Snack on This! The Ultimate Diabetes Snack Guide

Snacks for diabetics

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Hangry hobbits aren’t a thing. Why? Because they eat six times per day. Who doesn’t want “second breakfast” or dinner followed by supper?

Fortunately, many people with diabetes find that eating smaller meals 4–6 times per day, instead of the standard three large meals, works wonders for preventing blood sugar spikes.

But before you start planning for “elevenses,” afternoon tea, and an epic journey to Mordor, here’s a diabetes nutrition recap.

The rules of snacking (not just for those with diabetes!)

Priority number one is avoiding a carb overload or a sugar crash. A good rule of thumb is to keep snacks to around 200 calories or less, and make sure they’re:

  • high in fiber
  • high in protein
  • nutrient dense
  • sources of healthy fats
  • low in added sugars

If this sounds like a tall order, it’s not! Most whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, nuts, seeds, and many fruits boast one or more of these benefits.

Know what’s in your food and be sure to check your blood sugar levels before and after trying foods to know exactly how they affect you. Let the snacking commence!

10 high-protein snacks

High-protein foods contain essential amino acids that power your body and keep you functioning at your best. For people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, snacks with protein are ideal because they keep you full for hours, and keep your blood sugar stable.

The American Diabetes Association recommends a variety of high-quality plant and animal proteins, especially those low in carbohydrates and low in saturated fat. High-protein snack ideas include:

  • 1 large hard-boiled egg – 6 g
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese – 25 g
  • a handful of almonds, pecans, or other nuts – about 15 g
  • fruit with 2 tbsp nut butter – 8 g
  • 5 tbsp hummus and veggie sticks – about 5 g
  • 1 cup edamame – 17 g
  • 1 cup roasted chickpeas – 15 g
  • 1 large piece of beef jerky (no added sugar) – 7 g
  • 5 oz can of tuna – 10 g
  • 1 stick of part-skim string cheese – 7 g

How much protein do I need?

The DRI (dietary reference intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.

That’s about:

  • 56 grams per day for the average office-working male
  • 46 grams per day for the average office-working female

10 high-fiber snacks

Like protein, fiber keeps you full for longer and functioning at your best.

A high-fiber diet can actually help slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, keeping blood sugar in check and even reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Fiber also maintains bowel health, lowers cholesterol, and is even associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers. And the high-fiber snack options? Endless and delicious.

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal with a banana – 7 g
  • 1 cup air-popped popcorn – 1.2 g
  • a handful of blueberries – 3.6 g
  • 1 banana – 3.1 g
  • 1 cup chia pudding – 16 g
  • a small handful of almonds or pistachios – 4 g
  • 1 cup raw broccoli with 4 tbsp hummus – 6 g
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate (approximately half a bar) – 3 g
  • 1 cup mashed avocado on multi-seed crackers – 13 g
  • 1 cup homemade granola – 4 g

How much fiber do I need?

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends:

  • Females under 50 years of age: 21–25 grams per day
  • Males under 50 years of age: 30–38 grams per day

10 healthy fat snacks

Forget everything you used to hear about the benefits of low-fat foods.

Healthy fats are actually super good for your heart, and they keep you full for longer. The American Diabetes Association recommends a diet rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats to help manage your type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Here are some quick snacks with the approximate total fat content to satisfy your hunger spike:

  • half an avocado with everything seasoning – 15 g
  • 2 oz dark chocolate with 1 tbsp coconut butter – 26 g
  • 1 tbsp almond butter on celery sticks – 9 g
  • Greek yogurt parfait (no added sugar) – 10 g
  • a handful of greens with 1 tbsp olive oil – 14 g
  • ½ cup mixed nuts and 1 string cheese – 21 g
  • 3.5 oz olives – 11 g
  • 1 cup smoked salmon on multi-seed crackers – 7 g
  • 2 deviled eggs – 11 g
  • 6 oz smoothie made with full-fat coconut milk – 23 g

How much total fat do I need?

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 20%–35% of total calories from fat. That’s about:

  • 44–77 grams of fat per day on a 2,000 calorie diet

Bedtime snack solutions

Find yourself craving a little somethin’ somethin’ before bed? A high-protein, low-fat snack can stabilize blood sugar levels overnight.

Here are some options:

  • A handful of almonds. This superfood contains an ideal ratio of protein and fiber (with just a touch of healthy fat).
  • 1 Hard-boiled egg. Eggs are vitamin-rich and full of high-quality animal protein.
  • Low-fat cheese. Cheese, even when low in fat, is packed with protein.
  • Hummus and celery. Chickpeas contain fiber and protein to keep you full all night long.
  • Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a creamy snack with one of the highest protein counts per ounce out there. It’s also lower in sugar than other types of yogurt.
  • Apple and peanut butter. Satisfy a craving for sweetness without spiking your blood sugar. Peanut butter is low-glycemic and high in magnesium, so it’s ideal for slowing your body’s absorption of sugars.

Parting tips for snacking success

Don’t let food be an afterthought

Have healthy snacks on hand and prioritize eating enough and at regular intervals. Test your blood sugar before and after new foods and throughout the day to know what your body needs.

Do your best to avoid processed carbs

Carbs aren’t the enemy, but refined types like breads, pastas, and refined sugars wreak havoc on blood sugar levels. Look for healthy alternatives like Banza, which is pasta made from chickpeas that’s high in protein and fiber.

Favor plant protein

Not all protein is created equal — animal protein can contribute to insulin resistance. Research supports swapping animal proteins for plant-based options to aid diabetes prevention, and management.

A diet rich in plant protein may also reduce the need for prescribed medications.

Go whole and unprocessed

This will come as a shock to no one. Processed foods contain excess sodium, not-so-healthy fats, and other chemicals and additives.

This rule also applies to fruit. Juicing, canning, and drying fruit strips away nutritious fiber content while raising sugar content.

Love yourself and love your food

Having diabetes should never feel like a reason to punish yourself or love yourself less. Work with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the right number of calories, fats, carbs, and foods that work best for you.

Be mindful of your dietary choices, but don’t cross into obsessive counting territory (lest we forget Gollum?), which can burn anyone out and take the joy out of food.