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What you can and should snack on if you have diabetes. Plus, we have tips to help you choose a healthy snack every time.
Some of us are just snackers, while others need a snack to help keep their blood sugar more stable. Whichever group you fall into, know this: the American Diabetes Association suggests choosing snacks that help you get more veggies, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats into your diet.
When you have diabetes, it’s also helpful to build a snack that delivers some protein and fiber—as both can help temper a big rise in your blood sugar (and we know that large swings in our blood sugar are unhealthy and can be damaging to our blood vessels and body).
With that in mind, we pulled together 10 snacks that deliver 15 or fewer grams of carbohydrate per serving—but also give you fiber or protein to help keep blood sugar in check.
Even though fruit is notoriously a big carb contributor, it still fits into a diabetes-friendly diet. The American Diabetes Association says fresh fruit is best—and a 2013 study published in BMJ found that women who ate 3 servings of blueberries a week cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Grape, pears, and apples were also protective. Be mindful of how much fruit you eat, though: a ½ cup fresh blueberries has around 11 grams carbohydrate and about 2 grams fiber. For more fruity snack ideas, see our list of low-carb fruits ranked from lowest to highest carbs.
2. Turkey Snack Sticks
The turkey version of a Slim Jim (or other red meat-based stick) is leaner (usually around 1 gram saturated fat), delivers a solid amount of protein for a snack, and has little to no carbohydrates. Ideally aim to choose a brand and flavor that doesn’t have added sugars to help you keep carbs in check. (We like the Vermont Smoke & Cure Turkey Sticks on Amazon, $26 for 24.)
3. Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps
These contain just 1 gram carbohydrate per serving, making them a great choice for those trying to manage their carb count, and also just one ingredient—cheese—for those who like to keep it simple. “Whisps are also perfect for travel or keeping in your office desk drawer so that you guarantee you have a decent snack. I also like that they don’t come with additives or unnecessary flavors,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, of MohrResults.com. Their crunchy nature might also make it so that you don’t need to pair your cheese with a cracker, which will save you some carbs. (Buy ’em: 5-pack of Whisps, Amazon, $20)
4. Low-fat cottage cheese
A half cup of low-fat cottage cheese delivers a mere 5 grams of carbohydrate, yet boasts 12 grams of protein. Plus, you get some calcium and potassium. If you want some good-for-you bacteria, too (because, remember, that can be helpful if you have type 2 diabetes), look for a brand that adds probiotics, sometimes labeled “cultured.” (Learn more about why cottage cheese makes a great healthy snack.)
5. Rhythm Foods Cauliflower Bites
These dried and crispy bites are a great healthier alternative to chips (and they’re available for $4 a bag on Amazon). An entire bag has only 9 or 10 grams of carbs, depending on the flavor, and 3 grams fiber. A bag also boasts 70 percent of your daily vitamin C. A study published in early 2019 found that people with diabetes who took 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily (about 11 times the daily recommendation) experienced lower blood sugar levels throughout the day, and also tempered blood sugar spikes after meals. The Sea Salt flavor is our favorite—buy a 6-serving bag on Amazon for $24
6. Wonderful Honey Roasted Pistachios
7. Siggi’s Skyr Yogurt with Almond Butter
Available in 3 flavors, all of which have only 14 grams carbohydrate in a single-serve container. Plus, it boasts 18 grams protein and 15 percent of your daily calcium target. There are two major diabetes benefits to this snack. One, a January 2019 study found that people who ate about 5 servings of yogurt a week significantly lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes. Second, calcium is an important nutrient for people with diabetes—it can help protect you against osteoporosis (for which your risk is raised if you have diabetes) and there’s also research that suggests calcium may improve insulin sensitivity.
8. Hard-Boiled Eggs
One egg has a little under 1 gram carbohydrate and only 70 calories. Many companies are also selling grab-and-go versions of this snack, like Vital Farms Hard Boiled Eggs Grab & Go 2-Pack (bonus: it comes with a packet of salt and pepper), to make snacking on eggs even more convenient. There’s another reason to consider eggs if you have diabetes: in a study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave people with well-controlled diabetes an omelet for breakfast one day and then oatmeal another day. Both days they ate the same lunch and dinner. On the day they ate the omelet, researchers found that participants had no blood sugar spike after breakfast whatsoever, and they also had more stable blood sugar over the next 24 hours.
two hard boiled eggs on black background, one in shell, one cut in half with pepper
9. Oh Snap! Pickling Co. Dilly Bites
One serving has 0 calories and 0 grams carbohydrate. Yes, you read that correctly. There are 320 milligrams sodium in a serving, though, and each bag delivers 3 servings. But you can’t beat a ZERO-carb snack. If you can’t find this particular brand or product, don’t sweat it: pickles in general are low-carb with dill versions having fewer carbs than “Bread & Butter” varieties. Get the variety pack, which includes six packs of Dilly Bites and six packs of Hottie Bites (spicy pickles) for $32 on Amazon.
Related: Learn more about if pickles are healthy and how they can fit into your diet.
10. Clio Vanilla Greek Yogurt Bar
Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you don’t crave the occasional sweet treat. Enter, Clio’s Greek yogurt bars, which are wrapped in chocolate and can be served straight out of the fridge or frozen from the freezer. A single bar has 140 calories, only 12 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams sugar, a gram of fiber, and 8 grams protein. Better yet, they contain two types of probiotics—and research suggests that probiotics may help people with type 2 diabetes improve their HbA1c and fasting insulin levels. Other flavors ring in slightly higher in carbs, so check the label.
11. Everything Bagel Pumpkin Seeds
Our pumpkin seeds with everything bagel seasoning are a perfect seasonal snack in a pinch. They are dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarians, making them friendly to almost any dietary preferences. They are also loaded with protein and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer. They clock in at nine grams of carbohydrates per serving, making them a delicious diabetes-friendly snack.
Tips for Choosing a Diabetes-Friendly Snack
With thousands of snack products out there, how do you tell the difference between the good-for-you options and the other guys?
Read The Ingredients
For any packaged food, it’s important to look at the ingredients list under the Nutrition Facts panel. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, and the first few ingredients make up the majority of the snack. The healthiest snacks contain whole foods—like nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—near the top of the ingredients list. If the starting ingredients are sugar (or syrup) or enriched flour, steer clear of that snack.
Opt For Protein
Protein helps regulate hunger and blood sugar levels, making it a vital part of a healthy snack. In fact, some research suggests that eating foods with protein, fiber, and complex carbs can help keep you full between meals. Choosing snacks with a few grams of protein can help you stay fuller, longer.
Avoid Too Much Added Sugar
Added sugar loves to hide in packaged snacks. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total daily added sugar intake to 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women, as higher amounts of added sugar have been linked to heart disease risk. Many snacks have a few grams of added sugar to help with taste, so look for ones that have less than 6 grams per serving.
Plan Out Your Portion Size
Although many snacks are sold in large bags, the suggested portion sizes are usually small. Sticking to the recommended portion size on the Nutrition Facts panel will help you keep calories, sugar, and sodium in check. If you have trouble sticking to the portion size, buy snacks that are pre-portioned into single servings, like individually wrapped bars or 100-calorie packs.