Eating right can feel daunting, particularly at first, but people with diabetes can continue enjoying a wide range of snacks.
Foods high in protein
High-protein foods include nuts, legumes, animal products such as eggs and cheese, and alternatives to meat such as tofu and mushrooms.
Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, makes an excellent protein-rich snack.
Healthful snacks for people with diabetes that are satisfying and rich in protein include:
- roasted chickpeas
- apples or celery with almond butter
- almonds, walnuts, or pistachios
- trail mix, particularly if it doesn't contain sweetened ingredients
- hard-boiled eggs
- turkey or smoked salmon roll-ups
- plain yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt
- low-sodium cottage cheese mixed with fresh fruit
- diced avocado and cherry tomatoes
- snap peas or other raw veggies with hummus
Several of these options can work well as both sweet and savory snacks. Honey-roasted chickpeas provide a good balance of sweet and savory. Nuts can be paired with slices of cheese or dried fruit. Adding nuts or fruit can also make yogurt sweeter or more savory.
For the turkey roll-ups, people can use thinly sliced turkey or lettuce to replace the pita. Adding hummus and vegetables makes for a hearty snack.
Vegetables, legumes, and nuts are excellent sources of fiber. Whole grains, oats, and some fruits are as well.
People with diabetes can try some of these high-fiber snacks:
Plain yogurt with oats and fruit, such as figs, is a high-fiber snack that can help a person feel full longer.
- smoothies blended with high-fiber, non-starchy vegetables
- sprouted, whole-grain breads
- whole-grain or bean pastas
- oatmeal, mixed with fresh berries or sliced banana for additional sweetness and fiber
- avocado slices
- figs dipped into Greek yogurt
- kale or spinach chips, which can satisfy a chip craving without the added sodium and fat
- carrots dipped in hummus offer protein and fiber in a low-sodium snack
- sweet potato foods, including baked sweet potato fries, cooked whole sweet potatoes, or sweet potato toast
To sub sweet potatoes for toast, people should toast thinly sliced sweet potato for three or four cycles and top with regular choices of toppings.
Whole-grain breads and bean pastas are an excellent way to manage carbohydrate cravings. To increase their nutritional value, people can try adding almond butter to whole-grain bread, or eating high-fiber bean pasta mixed with vegetables.
Snacks for diabetes: The basics
Healthful snacks for people with diabetes promote feelings of fullness, reducing any urges to snack on unhealthy packaged foods and sweets. There are healthful foods in every food group, so there's no need to feel like diabetes means foregoing enjoyable food.
No single snack is perfect, and no food can provide perfect nutrition. That is why it is important to eat a wide variety of foods and to try a range of snacks.
Healthful snacks for people with diabetes will offer one or more of the following benefits:
High-carbohydrate diets can elevate blood sugar levels. Fiber, which is a carbohydrate, is an exception to this rule, however.
Oat bran is high in soluble fiber, which helps control blood sugar levels.
Fiber comes in two main varieties, both of which are good for people with diabetes.
Soluble fiber is found in high levels in oat bran, legumes, and some fruits. This type of fiber controls blood sugar levels and can lower cholesterol.
Because fiber is digested slowly, it can increase feelings of fullness. This makes it an ideal snack component that can prevent overeating.
People with diabetes should consume 25 grams (g) or more of dietary fiber each day.
Sugary foods can elevate blood sugar and cause weight gain. Sweets such as cookies, cupcakes, and candy are obvious sources of high sugar.
People with diabetes also need to be mindful of carbohydrates, such as those found in bread, pasta, fruits, vegetables, and many other foods. Carbohydrates aren't bad on their own, but keeping carb intake low can control blood sugar.
Drinks such as soda, sweetened fruit juices, and alcohol also contain high levels of sugar. Adding these beverages to an otherwise healthful snack can cause blood sugar levels to spike.
Protein supports feelings of fullness between meals. It is the body's building block, supporting healthy muscles, organs, and skin.
While everyone needs protein in their diet, protein is particularly important for people who are physically active or who lift weights. The average person needs at least 0.36 g of protein per pound of body weight per day. This works out at 56 g a day for the average man and 46 g a day for the average woman.
However, research generally suggests that people should consume even more than these minimal amounts. A 2005 study found that women who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of total calories a day ate 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost weight during the 12 weeks. There was no follow-up to confirm if those women maintained the weight loss, however.
Increasing protein intake may support healthy weight loss and reduce unhealthy snacking.
A large percentage of sodium intake comes from salt added to processed foods, so reading the nutritional label is important.
While reducing the use of table salt can help, as much as 75 percent of sodium intake comes from salty processed foods rather than adding salt to meals.
No matter how healthful a snack is, eating too much of it can lead to unhealthy weight gain. This may disrupt blood sugar levels.
Consulting a snack's nutrition facts makes it easier for people to eat a single serving. Nutrition facts also provide information about calorie, protein, sugar, and carbohydrate content.
Other tips for healthful snacking
Healthful snacking with diabetes is not just about choosing the right foods. Knowing which foods to avoid, how to manage cravings, and how fluid intake affects appetite is also vital.
The following strategies support healthful snacking with diabetes. People should aim to:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Thirst can feel like hunger, and drinking water can support feelings of fullness.
- Limit consumption of sodas, sweetened juices, and other sweetened drinks. Coffee and tea are fine in moderation, but adding sugar, cream, and other flavoring agents can elevate blood sugar.
- Limit processed and prepackaged foods. This is the simplest way to reduce sodium and sugar intake. Stick to the refrigerated sections of the grocery store and avoid most of the freezer sections.
- Space meals evenly throughout the day to avoid blood sugar dips and spikes. It is preferable to eat five to seven small snacks or meals instead of three large meals.
- Avoid fried foods, particularly fried meats.