Snacks are a great way to keep your blood glucose levels stable, but sometimes it may seem that choosing what to snack on is easier said than done.
Making smart food choices starts with understanding the fundamentals. For most people with diabetes, that means understanding the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels.
Carbohydrates break down into sugar, and when you eat large amounts of certain types of carbohydrates, blood glucose levels can spike.
Using the glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) measures how much a food containing carbohydrates raises your blood glucose level compared to the consumption of pure glucose. Pure glucose has a score of 100.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) identifies low-GI foods as those with a ranking of 55 or less. Low-GI foods include:
- 100 percent stone-ground whole wheat
- non-starchy vegetables
Medium-GI foods have ratings between 56 and 69. Some examples are:
- whole wheat
- pita bread
Eating mixed snacks can also help, since foods digest more slowly when they’re eaten together. Adding protein or healthy fats to a snack with carbohydrate can help increase fullness and decrease the risk of blood sugar spikes.
Counting the number of carbohydrates in your snacks and choosing foods using the glycemic index are both great ways to make smart snacking decisions.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that a diabetes-friendly snack should contain 15–30 grams of carbohydrates.
We’ve come up with a few healthy snack ideas that are great on-the-go and can help make managing your blood glucose level simple!
Tasty trail mix
Store-bought trail mix can be boring, bland, and not so healthy — not to mention expensive. Save money (and your taste buds) by making your own!
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 cup raw or roasted almonds
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 2 oz. dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup raisins or currants
This will make 16 servings at 1/4 cup each.
Some other good choices for DIY trail mix are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.
*Allergy warning: Contains nuts
Middle Eastern-style snack
Enjoy 1/3 cup of hummus with 1 cup of a colorful trio of raw carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli. For extra flavor, throw a few green olives in the mix!
The protein and fat from the hummus will keep you feeling full, and the fiber from the non-starchy vegetables will keep your blood glucose level from spiking.
Fresh fruit and cheese
Fruit and cheese is a match made in heaven. Pair apples, oranges, grapes, or blueberries with 1 oz. of cheddar, Colby jack, or part-skim mozzarella string cheese for a delicious and convenient snack. Choose cheeses that are lower in fat to help manage bad cholesterol levels.
Light popcorn is a great snack option. A serving size is typically about 3 cups, and you can either make it at home or buy it pre-popped.
Be sure to check the nutrition facts for unhealthy trans fats (listed as hydrogenated fats on the ingredient list) and added sugars. Throw any unpopped kernels in a bag and microwave them to savor this snack to the very last kernel!
Whole grains and nut butter
Choose a slice of sprouted whole grain bread or some whole grain crackers and top with some nut butter for a filling snack.
Greek yogurt has soared in popularity in recent years and for a good reason! As well as being high in protein, it’s also a great source of calcium.
Greek yogurt now comes in all sorts of flavors, and many fat-free yogurts, like Fage, contain less than 20g of carbohydrates per cup! The only exception is the honey flavor, which contains 30g of carbohydrates. Better yet, choose unsweetened Greek yogurt and add your own whole fruit, such as berries, for a healthy and higher-fiber snack.
Chips, believe it or not
Chips are no longer slang for fried potato. At home, you can bake all kinds of veggies to avoid the sodium, trans fats, and preservatives you find in a store-bought bag of potato chips.
Try making crispy kale chips at home. Toss some kale leaves in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and lay them on a baking sheet. Heat them until they’re crisp and you have a delicious snack in less than half an hour.
You can also find low-sodium chip alternatives at the store. Aim for something that has no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving.