Food & Nutrition
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To Snack or Not to Snack?

Snacking smartly on a diabetes meal plan

Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Should I have a snack, or not?” The timing, type of snack and snack portions may vary from person to person depending on a number of factors. While a growing child or a person trying to gain weight may benefit from several snacks throughout the day, an adult living with diabetes may or may not need any snacks. (Be sure to check with your diabetes care team before creating or making any changes to a meal plan.)

I recommend to my clients that they consider these four questions to help determine if a snack may be in order:

  1. Are you truly hungry? A small between-meal snack may head off hunger and prevent mealtime overeating. But snacking beyond one’s meal plan may add carbohydrates and calories that could translate into higher blood glucose levels and extra pounds.
  2. Do you take a diabetes medication that may cause hypoglycemia? If you have concerns about low blood sugar, talk with your healthcare professional about whether you may benefit from snacks. Depending on your lifestyle and medication, a midmorning, midafternoon or bedtime snack may assist with preventing hypoglycemia; ask your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet, and if you have questions.
  3. Is your meal delayed? Certain diabetes medications may lead to hypoglycemia when a meal is delayed. Talk to your healthcare professional if you’re concerned about delayed meals.
  4.  Are you exercising? While extra carbohydrates are not necessary for short, low-to-moderate-intensity physical activity – like a walk around the block – a snack may be needed before, during or after higher-intensity, longer-duration activity.

Choosing snacks smartly

Whether my clients are preparing a snack at home, or selecting a prepackaged option, I advise them to use nutrition labels (or an online nutrient database) to explore their choices. They then consider:

  • Serving size. What portion of the serving will they eat?
  • Calories. How many are in the portion?
  • Total carbohydrate. Compare to their snack carbohydrate target. Remember that not all carbohydrates are bad.
  • Fiber. Higher is better. Fiber is included in the “total carbohydrate” amount on the food label.
  • Fat, sodium, added sugars. Keep as low as possible.

To see how a snack may affect you, check blood glucose 1½ to 2 hours after eating and note the impact. (Talk with your doctor about what glucose level is appropriate for your situation.)

Snacks may provide an opportunity to work in vegetable, fruit, dairy or whole-grain servings.

Here are a dozen snack ideas my patients with diabetes enjoy. Tweak portion sizes in consultation with your doctor to fit your needs.

Six smart 100-calorie snacks

Six smart protein-packed snacks

  • 1 boiled egg
  • 6-ounce nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 string cheese
  • Small handful almonds, peanuts, pistachios or walnuts
  • Foil-packet tuna or salmon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons nut butter (such as almond butter or peanut butter)

These are general guidelines. Consult with your diabetes healthcare team about what’s best for you.

Tami A. Ross, RD, LD, CDE*, MLDE is a nationally recognized diabetes educator, spokesperson and author of What Do I Eat Now? A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right with Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetes Meals on $7 a Day – Or Less! 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.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience


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