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If you’ve ever been hangry or struck down by the 3 p.m. slump, you know the magic of a good snack — after a few bites, your blood sugar levels start evening out, lifting your mood and giving your energy back. Keeping those blood sugar levels steady is especially important for people with diabetes. Diabetes affects the body’s insulin response, and in turn, blood glucose levels, which is why when diabetes is poorly managed, it can impact things like energy and mood in the short-term, and lead to more serious conditions like heart and kidney disease down the line if you don’t get a handle on it. The good news is that smart snacking can be a great way to help keep things in check. “In order to keep blood glucose levels in a safe range, making healthy food choices is imperative,” says Sydney Spiewak, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Connecticut.
Here’s how to build an ideal snack is you’re diabetic:
- Aim for a snack between 150 and 200 calories. “This keeps you full enough until your next meal without leaving you feeling stuffed or spiking blood sugar,” says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, co-founder of Culina Health.
- Avoid products with lots of added sugar and refined carbohydrates that will spike blood sugar levels, such as crackers or bread made from white flour and sugary desserts or drinks.
- Make it a protein and fiber combo. This keeps you full and also supports slower digestion for steady blood sugar levels and energy.
Need some inspo? These are some of the best snacks for diabetics.
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All yogurt — Greek, traditional, Skyr, Quark — is a good source of protein. Opt for plain over flavored, since it’s usually lower in sugar. “I love adding a few nuts or a little nut butter to plain yogurt,” says Rissetto.
This Middle Eastern favorite contains the stabilizing duo of protein and fiber, plus it’s super yummy. Use veggie sticks or whole grain pita as your dippers.
Pair tuna salad with a few of your favorite veggies (be sure it’s a snack size, not a full salad!) for a tasty, balanced bite. If you like creamy tuna, try part yogurt, part mayo (or all yogurt!), or simply flavor with a little extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
5 Fruit and nut butter
Apple, pear or banana slices with a swipe of nut butter deliver the right mix of fiber, protein and vitamins to support balanced blood sugar.
6 Cottage cheese
Give cottage cheese a try! It’s high in protein and super creamy, making it a great snack, and it’s delicious in a bowl by itself or spread on whole grain cracker crisps and topped with sliced cucumbers, radishes or a few slices of smoked salmon.
7 Cannellini beans
Meet the creamier cousin of roasted chickpeas — roasted cannellini beans. Like all pulses, they’re a good source of protein and fiber, and when tossed with a little olive oil or cooking spray and your favorite herbs and spices, they crisp up into a savory snack.
Munch on a handful of nuts — almonds, pistachios, walnuts cashews — the type doesn’t matter because they all contain some amount of protein, fiber and healthy fats. In fact, one study found that people with type 2 diabetes who regularly consumed nuts had a lower risk of heart disease, a serious complication of diabetes.
DIY a diabetes-friendly crudite snack: “I like to add a little onion powder, dill and garlic powder to nonfat plain yogurt, then dip away,” says Rissetto.
Did you know: popcorn is a whole grain? We’ll snack to that! The key is to make sure it’s not drowning in toppings that will negate all the fiber-y goodness, such as loads of butter, salt, cheese or sugar. Make your own (so you can monitor how much salt and oil is used) or look for “light” brands that say they’re low in fat and sodium.
11 Celery logs
Here’s the grown up version of “ants on a log.” Fill celery stalks with Greek yogurt or a little low fat cream cheese, then get creative with the garnish — try sesame or poppy seeds, red chili flakes, a few capers, sliced olives or pickled hot peppers.
12 Lettuce wrap
Fill a few lettuce leaves with leftover chicken or quinoa, a slice of turkey, chickpeas, a few extra veggies and a drizzle of hot sauce or mustard.
No matter how you like to eat it, fiber- and protein-filled edamame is a smart diabetic snack. You can find frozen shelled and pre-shelled edamame, as well as crispy packaged edamame snacks.
14 Salmon salad
Need a break from tuna? Try canned salmon and prepare it the same way, then pile it on a few whole grain crackers or eat alone with veggies.
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