If you’ve ever been hangry or affected by the dreaded 3 p.m. slump, you know the magic of a good snack. After a few bites, you feel your mood and energy lift, allowing you to stay productive and comfortable until your next meal.
If you have diabetes, snacking can be a little trickier. That’s because you want to choose a healthy snack that satisfies your hunger without making your blood sugar spike.
So, what should you snack on as a person with diabetes? We’ll be sharing several healthy ideas in this article, but first, let’s review some basics.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin (type 1 diabetes), or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces (type 2 diabetes).
Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key, letting glucose (sugar) from the food we eat into the body’s cells, where it’s used as energy.
Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood. Over time, long-term high blood glucose levels can cause serious complications, such as diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, heart disease, and stroke.
What Makes a Good Diabetic-Friendly Snack?
If you have diabetes, the goal of snacking is to satisfy your appetite without significantly spiking your blood sugar.
When choosing snacks, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Aim for 150-200 calories: Choosing a snack in this calorie range will keep you satisfied until your next meal without leaving you feeling too full, spiking your blood sugar, or contributing to weight gain.
- Keep an eye on carbs: When consumed, carbs are broken down into glucose. As such, consuming too many carbs can cause harmful blood sugar spikes. Choose nutrient-dense snacks with 15 grams of carbs or less.
- Avoid refined carbs and added sugar: Refined carbs, such as white crackers or white bread, and foods/drinks with added sugar, can cause significant blood sugar spikes. Not to mention, they’re not a good source of nutrition. Stick to whole foods and healthy processed foods free of added sugar.
- Make it a protein, fiber, and fat combo: Choose snacks that are high in fiber (at least three grams), protein (at least five grams), and healthy fats. These nutrients support slower carbohydrate digestion, leading to more steady blood sugar levels and energy.
Healthy Snacks for Diabetics
So, what do diabetic-friendly snacks look like in action? Here are some blood sugar-balancing choices to turn to next time you need a pick-me-up.
1. An Apple with Nut Butter
This childhood favorite makes for an excellent diabetes-friendly snack. Apples are low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in flavonoids that may protect against diabetes.[*]
Nut butters, such as almond butter and peanut butter, offer protein, healthy fat, and fiber, all of which help slow down absorption of the natural sugar from the apple into the bloodstream.
Stick to a small apple and one to two tablespoons of nut butter.
2. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Nosh on a hard-boiled egg or two for a complete (and filling) source of protein. One egg contains about 77 calories, six grams of protein, and a good dose of healthy fat from the yolk.[*]
Eggs are essentially carb-free, so they’re an especially great snack option if you find yourself hungry between meals, but your blood sugar levels are higher than desired. Flavor your eggs with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and paprika.
3. Yogurt with Berries
Yogurt offers a balanced protein-carb-fat trifecta, which helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Opt for plain Greek yogurt or plain vegan yogurt (such as cashew yogurt or soy yogurt) and sweeten it with ¼ cup of berries. Liquid stevia can also be added to kick the sweetness up a notch.
Edamame is a perfectly balanced, diabetes-friendly snack in its own natural package. A ½ cup serving of shelled edamame packs seven grams of protein and three grams of fiber, yet only provides ten grams of carbs and 90 calories.[*]
5. Veggies and Hummus
Veggies like broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers, and carrots are always a good snack choice, but they can be a bit boring on their own. The fix? Dip them in some delicious, creamy hummus. This Middle Eastern favorite contains the blood sugar-stabilizing duo of protein and fiber.
6. Chia Pudding
For being so tiny, chia seeds pack a punch with fiber, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and even some protein—an excellent combo for supporting stable blood sugar.
A tasty way to eat chia seeds is by using them to make a pudding. Simply pour a few tablespoons of chia seeds into ½ cup of unsweetened plant milk and let it thicken for roughly an hour. Tip: make it the night before so it will be ready when you want it.
Sprinkle the pudding with a few berries or sweeten with a few drops of stevia and enjoy!
7. Peanut Butter Celery Logs
This childhood classic is not only delicious and satisfying—it’s also kind to your blood sugar. Smear a tablespoon or two of peanut butter on a celery stick for a snack that’s rich in protein, fiber, and fat.
8. Avocado Boats
Everyone’s favorite creamy fruit is an excellent snack for diabetics. According to one meta-analysis, people with type 2 diabetes who consumed sources of monounsaturated fats (such as avocado) saw improvements in blood glucose management.[*]
One tasty way to consume avocado is to cut one in half, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and add a sprinkle of salt and hot pepper flakes. Quick, filling, and great for blood sugar.
Protein bars are a snack loved by many, but they can often be high in carbs and filled with unhealthy ingredients. Fortunately, there are a few protein bars out there that are safe for diabetics, one of which is IQBAR.
IQBAR is a keto and vegan protein bar made using simple, clean ingredients like nuts, flaxseeds, pea protein, cinnamon, coconut oil, and unsweetened chocolate.
These protein bars have 12 grams of plant-based protein, eight grams of fiber, and only three grams of net carbs and 180 calories per bar. Each bar also contains six brain-boosting nutrients, including lion’s mane, MCTs, omega-3s, flavonoids, vitamin E, and choline.
Keep some IQBARs in your cupboard, car, purse, or backpack so you’ll always have a healthy, diabetes-friendly snack within arm’s reach.
A Final Word on Snacks for Diabetics
The key to successful snacking as a diabetic is to choose foods that are high in protein, fiber, and fat, and lower in carbs. This combo will keep your hunger at bay and blood sugar steady.
Experiment with the snacks on this list to find your faves. Once you have your go-tos, you can feel confident reaching for snacks that are both enjoyable and health supporting.