Diabetic Snacks: What to Eat and What to Skip
Sticking to a diabetes-friendly diet is hard enough. Luckily, these tasty ideas can satisfy cravings without affecting your blood sugar.
“Don’t eat between meals.”
That’s one piece of advice diabetics might want to take with a grain of salt. If you go more than four or five hours between meals, a mid-afternoon snack might be just what the doctor ordered to help you keep your blood sugar steady.
Snacking is also important if you’re taking medication that could cause a blood-sugar low between meals. Discuss with your doctor or a registered dietitian what snacking approach is right for you.
Keep your snacks to 150 calories or less
The danger of snacks is that they can become more like extra meals if you go overboard. First, make sure you’re truly hungry—and not just bored or stressed or craving chocolate—before reaching for a snack. Then limit yourself to 150 calories per snack. (Cutting calories is easier than you think.) This will help keep your snacking “honest.” After all, it’s hard to find a candy bar with only 150 calories. And if you’re hankering for a candy bar, but a healthier snack doesn’t appeal, you’re probably not truly hungry.
Beware of low-fat snacks
Studies show that people tend to eat about 28 percent more of a snack when it’s low-fat because they think they’re saving on calories. But low-fat snacks, such as cookies, only have about 11 percent fewer calories than their full-fat counterparts. Stick to the same amount you’d eat if you thought the snack was full-fat. Need more snack ideas? Check out these delicious snacks for adults.
Check the ingredients
Avoid heavily processed crackers and chips. If the list of ingredients is long and has big words with lots of syllables, put it back on the shelf. Stay away from these worst eating habits for diabetics.
Watch those carbs
Carbohydrates are major culprits when it comes to raising blood sugar (though there are some good carbs for diabetes). Keep carby snacks down to one or two servings, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Try a single piece of fruit or 1/4 cup trail mix, suggests Melissa Matteo, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator at the Cleveland Clinic.
Plate your snacks
Eat straight out of the bag and you’re guaranteed to eat more, whether it’s chips, pretzels, or cookies. Instead, put a small portion on a plate, seal up the bag and put it away, then sit down and enjoy your snack.
Grab the whole bag
A single serving bag, that is. You’re much more likely to stop after one serving if you don’t have to measure it out yourself. If paying more for extra packaging that will eventually clog landfills bothers you, separate your snacks yourself into reusable single-serving containers when you get home from the grocery store so they’re ready to grab when you’re ready to eat them at home or in the office. These are the healthiest snacks you should always keep at work.
Scoop up some yogurt
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is a protein-packed, low-carb snack, and topping it with fruit makes it even better. When Matteo’s clients ask which fruits they should add, she always tells them to start with their favorite. “I want them to be including things that they like,” she says. Greek yogurt also makes a great breakfast and a serious mood-booster. A good start: Here are 10 tasty ways to top Greek yogurt.
Pour a handful of nuts
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, and cashews contain the healthy monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. And because they’re packed with protein and “good” fat, they won’t raise blood sugar as much as crackers or pretzels do. Because many nuts are high in calories (almonds are the lowest), stick to an ounce, or about the amount that will fit in the palm of your hand.
Have a few whole-grain crackers with peanut butter
You’ll eat more protein and fewer carbs than if you have a bigger pile of crackers with no peanut butter, and your blood sugar won’t rise as much. It’s also a great snack for when you’re hangry.
Don’t be scared of dips
Hummus, salsa, and guacamole may seem like unhealthy options for their fat content. However, these are heart-healthy fats that satisfy cravings and keep you fuller longer. Keep servings about 2 tbsp.
Snack on raw veggies
Get in an extra serving of vegetables by nibbling on grape tomatoes, carrots, red and green peppers, cucumbers, broccoli crowns, and cauliflower. Eat them plain or dip them into nonfat yogurt, a light salad dressing, or hummus (stick with 1 to 2 tablespoons’ worth). PS: Broccoli is also one of the best superfoods for diabetics.
Spread some black bean salsa over eggplant slices
The salsa has only about 15 grams of carbs, 80 calories, and 1 gram of fat.
Sip a small cup of vegetable soup
Cook non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, onion, celery, green beans, and squash in some vegetable or chicken stock. It’s filling, full of veggies, and low in carbs. (These are the best and worst soups for weight loss.)
Indulge in a few decadent bites
Have a snack of three dried apricots, a small piece of dark chocolate (about the size of a Hershey’s miniature chocolate bar), and three walnuts or almonds, suggests Vicki Saunders, RD, who teaches nutrition education programs at St. Helena Hospital in Napa Valley, California. You can also swap the dark chocolate for another healthy chocolate. Savor every nibble!
Blend a fruit smoothie
Combine half of a chopped banana, 3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt, and a non-nutritive sweetener, and blend until smooth. Try these other healthy breakfast smoothies.
Freeze grapes and peeled bananas
Seal them in a sandwich bag and throw it into the freezer. Once frozen, they’re a refreshing and healthy treat. You can eat 20 red seedless grapes and still consume only 100 calories. Did you know you can grow grapes indoors?
Eat an apple—and the skin
An apple with the skin contains about 3 grams of fiber. The skin packs a double whammy, carrying healthy soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease and antioxidants that fight free radicals and lower the risk of diabetes complications. Who knew just one apple could have such amazing health benefits?
Try low-fat string cheese
Each one contains only 80 calories. These are one of the few portable goodies rich in sugar-steadying protein. You can even pair the cheese with an apple for an extra health boost.
Have your chocolate “bar” frozen
By that we mean enjoy a frozen fudge pop. They taste delightfully chocolatey but contain only about 80 calories. (Some fruits and veggies are better frozen too.)