The importance of snacking when you have diabetes

Planning meals is fundamental for managing diabetes, but what about snacks?

Diabetes is a disease that makes it difficult for the body to turn food into energy. The most important factor when you have diabetes is that you need to control your blood sugar. You can self-manage your blood sugar to reduce the symptoms and improve your health through your food choices. That is why healthy eating is essential in the management of this disease.

Planning meals is fundamental for managing diabetes, but, what about snacks? Snacks also play a very important role in the daily life of a person with diabetes. Snacks are essential to keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible and to help prevent low blood sugar, hypoglycemia. When it comes to snacking, people often think of foods that are high in sugar or fats but you have plenty of other options. You just have to choose them wisely.

Your health care provider may tell you to eat a snack at certain times of the day, according to your blood sugar levels and your health status. It is important to ask your provider about the snacks you can have and what snacks to avoid. Nevertheless, the key to controlling your blood glucose (main sugar found in the blood and the body's main source of energy, also called blood sugar) and avoiding weight gain is portion control. Most often, your snacks will be easy to digest with foods that have 15 to 45 grams of carbohydrates.

Snack foods that have 15 grams of carbohydrates are:

  • ½ cup of canned fruit (without the juice or syrup)
  • ½ banana, 15 grapes, 1 small orange, 1 small peach or 1 medium apple
  • 8 animal crackers
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 3 cups popcorn (popped by hot air, or low-fat microwave)
  • 15 fat-free potato or tortilla chips
  • 2 rice cakes (4 inch diameter)
  • 1 cup non-fat fruit-flavored yogurt (sweetened with sugar substitute)

Some low carbohydrate snacks, such as nuts and seeds, are high in calories. Some low carbohydrate snacks are:

  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery sticks
  • Peanuts (not honey-coated or glazed)
  • Sunflower seeds

Don’t forget to count the carbohydrate into your overall meal plan if you use carbs counting! Avoid mindless snacking in front of the TV or computer or while reading or driving. Stock up on healthy options so you always have them around. Check this list with healthy snacks for diabetes according to the amount of carbohydrates.

Following the above tips are healthy and easy ways towards a balanced diet. If you would like to learn more about heathy lifestyles, visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s My Plate page. Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating. For more health and nutrition tips, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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