Planning for snacktime as a person living with diabetes can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! As someone living with type 1 diabetes, I’ve had my share of stressful situations surrounding snacktimes. You worry that you’ll “mess up your time in range” or that “you’ll have too much insulin on board and will go low during your yoga class after work” or that you’re not even HUNGRY — remember I’m speaking from experience here — but I’m here to tell you that you can eat your snacks and have an in-range blood sugar too! As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES), I’ve learned the tools professionally that help me keep my blood sugar in range and satisfy my snack cravings at the same time. Here are some of the methods I use when considering snacks, and some of my favorites!
The (Not-So) Secret Snack Formula
When it comes to planning snacks, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In fact, we can use a lot of the same tricks and tips that we use when planning our larger meals. Let’s take a look at some of the individual components and why they work.
In my humble registered dietitian’s opinion, fiber is one of the most underrated and underutilized nutrients when it comes to creating meals. Both insoluble and soluble fiber can be beneficial for people living with diabetes as they help to stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance (allowing your body to use insulin more efficiently), and promote satiety. Fiber also helps to lower your bad cholesterol, which can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and prevent related complications.
When it comes to snacks, fiber helps to prevent post-snack spikes and can even be effective in helping you get to your next meal by satisfying your hunger and keeping you fuller for longer. The daily recommendation for fiber is anywhere from 25 to 30 grams (g) total from food sources, but most people are only averaging about half of this daily.
Sources of fiber include complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and nuts. Try to stock your pantry with items and food combinations that provide you with 2.5 to 4.9 g of fiber per serving (with 5-plus g being an excellent source).
Proteins can be a welcome addition to any meal planning efforts as they help to balance out any carbohydrates that you have in the snack and can help to keep you fuller as well. Proteins can come in the form of animal products and plant-based varieties for those who are vegan or vegetarian. While protein doesn’t typically have as much impact on glucose levels as carbohydrates, it is important to note that it still can increase your levels or require a higher insulin dose than usual for some people with diabetes when consumed in high amounts.
Additional Things to Remember
While these items can make an extremely beneficial contribution to an in-range blood sugar response, it is important to note that all foods can fit into your eating regimen. When working with clients and planning my own meals, I like to focus on what I can add instead of taking things away. Everyone is different and will have different needs when it comes to their dietary and diabetes management. I highly recommend working with your provider and registered dietitian nutritionist if you are struggling to find meals and snacks that work for you.
My Favorite Snacks as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Diabetes Educator
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are so versatile: You can eat them on salads, as a dip, in soups, or as the main ingredient in burger and pasta alternatives. These plant-based protein sources can be enjoyed by most people as they are very affordable, with most cans costing under a dollar per serving.
When I have the time, I love to make blood-sugar-balancing snacks such as layered bean dip using store-bought guacamole, plain Greek yogurt, cheese, and canned refried beans or these air-fried bean poppers for when I’m craving that crunch.
On days when I’m busier, I’ll opt for items such as the Brami Lupini bean snacks, Bada Bean Bada Boom snacks from Beyond Better Foods, and the Free2B Crunchsters mung bean snacks. They have a variety of different flavors, are already portioned to make carb counting easy, and have a combination of protein and fiber to help keep my blood sugar stable and within range.
While we already know that nuts can be a source of fiber, they can also be a source of healthy fats that also slow down digestion and help to keep you fuller until your next meal. Nuts can be enjoyed alone or as an accompaniment to carbohydrates such as fruits, yogurt, and whole grains. When combined with these items, nuts help to slow down the digestion process of the carbohydrate to help reduce the chances of post-snack high blood sugars.
As someone who loves bold flavors, I often opt for choices like Karma’s Golden Turmeric or Cinnamon Wrapped Cashews. They keep the cashews’ natural skins, which add an additional crunch and DOUBLE the amount of fiber.
Frozen Fruit and Yogurt
During the warmer months (and whenever I’m missing the sunshine during the winter), I like to snack on frozen fruit and Greek yogurt. The frozen fruit not only adds a nice variation in texture but also lasts longer than fresh and is often frozen at peak ripeness for a nice natural sweetness. Fruits such as berries often have a lower impact on blood sugar levels due to their higher fiber content. Blackberries and blueberries also have antioxidants such as anthocyanins that help to further slow down the digestion of meals and may help to reduce insulin resistance.
The Greek yogurt has protein to add to the slowed-down digestion and can have fat from the dairy that can help to keep you fuller for longer as well! I typically add a dash of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and light honey drizzle to help with adding additional sweetness (yes, honey can be enjoyed by people living with diabetes). Adding frozen berries to the yogurt rapidly cools the yogurt and creates an icy texture that melts as you continue to eat it, giving you even more of that natural fruit flavor.