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What to Know About Diabetes and Snacks

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on April 22, 2020

To manage diabetes and keep your blood sugar under control, you may need to rethink your diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, and low-fat dairy should be on the menu, while most fatty, sweet, and salty foods should not.

That doesn't mean you have to say goodbye to all your favorite snacks. In fact, a few strategically planned ones during the day can help keep your blood sugar levels steady between meals. You just need to choose those treats wisely.

Diabetes-Friendly Snacks

The best snacks when you have diabetes are high in fiber and protein, and low in sugar and salt. Good options include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

You'll stay full and keep your blood sugar stable longer if your snacks combine lean protein and healthy carbs, like:

  • Turkey, roasted chicken, or other lunch meat with a slice of cheese wrapped in a lettuce leaf
  • Smoked salmon and light cream cheese on wheat toast
  • Low-fat turkey jerky with baby carrots
  • Whole wheat crackers with peanut butter
  • Low-fat cottage cheese with berries

Snacks that are high in fiber are also filling, like:

  • Light popcorn
  • Apples with cheese or peanut butter
  • Sweet peppers, celery, and carrot sticks
  • Dried fruit and nuts

If you're in the mood for something sweet after a meal, try one of these lighter alternatives to candy, cake, and cookies:

  • Sugar-free frozen fruit bars
  • Plain yogurt topped with canned fruit
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Frozen grapes
  • Sugar-free gelatin

How to Modify Your Favorite Treats

You'll want to stay away from foods that are highly processed or have lots of added salt or sugar. That includes junk foods like potato chips, cheese puffs, candy, and cookies.

You don't have to banish these foods from your diet. But when you do eat them, keep the portions very small. Better yet, substitute healthier versions like these:

  • Craving potato chips? Go for the baked kind or some air-popped popcorn.
  • Want chocolate? Cover some rice cakes in dark chocolate.
  • Instead of cheese puffs, try some snack mix made from cereal.
  • Pizza night? Try a whole-wheat English muffin with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
  • Cookie craving? Try a graham cracker.
  • If you're a fan of soda, substitute diet soda, light lemonade, or some sparkling water with a dash of fruit juice.

Smarter Snacking

You don't have to deny yourself treats. Just enjoy them in moderation. If you crave chocolate, have a square of dark chocolate. If you're in the mood for ice cream, order a kids' sized cone or get a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt instead.

Even a healthy snack can cause you to gain weight if you eat too much. And that could make it harder to control your diabetes. That's why it's important to keep your snacks small. Don't bring a family-sized bag of popcorn or box of cookies into the den while you watch TV. You could eat the whole thing. Measure out one serving and put the rest of the box or bag away.

Make sure that each portion you give yourself contains no more than 150 calories and 15 to 30 grams of carbs. Examples include:

  • 15 mini pretzels
  • 3 cups of light popcorn
  • 1 cup of berries
  • 1/4 cup trail mix

Before you head for the pantry or fridge, decide if you're really hungry. Is a growling stomach behind your desire to eat, or are you just bored or stressed? If you're not hungry, find something else to fill your time.

When you do snack, try to do it at about the same time each day. If you stick to a schedule with both snacks and meals, it'll help keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day.

If you're still not sure about portion sizes, the types of snacks to choose, or when to have them, ask your doctor if they can refer you to a dietitian for help. Your doctor could also let you know if the foods in your diet will help you control your diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Diabetes Association: "Eat Good to Feel Good," "Fast Food Tips," "Smart Snacks."

CDC: "Diabetes Meal Planning."

Diabetes UK: "Healthy Swaps: Snacks."

Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes diet: create your healthy-eating plan," "Insulin and weight gain: Keep the pounds off."

Seattle Children's: "Snack Ideas for Kids with Diabetes."

University of Michigan: "Diabetes: Snack Options," "What are some tips for healthy snacking?"

Cleveland Clinic: "Diabetes and the Foods You Eat."

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