Objective To identify barriers to appropriate dietary behavior in an urban, low-income population of patients with type 2 diabetes and to examine a new instrument in the identification of these barriers in this population. Methods A cross-sectional survey was developed, validated, and anonymously administered to low-income adults with type 2 diabetes in an academic family medicine physician group practice with a pharmacist-operated diabetes education and comanagement service. The survey consisted of three key subscales: determinants of food selection, importance of life challenges, and barriers to appropriate eating. Results The survey was administered to 98 patients with a mean age of 51.98 years, a mean duration of diabetes of 9.76 years, and a mean hemoglobin A1c of 7.99%. When asked to rate factors most important in food selection, the highest mean responses were taste (3.97 out of 5) and cost (score of 3.94 out of 5). Barriers that the majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed were important included: stress causing over-eating or unhealthy food choices, difficulty resisting the temptation to eat unhealthy food, and healthy food being too expensive. The Cronbach’s Alpha for the subscales of food selection, importance of life challenges, and barrier were 0.673, 0.853, and 0.786, respectively. Conclusions In a low-income, urban, predominantly African American and Caucasian diabetic population, cost of healthy food, stress-related inappropriate eating, and the temptation to eat unhealthy food were the most frequently reported barriers to healthy eating. Diabetes education programs serving similar populations should evaluate the presence of these barriers. The survey instrument was a reliable measure of the constructs it purported to measure.