Snacks are a great way to keep your blood glucose levels stable, but sometimes it may seem like choosing a snack food is easier said than done.

Making smart food choices starts with understanding the fundamentals. For most people with diabetes, that means knowing the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels.

Most carbohydrates break down into glucose, a type of basic sugar. When you eat large amounts of certain types of carbohydrates, your blood glucose levels can spike.

Counting the number of carbohydrates in your snacks and choosing foods using the glycemic index (GI) are both great ways to make smart snacking decisions.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you include the carbohydrate content of your snacks in your total daily carbohydrate count.

Here are a few healthy snack ideas that are great on the go and can help make managing your blood glucose level simple.

The GI measures how much a food containing carbohydrates raises your blood sugar level in comparison to eating pure glucose. White bread has a value, or ranking, of 100.

The ADA identifies low-GI foods as those with a value of 55 or less. Low-GI foods include:

Medium-GI foods have values between 56 and 69. Some examples are:

  • whole wheat bread
  • rye bread
  • pita bread

Eating mixed snacks can also help, since foods digest more slowly when they’re eaten together. Adding protein, healthy fats, or fiber to a snack with complex carbohydrates can help increase fullness and decrease the risk of blood sugar spikes.

Light popcorn is a great snack option. The “light” in its name typically means that it has less added fat and fewer calories than traditional popcorn.

A serving size is usually 3 cups. You can either make it at home or buy it pre-popped.

To make your own light popcorn:

  • Air pop it. This method adds no calories and fat, which means you can eat more without any guilt.
  • Avoid the microwave. Microwave popcorn may be convenient, but it also comes loaded with added salt, butter, and other toppings that will weigh you down. Plus, the large size of the bag makes it hard to control your portions.
  • Choose the right oils. If you do cook in oil, use olive, avocado, or walnut oils – the healthiest kinds. Avoid processed vegetable oils, which may be high in trans fats.
  • Make your own seasonings. For an added burst of flavor, skip the butter and instead spritz on some balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, or lemon.

Two tablespoons of unpopped kernels should yield about 4 cups of popcorn, according to the Popcorn Board, a program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

When buying pre-popped versions, be sure to check the nutrition facts for unhealthy trans fats, which are listed as hydrogenated fats on the ingredient list, and added sugars.

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!

Combine these ingredients:

This will make 16 servings at 1/4 cup each.

Some other good ingredients for DIY trail mix are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.

This spreadable chickpea concoction is a modest source of plant-based protein. It’s rich in fiber and nutrients such as calcium and iron. Research suggests that eating chickpeas can help you manage your blood sugar and your appetite.

There are some potential health pitfalls of store-bought varieties. For example, some brands are very high in salt and added fat.

When you buy hummus, look for products with natural ingredients, such as roasted red peppers or olives, rather than artificial flavorings. Watch for added salt. Avoid any brand that contains 20 percent or more of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sodium per serving.

Instead of using pita chips for dipping, eat hummus with a colorful trio of raw carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli. For extra flavor, throw a few green olives in the mix!

The fiber, fat, and protein from the hummus will keep you feeling satiated. Plus, the fiber from the non-starchy vegetables will keep your blood glucose level from spiking.

Fruit isn’t off-limits for people with diabetes. In fact, it’s encouraged because of its antioxidant count and high fiber.

Fruit and cheese are a match made in heaven. For a delicious and convenient snack, pair apples, oranges, grapes, or blueberries with 1 oz. of either of these cheeses:

  1. cheddar
  2. Colby
  3. part-skim mozzarella

Choose cheeses that are lower in fat to help manage bad cholesterol levels. Other good choices include ricotta and feta.

These cheeses contain fewer than 10 grams (g) of fat per ounce, with mozzarella and ricotta containing under 5g of fat per ounce.

Cottage cheese is another smart choice, and 4 to 8 oz. will make for a nourishing snack. Many brands of full-fat cottage cheese contain no more than 5g of fat per half-cup.

Nuts are a heart-healthy source of protein. People with diabetes who eat them five times a week have a 17 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2019 study published in the medical journal Circulation Research.

Top a slice of sprouted whole grain bread or some whole grain crackers with nut butter for a filling snack.

Almond, soy nut, and walnut butters make good cracker toppers, because they’re low in sugar, high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and free from hydrogenated oils (trans fats).

When you shop for nut butters, look for brands with no added sugar and salt. Also avoid anything that contains preservatives or high amounts of saturated fat.

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. Many popular brands contain less than 15 g of carbohydrates per cup (and 12 or more g of protein per serving)!

As you peruse the yogurt aisle, look for brands with more protein per serving. They’ll keep you feeling full for longer.

Low-fat or non-fat yogurt may sound healthy, but it isn’t necessarily better for you. Whole-milk yogurt actually has less sugar and fewer added carbs, which makes it worth the splurge.

When buying yogurt, be sure to check for added sweeteners or toppings. You may get more sugar than you bargained for. Instead, get plain yogurt and add your own whole fruit, such as berries, for a healthy and higher-in-fiber snack.

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. They’ll also be lower in carbohydrates than traditional potato, tortilla, or grain-based chips.

Try making crispy kale chips at home by following these steps:

  1. Toss some kale leaves in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Lay them on a baking sheet.
  3. Heat them until they’re crisp.

You’ll have a delicious snack in less than half an hour. Try this recipe with spinach or Swiss chard too.

You can also find low-sodium chip alternatives at the store. Aim for something that has no more than 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving.

Avocados fall into the category of “good” fats. They’re higher in calories, so you won’t want to eat them too often. However, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in them can lower your cholesterol.

You can eat them plain, mash them into some guacamole, or spread them on some whole grain toast for a satisfying snack.

To make your own guacamole:

  1. Grab three ripe avocados.
  2. Chop up a couple of tomatoes, a garlic clove, one small onion, and a tablespoon of cilantro.
  3. Combine them with two tablespoons of fresh lime juice.
  4. Add a chopped jalapeno for a little extra zing!

This will make around 6-9 servings.

When choosing a peanut butter spread, make sure you grab a natural one that has no added sugar, fats, salt, or preservatives. Cut up an apple and dip the slices into a tablespoon of peanut butter for a healthy and filling treat.

Even if you’re not the biggest fan of veggies, you can mix them in with your favorite fruits to hide the taste.

Here are a few ideas for low-sugar smoothie blends:

Choose your favorite fruits and vegetables and test out different combinations. The end result? A delicious drink that’s loaded with nutritional benefits.

We’re not talking about the regular fries that are cooked in unhealthy oil and covered in salt. But you can still satisfy a similar craving with sweet potato fries.

Make them yourself by tossing some sweet potato wedges in small amounts of olive oil, salt, and pepper and throwing them in the oven. You can try this with low-carb vegetables too, such as:

Stock your fridge with all the ingredients you’ll need to make these healthy snacks. Better yet, prepare a few of them at the beginning of each week, so you’ll have them ready to nibble on when you feel hungry.

Having healthy foods on-hand will prevent your hunger from overtaking you and leading you to high-fat or sugary junk food splurges.