Snacks have a way of sneaking into life (whether they’re planned or not). While extra carbohydrates and calories from unplanned or unnecessary snacks could translate into higher blood sugar and extra pounds, snacks may sometimes be a positive thing for people living with diabetes. Following are several purposes snacks may serve:
- To curb your appetite and prevent overeating at meal time
- To refuel your body – between meals; when meals are delayed; before, during and/or after physical activity
- To head off hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
Do you need a snack?
For many, routine between-meal snacks are not typically necessary. However, a snack could be just what the diabetes educator ordered if your meals are small and hunger hits, or if you need to fuel up after extra activity. For others, especially those who take medication to help manage their diabetes, snacks are sometimes an essential part of a meal plan to help provide energy and prevent hypoglycemia.
Unsure whether you need snacks, or how to fit them in for optimal blood glucose control? Talk with your healthcare team about what is best for you based on your eating plan, appetite, physical activity, medications, and blood glucose trends.
How much is enough?
In general, around 15-30g carbs is often a sufficient snack to fill the bill. Undoubtedly though, there will be days when a snack attack hits but you don’t really “need” to snack. You may find yourself wondering how to manage the urge to munch. With that, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on carb-controlled snacks (less than 15g carbs) included simply to curb your appetite without significantly impacting blood glucose. (You can read more here about snacking to address hypoglycemia.)
Select smart snacks
Choose your snacks with these criteria in mind:
- Promote good health
- Easy to prepare
- Portable (especially with holiday “on-the-go” schedules and travels)
What to snack on?
Following are a number of carb-controlled snack ideas that I’ve gathered from my clients, who live with diabetes, over the years. I hope that you enjoy them too. Feel free to adjust portion sizes to fit your goals. As shared, all snacks are 15g carbs or less*. Snack on!
6 smart snacks at home
- Half an avocado drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds
- 30 second Caesar salad: Fill a Romaine lettuce leaf with grilled chicken (leftover or purchased fully cooked) drizzled with light Caesar dressing
- Deviled egg (if cholesterol is a concern, discard the yolk and fill with hummus instead. Garlic or red pepper hummus are personal favorites)
- 5 cucumber slices topped with light or fat-free cream cheese and smoked salmon
- Caprese salad stack: Layer 1 slice tomato, 1 slice low-fat mozzarella, and top with fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper
- ½-cup nonfat cottage cheese topped with ¼-cup berries (raspberries are a favorite)
6 smart snacks on the go
- Greek yogurt cup
- ¼-cup salsa with 10 cucumber slices for dipping
- 10 boiled shrimp with 2 tablespoons cocktail sauce for dipping
- Light string cheese stick or dill pickle rolled up in a turkey slice
- Hardboiled egg
- 4 celery sticks stuffed with 2 tablespoons almond butter or peanut butter
6 smart snacks that don’t require refrigeration
- ¼-cup almonds or walnuts
- ¼-cup roasted soy nuts
- Small can of tomato or vegetable juice
- Mini box of raisins
- Mini can of water-packed tuna
6 smart “free” snacks (these contain fewer than 5 grams of carbohydrates and fewer than 20 calories per serving)
- Sugar-free ice pop
- Sugar-free gelatin cup
- Medium dill pickle
- ¾-cup raw carrot sticks
- 1 cup broccoli florets drizzled lightly with Italian dressing
- Mug of reduced-sodium broth
6 tips to crunch the munchies (when you just don’t need to be eating)
- Chew a piece of sugar-free gum
- Pop a sugar-free breath mint
- Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with mint mouthwash
- Suck on ice chips
- Drink a large glass of water
- Take a 5-10 minute walk
*All nutrient counts are estimates based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release #25.
Tami A. Ross, RD, LD, CDE* is the president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the co-author of Diabetes Meals on $7 a Day – Or Less! And What Do I Eat Now? A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right with Type 2 Diabetes. Ross is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience