When you have diabetes, your doctor will tell you that you need to adjust your eating habits. If you're currently in the habit of eating before bed, how does this new dietary requirement affect your midnight snacks?
Are some foods better than others for diabetics to eat late at night? In this article, we'll answer these questions and more.
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Diabetes is a disease that impacts how your body processes blood sugar. When blood sugar increases in someone without diabetes, insulin is released into the bloodstream to tell the body to use or store the excess sugar.
In diabetes, this important process is significantly affected. Depending on the type of diabetes, the body will either not produce enough insulin, or not process the insulin efficiently.
Without insulin controlling blood sugar levels, people with diabetes must count on a careful diet to prevent blood sugar from reaching levels that are too high.
The complications of diabetes can affect almost every part of the body, including an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, and neurologic and vision issues. Eating healthily is the first step to getting diabetes under control.
The CDC warns that eating large meals late at night can make it harder to sleep. But that doesn't mean you can't have a light snack before bed.
People with diabetes are encouraged to check their blood sugar every day, and doing so shortly before bed can avoid some undesirable symptoms. If blood sugar levels are too low, a small snack can bring them into an adequate range.
What you choose to eat before going to sleep plays an important role in whether you improve or damage your health. Before bed, a light snack high in fiber and low in fat is the best option, especially if that snack is made up of foods that help the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Keep in mind that while snacks can help you avoid hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels) during sleep, they can also cause you to wake up in the morning with high glucose levels if your snack isn't healthy or you're not monitoring your blood sugar properly.
Some foods that are good options to eat before bedtime are:
Berries: A superstar diabetes food, berries are a great way to get vital vitamins and minerals without overdoing it on sugar. Like beans, they are also a great source of fiber.
Egg: An egg is high in protein and contains very little sugar, making it an excellent choice for a snack. Though eggs don't have the amount of fiber we're looking for, when combined with the whole-grain foods described below, they fit the bill nicely.
High-fiber, low-sugar cereal: Cereals come in many forms. While some are loaded with sugar, others have very little and pack a lot of fiber into their servings. By paying attention to nutrition labels, you can easily find a cereal that meets the requirements of an ideal bedtime snack.
Low-fat cheese: Cheese tastes great and contains a high amount of protein. Like eggs, it can be combined with whole-grain foods to create a complete snack.
Non-starchy vegetables: Whether you're grabbing a handful of baby carrots or making a nice salad, using non-starchy vegetables is an easy way to eat a quick snack without consuming too much sugar.
Nuts: At first glance, nuts don't fit the bill. They're high in fiber but also contain a lot of fat. Thankfully, the fat in nuts is mostly in the form of heart-healthy fats such as omega-6 and omega-3. In fact, these snacks are so healthy that they also made the diabetes superstar food list. However, be careful how many you eat, as they can also cause indigestion
Peanut butter: Although you'll need to watch out for the added sugar, small servings of peanut butter can be a tasty way to get the benefits that nuts provide.
Whole-grain toast: Whole grains, in general, are a great food choice. Also considered a diabetic superstar food, whole grains provide a lot of fiber with little added sugar. While bread is generally a bad choice for people with diabetes, toast made from whole-grain bread can satisfy the bread craving without raising blood levels too much.
Whole-wheat crackers: Another good source of whole grains is whole-wheat crackers. As always, pay attention to the nutritional labels as you don't want to buy something packed with extra sugar that will counteract the benefits of whole grains.
Yogurt: This snack favorite is like cereal in the sense that it comes in many forms. While there are yogurt products out there loaded with fat and extra sugar, there are also plenty of healthy sugar- and fat-free options.
It isn't ideal for anyone to eat a large meal right before bed, as you may find it harder to sleep due to indigestion and other issues. Large meals can also lead to higher blood sugar levels overnight. This is especially true if you aren't careful about the foods you consume before falling asleep.
As the goal is to avoid high blood sugar levels overnight, foods high in sugar should be avoided. But there are some other characteristics of certain foods that can be harmful to your sleep and your blood sugar levels while you sleep.
When planning your midnight snack, try to avoid:
Caffeine: It's clear why a stimulant like caffeine isn't a good thing to have before going to bed, but for people with diabetes there's another reason to avoid coffee and other caffeinated products before bed. For many people, caffeine can make blood sugar harder to control.
Alcohol: Like caffeine, alcohol has a double effect on diabetics. In addition to negatively affecting blood sugar levels, too much alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns and cause a heavy hangover.
Sleep is important for maintaining good health, not just for people with diabetes but for everyone. The tips below will help ensure that you're getting enough sleep once you turn in for the night.
Working out brings at least three benefits for patients with diabetes:
Combined with a proper diet, it can help you lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is one way to help control blood sugar.
It allows your body to respond better to insulin, which will help with blood sugar.
It helps tire you out for a better night's sleep.
Napping has the opposite effect to that of exercise. Rather than being tired at the end of the day and ready for a full night's sleep, you'll be left rejuvenated and have a harder time getting to sleep.
This is especially true if you nap for a long time or shortly before bed. The CDC recommends not napping after 3PM.
Habits are hard to form, but also hard to break. When you have a consistent daily routine, you're training your body to respond in the same way each day.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time will make it easier for your body to sleep during the allotted time. Following the same bedtime routine, such as showering, reading a book, or other activities, will also help to cement these patterns.
It's easy to see how the morning sun shining through your window can make it hard to stay asleep, but even less bright light can affect your sleep. Sleeping with the TV on may make it easier to fall asleep, but that extra light might reduce the quality of your sleep or wake you up in the middle of the night.
A diabetes diagnosis requires you to make several lifestyle changes to remain healthy. Adapting to your new diet limitations can be difficult. The good news is that you can still enjoy many of the same things you did before, just in reduced quantities.
The same is true of a bedtime eating ritual. It's ok to have a snack, just don't fill yourself up right before bed and remain alert to your blood sugar levels. As you learn how your blood sugar levels respond to food, making decisions about what to eat and when will get easier.