the serving size of these two products differ, comparing them using the “per serving” values would be inaccurate.

We can make a fair comparison only by using values in the “per 100g” column.

Bread A contains lower fat, lower saturated fat and higher dietary fibre than Bread B. Thus, it is a healthier choice as compared to Bread B.

Dietary fibre content
High-fibre foods (≥ 4g per serving) can slow the rise of blood sugar.

Fat content
Foods low in total fat (≤ 3g per 100g or ≤ 1.5g per 100ml) and saturated fat (≤1.5g per 100g or ≤ 0.75g per 100ml) reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sodium content
Choose low sodium foods (≤ 120mg per 100g). Eating too much sodium can increase blood pressure.


Sugar substitutes

These are sweeteners or substitutes that you can use instead of sugar (e.g., table sugar, honey), and come in 2 categories:

Nutritive Sweeteners (also known as caloric sweeteners)

  • They are digestible and contribute to calories
  • Sugar alcohol is a commonly used nutritive sweetener
    • They are neither sugars nor alcohol like wine. Although they have fewer calories and are digested more slowly than sugar, they do contain calories and should not be consumed excessively
    • Examples include:
      • Xylitol (a natural sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables)
      • Sorbitol (commercially produced from glucose)
      • Palatinose (derived from sugar beet)
  • Allulose is an uncommon sugar naturally found in figs and raisins, and much lower in calories compared to sucrose

Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

  • These do not contribute to calories
  • Artificial Intense - produced in the laboratory, and includes aspartame and sucralose
  • Natural Intense - found in nature, and includes stevia and monk fruit

While sugar substitutes are not actually needed to help manage diabetes, they can be used to sweeten foods, as long as they are used in small amounts and generally eaten as part of a meal.


De-junk your kitchen

  1. Avoid placing unhealthy snacks on your kitchen counter. Replace with healthier alternatives - fruits, wholegrain bread, etc.
  2. Ensure fresh produce is at eye level for easier access
  3. Create a shopping list - keeps you in check to avoid any temptations
  4. Use smaller plates and bowls - helps control portion to reduce calorie intake
  5. Shop around supermarket perimeters to avoid shopping in the snack aisles (these tend to be located in the middle aisles)
  6. Avoid shopping when hungry – your cravings could lead to unhealthy decisions or bingeing
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