How to Maintain a Diabetic Diet While on SNAP Benefits
Updated on 08/14/2022
SNAP benefits are very helpful for low-income households. However, some beneficiaries continue to struggle with their grocery shopping because they have to worry about their dietary needs. One group that often has a difficult time, even with SNAP benefits, is diabetic beneficiaries.
Diabetic beneficiaries need to stay away from a lot of different foods, otherwise they are putting their health at risk. Diabetics on SNAP need to maintain a healthy diet, but that is not always easy to do on a budget. Unfortunately, a lot of the healthier food options are also some of the pricier ones. While SNAP benefits help to eliminate out-of-pocket costs, beneficiaries still have to carefully budget their resources. SNAP benefits are not unlimited after all, and beneficiaries need to prepare for the whole entire month. While it can take a little more effort and research, it is still possible to maintain a well-balanced diet while receiving SNAP benefits.
Understanding a Diabetic Diet
Before planning a healthy diabetic diet using SNAP benefits, it is important to understand the impact that different food groups have on blood sugar. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body and turned into glucose faster than other types of food, which means they will raise blood sugar levels very quickly. Carbohydrates are commonly found in grains, such as bread and pasta, but also in milk and many sweet foods. Even fruit and starchy vegetables are high in carbohydrates. Diabetics do not have to avoid carbohydrates entirely, but it is important to consume them in moderation.
How to Pick the Right Foods with SNAP Benefits
Protein is very important for diabetic beneficiaries, but overly processed foods, such as hot dogs and deli meats, are often very high in sodium. Sodium is dangerous for diabetics, since it increases the likelihood of high blood pressure. Diabetic beneficiaries have to worry about heart attacks and strokes as a side effect of their condition, and both of these can be brought on by high blood pressure. This can be very difficult for SNAP beneficiaries, since protein sources are usually expensive, and the processed options can be more affordable.
Diabetic beneficiaries should focus on leaner proteins, with a smaller amount of saturated fat. Both fish and turkey are good examples of this. Seafood is highly recommended because it contains so many other healthy nutrients. Turkey is usually easy for SNAP beneficiaries to purchase, especially since it often comes in a variety of sizes. Beneficiaries that have time to prepare meals in advance may consider getting larger turkey portions to have throughout the week. It also helps if beneficiaries can buy in bulk, and then store the unused turkey in a freezer for future use.
Purchasing seafood is a little harder to justify with SNAP benefits because of the price. It helps to research what seafood is in season and common in the area, since in-season fish are not nearly as expensive to purchase. Other than that, the best thing for diabetic beneficiaries to do is keep an eye on sales in the area. Another affordable source of protein for diabetic beneficiaries is nuts. Naturally, nuts will not make up an entire meal, but they make for a healthy snack.
With grains, it is recommended to shop for whole grains whenever possible. Whole grain contains more fiber, which contains vitamins and minerals and helps with digestive health. Normally, whole grain products are on the pricier side, but a nice option is wild rice. Whole grain pasta can be pricey, but it is another type of food that is easy to prepare or store in bulk.
Fruits and vegetables are usually not too difficult to purchase with SNAP benefits. With vegetables, the best options are leafy greens, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots and broccoli. Fresh vegetables are very important for diabetic beneficiaries, since a good diabetic diet contains more vegetables than anything else. Corn, potatoes and peas are okay in smaller portions, but these are the types of vegetables that are very high in carbohydrates.
With fruit, the most important thing to keep in mind is how much sugar the fruit contains. A lot of fruit juices claim to be healthy, but are actually bad for diabetics because of how much sugar they contain. Dried fruits also contain a lot of sugar. Whenever possible, buy fresh.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet on SNAP
One tip for buying fruits and vegetables while on SNAP benefits is to purchase these goods from a farmer’s market. Most SNAP beneficiaries only use their EBT cards at grocery chains, but it is possible for sellers at a farmer’s market to apply to be part of SNAP and accept EBT cards as payment. Not only do farmer’s markets typically have better prices than grocery chains, but beneficiaries can ensure they are getting high quality, healthy products.
In addition to shopping at farmer’s markets, another uncommon use of SNAP is buying seeds with an EBT card. As long as the beneficiary is purchasing the seeds to grow his or her own food, it is covered by SNAP benefits. This is very cost effective, and again, a good way to ensure the beneficiary has access to healthy foods.