Diabetes and Snacks: A Healthy Match
Including snacks in a healthy diet plan may seem completely out of the question, especially for people with diabetes. Snacking has a bad reputation mostly because it’s associated with unhealthy food choices that are high in fat and calories. But contrary to popular belief, snacking isn’t all about cupcakes and potato chips. It is possible for people with diabetes to have snacks without sabotaging their diabetes meal plan.
Managing diabetes involves balance. You want to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. This means you don’t want to have too many high (hyperglycemic) or low (hypoglycemic) blood sugar readings. One way to maintain this balance is to eat at regular intervals on a daily basis. Most people with diabetes should aim to have their meals every 4-6 hours, with 1-2 snacks per day. One of these snacks should be at bedtime to prevent low blood sugar while sleeping.
In addition to helping you manage blood sugar levels, snacks can boost your energy level between meals and help keep you going throughout the day.
Snacks for Diabetes
Take the time to choose snacks that are healthy sources of carbohydrates (fruit, milk and yogurt, and whole grain starches) and lean protein. Lean protein choices like yogurt, turkey, and tuna, combined with a moderate amount of carbohydrate can help you stay full longer and prevent your blood sugar from dipping in between meals. A good rule of thumb for snacks is approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates with about 1-2 ounces of protein.
Here’s a list of snacks for diabetes that you could select from:
- 1 cup of low-fat yogurt (try Yoplait light) with 3 graham crackers
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread with 2 ounces of turkey topped with mustard, lettuce, and tomato
- 1/2 cup of breakfast cereal (choose a high-fiber variety like Kashi) with 8 ounces of skim milk
- 1/2 of a honey whole wheat bagel with one slice of swiss cheese and cucumber slices
- 1/2 cup of blueberries or strawberries with 2 ounces of cottage cheese
- 1/2 whole wheat tortilla with 3 tablespoons of pinto bean, a tablespoon of salsa, and a teaspoon of low-fat shredded cheese
- 1 cup of mixed greens, 2 ounces of tuna, 1 tablespoon of low fat Ranch dressing, and 1/2 cup pita chips
- 2 ounces of turkey wrapped in lettuce with 1 tablespoon raspberry vinaigrette, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, and 1/2 cup pretzels
- 1 medium banana, spread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
The Bottom Line
Choose snacks for diabetes that are high in fiber, moderate in protein and carbohydrates, and low in calories. You can do this by reading food labels, keeping fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, and thinking ahead about your daily meals. Snacks for diabetes can also be mini-versions of your favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. Be creative and incorporate healthy snacks into your daily meal plan for better blood sugar control.
Alumni: University of Florida – Sejal is a registered dietitian, a certified diabetes educator and she holds a masters degree in nutrition and health. Sejal was the project coordinator for the Veteran’s Administrations (VA) national weight loss program and previously worked for the VA hospital in Tampa, FL as a Spinal Cord Injury dietitian.
Sejal has had numerous clinical and community education experiences, including pediatric and intensive care nutrition support. She has also had the opportunity to teach nutrition courses at the community college level to students interested in pursuing health professions. One of her favorite areas of education is diabetes management.