If you’re like most American adults these days, you often find yourself in the middle of your busy schedule and long to-do list needing some kind of pick-me-up while you’re bustling from office to errands to school to social functions.
Snacking can be a great way to boost your energy. But if you have type 2 diabetes, the type of snack you choose is especially important since it could either help stabilize your blood glucose levels or cause an unwanted spike.
While it’s helpful to plan food in advance, it’s not realistic to think that impromptu snacks won’t ever happen. You want to be sure to honor your hunger cues and eat when you’re hungry, especially if it’s been three or more hours since your last meal.
In fact, one of the most detrimental things you can do to your metabolism and blood glucose levels is to forbid yourself to eat when you’re truly hungry. More often than not, this leads to overeating at the next meal and can cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) and a slowed metabolism in the meantime.
All of this being said, snacks can and should be a very healthy, enjoyable, and nourishing part of anyone’s daily eating plan. Here are four tips on how to do it right, along with 14 of my favorite on-the-go snacks!
Sip before you snack
Before snacking, make sure you’re well-hydrated. Dehydration can often be misinterpreted as hunger, so ensuring that you’ve been drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day will help you better listen to your body and what it needs.
If you aren’t sure how much water you need, start by aiming to drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces each day.
Get a kick with caffeine
Even when you’re drinking plenty of water, you may be looking for an energy boost.
Caffeine intake doesn’t affect blood glucose levels, and, despite popular beliefs, it can’t make you dehydrated. While it has a mild diuretic effect, you have nothing to worry about as long as you’re drinking other fluids.
So, when you need it, consider these low-carbohydrate caffeine beverages:
- hot or iced black or green tea
- latte with unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- espresso shot
- hot or iced black coffee (add dash of cinnamon or vanilla if desired)
Count your carbs
Next, consider how long it’s been since your last meal. If it’s been less than 2 to 3 hours, you’ll want to choose a low-carb snack, ideally less than 15 grams of carbohydrates. Focus on quality proteins, healthy fats, and nonstarchy vegetables.
- string cheese
- 1 to 2 hard-boiled eggs
- ¼ cup guacamole and 1 to 2 cups veggies
- 1 ounce of your favorite nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc.)
- ½ cup shelled edamame
If it’s been three to four hours since your last meal and/or you know that your next meal is delayed, be sure to include at least one serving of carbohydrates (15 grams) in addition to your protein and/or fat.
- 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt topped with ½ cup berries and 1 tablespoon of your favorite nuts
- 1 small apple and ¼ cup nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter of choice
- ¼ cup hummus, 1 ounce cheese, and 1 cup favorite veggies
- 1 cup cottage cheese and ¼ cup chopped pineapple
- avocado toast or ½ sandwich on whole wheat bread
Pick up pre-made snacks
Most of the options above can be found easily in convenience stores, cafes, and coffee shops. When possible, scout out options ahead of time — near your office or other areas you frequent — so you can have an idea of what grab-and-go snacks are easily available.
Many popular chains (like Starbucks) also offer premade “snack packs” that provide a combo of fruit, cheese, and nuts.
Using these simple strategies, you can choose an energizing and satisfying snack that’s perfectly suited to you anytime, anywhere. Knowing what’s best for your blood glucose will empower you to make choices that will contribute to your overall health.
No matter how busy you find yourself, a healthy grab-and-go option will always be available at your fingertips!
Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, is a nationally recognized, award-winning food and nutrition expert. As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, she helps others learn how to use food to manage their blood sugar and improve their lives! She is the author of “Eat What You Love Diabetes Cookbook” and "The Diabetes Cookbook and Meal Plan for the Newly Diagnosed." Find more great diabetes nutrition resources and recipes at www.LoriZanini.com and www.ForTheLoveOfDiabetes.com.