View Article

posted on March 24, 2009 11:18



Making healthy food choices on a budget can be a challenge for anyone. But for the 86,000 Idahoans living with diabetes, eating right when money is tight is critical in managing this chronic disease.
“Finding ways to save money at the grocery store is increasingly important in this uncertain economic time,” says Idaho Diabetes Program Manager Mimi Hartman-Cunningham. “It’s especially important for people with diabetes to realize they can continue to manage their illness with healthy eating without spending a lot of money.”
By following a few guidelines when planning a food budget, everyone can eat better, save time and stretch dollars.
The best way to protect your health – and your budget – is to develop a healthy eating plan. Hartman-Cunningham recommends working with your health care provider to develop a healthy eating plan that is right for you.
In the mean time, there are some general rules of thumb to use in planning inexpensive, nutritious meals. An easy way to save money and eat healthy is to avoid processed food, like pre-packaged dinners and snacks. Often, processed foods are high in sugar and salt – both of which can cause problems for people with diabetes when consumed in excess.
Here are a few less-processed foods you can add to your diet that won’t break the bank or require you to spend much time in the kitchen:
  • 100 percent whole wheat bread. Spread on a thin smear of peanut butter for a balanced snack.
  • Old-fashioned oatmeal and other whole grains. Add a few walnuts and pieces of dried fruit to your morning breakfast for even more nutrition. If you’re feeling adventurous, try making salads with quinoa, wheat berries or brown rice.
  • Beans, legumes and lentils. Cook these up with some veggies and a small amount of meat in low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth for endless variations of very cheap and nutritious soup (see recipe below). Extra portions of soup freeze well, too.
  • Apples and other whole fruit. Add a slice of cheese for a more complete snack that impacts blood sugar less. Frozen fruit and veggies are a good option, too. 
“Making good food choices – along with being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight – can help people with diabetes take control of managing their illness,” says Hartman-Cunningham. “That in turn can lead to a higher quality of life and fewer incidents of diabetes-related complications.”
Need more ideas? Try the recipe below for Ham and White Bean Soup recommended by the National Diabetes Education Program. The beans cost about $1 a can; you can use leftover ham from another dinner; chicken broth is less than $1 a can.
To save even more money, soak dried beans overnight and cook them for an hour while getting ready for work. Refrigerate. Use after work to make a quick, cheap soup.
Ham and White Bean Soup
Number of Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup
cooking spray
1 medium onion
1/2 cup cooked ham
2 14.5-ounce cans fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth
2 16-ounce can Great Northern beans rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1. Spray a large soup pot with cooking spray. Add onion and sauté with chopped ham 2 minutes over med/high heat. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Calories: 151
    from fat: 10
Total fat: 1g
    sat: 0g
Cholesterol: 7mg
Sodium: 653mg
Carbohydrates: 23g
Fiber: 7g
Sugar: 4g
Protein: 13g
Dietary Exchange: 1 1/2 Starch, 1 Very Lean Meat
For additional resources to help manage diabetes, go to and click on “diabetes.”