The Diabetic’s Well-Stocked Pantry

Changing our eating habits to stay on a healthy diabetic diet requires some simple, but important, preparation.  And it’s the pantry where we find most of the foodstuffs we need to stay the course, and many of those things that so easily knock us off track.

Some time ago, I put up a post on this topic, one that’s become one of my most visited. has just put out a new version, and I’m passing it on to you.

Step one: Oils and Condiments:
To saute and fry, try grape seed oil. It’s healthy and has a high “smoke point”…it can get very hot without burning. Another would be olive oil. I keep two kinds on hand: a less-expensive extra virgin for high-temp cooking and cold pressed extra-virgin for salad dressings. If you’re into flavored oils, try sesame, walnut or avocado if you can find it. All have heart-healthy fat, and add another flavor element to your food.

Vinegars: Balsamic, red, white are all good. They help you create great salad dressings and can add a healthy splash of flavor to simple veggies without spiking your blood sugar.

Other things like various mustards, mayo (full fat), hot sauces, soy sauces all add to the flavor of foods. If you’re a fan of ketchup like me, you might try making your own healthy version.

Pickles, olives of all kinds, sub-dried tomatoes, salsas  are great options. Try a fruit-based salsa if you haven’t already, but watch your sugar content.

Step two: Herbs & Spices:
Using herbs and spices area great ways to add flavor without adding salt. Buy fresh herbs and spices whenever possible. When buying dried herbs and spices, buy the smallest amounts possible, especially ground items, as they lose their flavors quickly. Some to keep on hand would be: black pepper (whole peppercorns are best), chili powder, cinnamon (very healthy for diabetics) hot peppers flakes, oregano, thyme and basil. Don’t buy dried parsley…fresh is the way to go. If you like Asian foods, get 5 Spice Powder. Indian foods? Start with a mild curry powder. If you use salt, make it kosher salt…less additives, its size and irregular jagged shape means it stays where you put it when you cook, and you will use less of it in general.

Stock up on nuts…almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts. Trader Joe’s and similar stores carry a wide assortment of mixed nuts, roasted, raw, salted or no salt. Keep them handy (I keep mine in the freezer) for snacking…1 ounces portions are the way to go…roughly 20 nuts, a small handful.

Also hit the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for the same reason. Buy them in bulk where you can.

Step Three: Grains & Beans
Most of us are unfamiliar with grains (raise your hand if you can tell me grain has a stripe…yeah…that’s what I thought). We’re always looking for something solid to replace that “full” feeling we get from pasta, spuds and rice, and grains to that very well. Quinoa (KEEN-wa), barley, bulgur not only fill you up, but are some of the healthiest foods known to man. For breakfast, try steel-cut or old-fashioned oats (NOT instant). Oat bran and wheat germ are great ways add flavor, vitamins, minerals and fiber to your meals.

Keep a variety of canned beans on hand to pump up a salad, make a chili or casserole, curry or soup quickly. Look for chickpeas(aka garbanzos), red kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans of various sizes and black beans. Try the ones without added ingredients like garlic or jalapenos until you know what you’re doing. Make sure to put the canned beans in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the excess salt. And while dried beans cost less than canned, they’re nowhere near as easy to use and take planning.

Step Four: Canned Goods
Tomatoes: stewed, whole, diced, fire or oven roasted, all good. Ditto tomato paste. Watch for the no salt/sugar varieties.

Broths: Chicken, veg, beef – at least one can of each on hand at all times. REALLY watch the sodium content…some types can be very high.

Canned fish: inexpensive, and available at just about every supermarket, fish adds healthy omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Look for salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines.

Veggies: Keep an assortment on hand for use in a pinch but go for the fresh produce first. Canned veggies almost always have added salt which you don’t need. When you do use canned veg, rinse well under cool water to lower your salt intake. And if your pantry is cool and dry, keep on hand fresh garlic, onions and shallots, ginger root and an assortment of squashes – acorn, butternut, winter.

Fruit: Be careful here. Even the no/low sugar varieties aren’t low carb. And pass on raisins and dates: way too much sugar.

Drinks: Out with traditional soft drinks and fruit juices, in with seltzer, flavored or plain, and artificially sweetened fruit drinks, if you must.

Add tea to your diet. Tea has natural properties that lower inflammation, lower your blood sugar and help protect you against diabetes. Caffeine or no…both work.

Artificial sweeteners: many people pass on these as they can cause digestive issues. For the rest of us, there are all sorts of brands readily available just about everywhere. Here again, read your labels – if you’re still baking, your choices are more limited.

Step Five: Low Carb Mixes, Shakes and Bars

One last time…read your labels. There are more and more of these “snack” items aimed at diabetics every day, and while some are nutritionally on the mark, too many are candy in disguise.

Make yourself a supply checklist and keep it in your pantry. As you use an item, make note of it. When you’re ready to hit the market, you know exactly what you, and your well-stocked pantry, needs to maintain a healthy diet.

Data source:
Recipes, courtesy:,

Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserved, 2013.

3 thoughts on “The Diabetic’s Well-Stocked Pantry

  1. Thanks for this post. i just found out I have diabetes and am doing all I can to change up my diet and eat right. You mentioned peanuts. From the things I have read so far, that is one that I see people saying to stay away from. What are your thoughts on that?

  2. Hi, Jason:
    From what I’ve found, it’s the amount of calories in peanuts that you have to watch out for…150-200 per ounce. So, when you’re hanging out with friends by the big green egg, enjoying a beer, munch on something else other than peanuts.

    Thanks for the post,


  3. Ok, will do. I’ve been snacking on almonds and cashews when I get hungry or have a beer. I’ll be checking out the rest of your site as I have time.


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