Buying Groceries With SNAP and WIC For Diabetes Management

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 2023-11-28

Between the rising cost of food, paying for diabetes medications and other living expenses, you might be feeling the stress of paying for it all. Fortunately, there are programs available to help offset the cost of food. Both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) are designed to help people access the food they need.

If you’re trying to manage your type 2 diabetes (T2D) while using food assistance programs, here are some tips to help you still hit your nutrition and diabetes management goals.

Who is eligible for SNAP and WIC?

There are certain requirements you need to meet in order to receive SNAP or WIC benefits.To apply for SNAP, you must:

  • Live in the state where you apply
  • Meet certain income requirements 
  • Fulfill other requirements as determined by your state, such as providing bank balances

To apply for WIC, you need to:

  • Be pregnant or breastfeeding (or have recently been pregnant)
  • Have a child under age five
  • Meet certain income limits or receive help from Medicaid, Temporary Cash Assistance or Food Assistance

What foods can I buy with SNAP and WIC?

Before going to the store and using your benefits, it’s important to know which foods are covered under both SNAP and WIC. 

SNAP benefits can be used for:

  • Staple foods like fruits, veggies, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and grains like bread and cereal
  • Accessory foods such as spices, seasonings, honey, condiments, baked goods, water and juice
  • Seeds and plants for gardening

WIC benefits include:

  • Eggs, dairy products, whole grains like bread and pasta, fruits and vegetables

Note that benefits vary by category depending if you are pregnant and whether or not you are breastfeeding.

What to buy for diabetes management

There’s a wide variety of foods that are available through SNAP and WIC, making it easy to find options that work for your diabetes management. In general, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of whole foods from all different food groups.

The Plate Method is a great way to plan out your plate so you can be confident knowing you’re eating a balanced amount of nutrients for your diabetes. 

Using this method, your plate would consist of:

  • Carbs such as bread, pasta, crackers, potatoes, corn, squash or peas—¼ plate
  • Proteins such as meat, fish, eggs, tofu or edamame—¼ plate 
  • Non-starchy veggies including any vegetable besides potatoes, corn, peas or squash—½ plate

When deciding which kinds of bread, pasta, cereal or crackers to buy, look for whole grain options. Whole grains have fiber, which can help slow digestion and prevent spikes in blood glucose levels (BGLs). You will know if a food is a whole grain if the first ingredient listed is “whole wheat” or “whole grain.”

Other tips and tricks

You can also use the SNAP Retailer Locator to find a store near you that takes SNAP benefits as payment.

Most grocery stores will have labels on the prices indicated whether they’re SNAP or WIC eligible foods. If an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase. 

Although you can purchase fresh foods, frozen foods are great for diabetes management and may be covered by SNAP and WIC.

Remember that it is ok (and important!) to eat carbs with diabetes. They provide energy and help keep your BGLs stable. There are many resources available to help you navigate nutrition, develop new habits and resources from the USDA


Editor’s Note: This content was made possible with support from Lilly, an active partner of Beyond Type 2 at the time of publication.

WRITTEN BY Kourtney Johnson, POSTED 11/28/23, UPDATED 11/28/23

Kourtney is a registered dietitian living with type 1 diabetes. She was inspired to study nutrition after learning about the role food plays in managing this condition. When she’s not writing about all things food and diabetes-related, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling, going to the beach and spending time with loved ones.



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