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Diabetes and Snacking: Keeping It Healthy
Snacking is an important part of any meal plan for people with diabetes. Read on for healthy snacking tips and suggestions.

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Diabetes and Snacking: Keeping It Healthy

If you have diabetes, you likely already know that snacking is an important part of your meal plan. Having regular and consistent snacks and meals can help keep your blood sugar levels even.

In addition, smart snacking can help:

  • Curb hunger between meals.
  • Provide opportunities for nutritious foods other than from your three main meals.
  • Provide a source of glucose before and after exercise.
  • Prevent nocturnal hypoglycemia in some people.

What to choose
Snacks don't have to be full of fat or sugar. Healthy snacks should include at least one of the following major nutrients:

  • Wholesome sources of carbohydrates that are high in fiber. These foods, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, take longer to digest than processed carbs. This helps keep your blood sugars on an even keel. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, beans or legumes and whole grains such as oats, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat crackers and breads.
  • Lean proteins. These foods provide a feeling of fullness and are good for keeping blood sugars from dipping between meals. Good sources include turkey and chicken (without the skin), lean beef and pork, fish, tofu and beans. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, including cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and milk are also good sources of lean proteins. 
  • Healthy fats. In small amounts, these lend a feeling of fullness and provide much-needed omega 3 and 9 fats. These fats are important for good heart health. Good sources include avocado, nuts and seeds (which also have protein), olives, and olive and canola oil. Be sure to limit how many saturated fats you eat and avoid trans fats.

Snack ideas
Try to combine a small amount of carbohydrates with either a lean protein choice or a healthy fat. The actual amounts you should have may vary, depending on your overall calorie and carb needs. Work with your diabetes care team to determine what you need.

Here are some ideas to get you started with healthy snacking:

  • 1/2 cup of fat-free plain and 1/2 cup of fat-free fruited yogurt, topped with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed or sunflower seeds
  • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread spread with mustard and topped with 2 ounces of turkey breast, sliced tomato and a few spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup of high-fiber (at least 4 grams per serving), low-sugar breakfast cereal with 1 cup of fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese mixed with 1 cup of berries
  • 1/2 cup of pinto beans mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons of salsa and 1 tablespoon of low-fat shredded cheese
  • 2 ounces of turkey breast wrapped in a large Romaine lettuce leaf spread with 1/2 tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 medium banana spread with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
  • 1 large brown rice cake spread with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
  • One small sweet potato with a dollop of plain yogurt and cinnamon
  • 1 cup of low-sodium split pea, lentil or other bean soup
  • One hard-boiled egg or 1 ounce of reduced-fat cheese and a couple of whole-grain crackers
  • 1/2 avocado, pit removed, sprinkled with lemon and a dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup of nuts and 1 piece of fruit
  • 1 cup of raw veggies and 1/4 cup of hummus for dipping
  • 1 piece of fruit and a small glass of fat-free milk

Important tips to remember

  • Watch those portion sizes. Snacks should not be as large as meals. If you're not sure how much you should be eating, get out your measuring cups or spoons and use them.
  • Don't forget to count the carbs into your overall meal plan.
  • Plan your snacks. Don't snack mindlessly while you are watching TV, reading or driving.
  • Stock up on healthy options so you always have good choices right in your kitchen. On-the-go? Carry a snack with you to avoid unhealthy temptations.
  • Don't graze. Constantly taking in carbohydrates and extra calories can result in consistently high blood sugar and possible weight gain.
By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
Created on 04/04/2011
Updated on 03/25/2013
  • Joslin Diabetes Center. The best kinds of low-carb snacks.
  • American Diabetes Association. Snacking smart with diabetes.
  • American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes — 2013.
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