A Dietitian's Top Snacks for People With Diabetes
By Alexandra Frost
One dietitian shares her go-to suggestions for satisfying snacks that help keep blood sugars in check, from pre-packaged ideas to on-the-go options.
Everyone knows what it feels like to experience that sudden urge for a bite that simply can’t wait until the next meal. For people with diabetes, snack time can bring on feelings of uncertainty due to a lack of planning, irritation that not just any snack will do, and a bit of confusion at the many snack options available and which might be the healthiest and yet most satisfying. These are all valid snack concerns.
Snacking ranges from those afternoon snacks you may need to keep going til dinner to snacks that help you deal with not-so-routine moments, from road trips to longer work days.
Researchers have been investigating best practices in snacking for people with diabetes, with some interesting findings. For example, one study found that high-protein snacks can be both convenient and healthier for those with type 2 diabetes. Other research suggests snacking if you are going to have more than four hours between meals, though your particular needs might vary.
Finally, there’s the controversial bedtime snack, which researchers can’t seem to agree on – for now, they’ve concluded there’s no consistent relationship between snacking before bed and better blood sugar levels. The takeaway? Snacking is an individual and variable need that you have to personalize with your own diabetes care plan team.
For the snackers among us, we spoke to Crystal Scott (left), a certified registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching, who shared her top go-to snacks for people with diabetes.
Go-to snack #1: A whole grain roll-up base + cheese + beans
For many snackers, the sandwich has long reigned as the starting palace for a healthy snack. Most people with diabetes, however, know the impact that bread can have on blood sugar levels. Enter Scott’s sandwich go-to: the whole wheat tortilla.
She recommends adding ingredients like beans or lentils, in addition to cheese, for a balanced carb/protein/fiber combo that comes together quickly. If traditional whole grain tortillas bore you, Scott also recommends Joseph’s Lavash Bread, a tasty flax, oat bran, and whole wheat combo with just 6 net carbs per serving.
Go-to snack #2: A protein bar with smart macro ratios
For snacks on the go, nothing beats the convenience of a protein bar. But for people with diabetes, choosing the best one can be a bit daunting, especially with unwanted added ingredients that increase sugar and carb counts.
Scott’s favorite is Barebells plant-based protein bars, because they have a breakdown of approximately 20 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, and 7 grams fat per serving – an ideal ratio of macronutrients. She maintains they’re worth the slightly higher price tag compared to other protein bar options, adding: “They are soft, and don’t taste like your traditional protein bar, and don’t leave that aftertaste, either. My favorites are the cookie dough and the cookies and cream.”
Go-to snack #3: Cottage cheese and eggs
Scott knows this go-to snack may sound like a runny, gross mess, but she insists clients have been pleasantly surprised at the consistency of the final product in this combination.
“It creates a cheesy consistency, and gets rid of the texture and makes a cheesy, really delicious snack and is an additional source of protein,” she says. Add veggies like spinach or bell peppers and seasoning like cumin or Italian spices if you’re feeling creative, and consider pre-packaging mini omelets in grab-and-go containers.
Go-to snack #4: Pre-packaged jerky, fruit, nuts, seeds, and cheese combos
Pre-packaged versions of items like nuts, seeds, and cheese, like, “P3” Portable Protein Packs, are worth a second look for people with diabetes, Scott said. Many of these packs feature low-carb options such as ham, almonds, and cheddar, at 12 grams of protein and just 1 gram of sugar, and are easy to grab on the way out of the door.
Other good options to reach for in a pinch include half a cup of oats with nuts or nut butter and some fruit, wheat crackers with ham and cheese, or pickles.
Photo credit: Crystal Scott (Crystal Scott headshot); iStockPhoto (all others)