Snacks are often regarded as unhealthy, especially for those with a medical condition like diabetes. However, not all types of snacks are harmful. Some of them are good for keeping your blood sugar levels under control.
When choosing snacks for a type 2 diabetes diet, there are specific factors you should consider to ensure you get some nutritional value from the food.
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There’s an interesting relationship between type 2 diabetes and snacks. Most people with this condition are treated with medications that lower blood glucose, and some are treated with insulin. Both approaches put you at risk of low blood sugar in some situations.
Snacking in-between meals can keep your blood sugar levels in the target range. However, not all snacks are best suited for type 2 diabetes. Most snacks contain starchy carbohydrates that don’t bode well for your condition. It’s crucial then to speak first with your healthcare provider to get help in choosing the right snacks for you.
Below are two other things you should consider.
If you find yourself reaching for a snack when you’re bored, nervous, anxious, or emotional, try to recognize this behavior and change. The best way to combat this behavior is to stop reaching out for the snack and distract yourself with something else.
Overeating snacks at night might also affect diabetes management. One of the reasons it’s not recommended is that you don’t use many calories from the snacks while sleeping, facilitating hyperglycemia episodes.
If you’re hungry and need to eat an occasional snack at night, eat a piece of fruit or vegetable stick. These two contain nutrients such as minerals, fibers, and vitamins.
Specific type 2 diabetes medications, especially sulfonylureas, put you at risk of low blood sugar. Healthy snacks, therefore, are crucial to help balance your blood sugar level.
Your healthcare provider should advise you on the best snacks to eat based on their carbohydrate content and how those foods affect your blood sugar levels. They will also tell you which snacks to avoid, especially if those put you at risk of weight gain.
Before embarking on the specific snacks needed for type 2 diabetes, it’s crucial to highlight the nutritional requirement for this condition.
Here’s a breakdown of the nutrients required to manage type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes conversations revolve around the number of carbs you eat. However, protein has a role in type 2 diabetes management. Your protein needs depend on your age, sex, physical activity, and health.
A person with type 2 diabetes should eat the same amount of protein as the general public, meaning 15% to 20% of calories daily, or 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kg of your body weight every day.
The American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend a specific amount of protein for a person with type 2 diabetes. However, eating 15% to 20% of calories would be ideal. For instance, if you eat 2,000 calories daily, 300 to 400 calories (around 75 to 100 grams) should come from protein.
The best way to keep track of your calorie intake is by using a simple formula. First, divide your body weight (in lbs) by 2.2. That’s the minimum number of grams of protein recommended for daily intake. Then, multiply this figure by 1.5 to get the maximum number of proteins you should take daily.
Note that when carbohydrates are consumed with proteins and fats, the body takes longer to convert carbs into glucose. Snacks are best suited for this, but it’s hard to predict how effective large meals can be.
For instance, by eating pizza, you’ll get lots of carbs from the crust and proteins from the topping. Typically, your glucose level should go up, but combining proteins and carbohydrates keeps it in check. If you eat too much pizza, however, your glucose level may rise and put you at risk.
People with type 2 diabetes taking mealtime insulin should also consider the meal’s protein/carb proportion. Meals high in protein and low in carbs plus rapid-acting insulin injection can lower your blood glucose to less than recommended levels. That’s why it’s advisable to monitor your glucose to always be aware of your blood sugar levels.
Sodium doesn’t affect type 2 diabetes directly. Sodium consumption is related to its role in the incidence of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes.
Some risk factors for heart diseases are increased in people with diabetes, including blood pressure. The American Heart Association highlights that people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely¹ to die from heart disease.
Research has shown that restricting your sodium intake can lower your systolic blood pressure by 5.5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.6 mmHg. The American Diabetes Association recommends a sodium intake of 2,300 mg, amounting to about one teaspoon of table salt per day.
If you’re managing diabetes, the most crucial factor to keep in mind is the carb count in your food. Carbohydrates are the nutrients in food that are broken down into glucose. Therefore, eating snacks high in carbs can significantly increase your blood sugar levels.
Apart from that, check on the quantity and quality of the carbs in your snacks. Binging on carbs or having too many carbs at once can spike your blood sugar, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes complications.
Doctors emphasize checking on your snacks to avoid putting yourself at risk. At the same time, this doesn’t mean you should avoid eating carbs altogether. Instead, you need to maintain good carbs to maintain normal glucose levels.
Fiber is your good friend when managing your blood glucose and weight. Specifically, it can help you:
Control your glucose
Protect your heart
Keep you full and help in weight management
Fibers slow down the absorption of sugar, preventing a spike in your blood glucose. It also protects your heart by preventing the body from taking triglycerides, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
Finally, fiber slows digestion, making you feel full for an extended period. Therefore, it helps prevent cravings for unhealthy snacks.
The 2020-2025 dietary guidelines for Americans² recommends 22 to 35 grams of fiber per day for people with type 2 diabetes.
It’s also highly recommended to eat snacks with healthy fats, which refer to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are usually found in plant oils.
Dietary cholesterol raises your blood cholesterol levels and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Therefore, you should limit eating snacks high in cholesterol, that is, those derived from animal sources such as fish, meat, and eggs.
Here are seven healthy snacks for type 2 diabetes that you can consider.
The trail mix combines nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. You can mix lightly toasted almonds and walnuts with sunflower seeds or pumpkins. You should then mix this combination with chopped dried apricots or raisins. Keep the fruit serving to 1 or 2 tablespoons to avoid a blood sugar spike.
One ounce or 28 grams serving of the trail mix will provide about 4 grams of protein, making it a convenient snack to control your blood sugar. This snack also provides healthy fats and fibers from nuts and seeds.
A trail mix is high in calories. Therefore, limit your servings to three per day. A reasonable serving should be at least a handful.
Fat-free and sugar-free yogurt with berry topping is an excellent snack for a person with type 2 diabetes for various reasons.
Yogurt is rich in protein, which keeps your blood sugar under control. A very good example is Greek yogurt. Yogurt also contains probiotics, which improve the body’s metabolism and control your blood sugar.
Berries have antioxidant properties that help reduce inflammation and prevent damage to the pancreas cells. Therefore, your pancreas will remain healthy and maintain your insulin production.
Berries are also excellent sources of fiber. For instance, a cup or 148 grams of blueberries provides 4 grams of fiber, slowing down digestion and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Studies have shown that eating oatmeal for a few days can lower blood glucose levels to the normal range.
To take this in perspective, a half-cup of plain, unflavored cooked oatmeal contains 77 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of proteins, and 2 grams of fiber. When it comes to the best option, steel-cut or Irish oats are the best for people with diabetes.
Topping your oatmeal bowl with ¼ cup of berries such as raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries makes your snack a tasty treat and keeps your blood sugar levels stable at under 200 calories.
Bean salad contains cooked beans combined with chopped vegetables, such as pepper and onions, and dressed in vinaigrette.
Black beans are rich in protein and fiber, making them ideal for people with diabetes. In a study, 12 people who consumed black beans with a meal recorded 33% lower insulin levels five hours after eating than those who didn’t eat.
Hard-boiled eggs are the ideal snack for people with type 2 diabetes. They are rich in proteins, which are suitable for managing blood sugar.
Eggs also promote fullness, which is crucial in type 2 diabetes management. When you feel full, there’s a lower likelihood of overeating and putting yourself at risk of heart disease or being overweight.
Hummus contains creamy chickpeas spread that tastes great when paired with raw veggies. Both are good sources of fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Hummus also provides protein. A tablespoon of this combination is an excellent choice to lower your blood sugar levels.
Snacking on avocados can help you manage your blood sugar levels. They have high fiber content and monounsaturated fatty acids, making them diabetic-friendly food. These two factors help them avoid the possibility of a glucose spike after a meal.
The goal of type 2 diabetes meals is to reduce the amount of carb intake. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid the following foods to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.
These are the worst choices you can make if you have diabetes since these beverages are very high in carbs.
For instance, a 12-ounce or 354 ml of cola contains 38.5 grams of carbs, which can spike your blood sugar levels instantly. Instead, consume club soda, water, or unsweetened ice tea.
Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids to stabilize them. They are available in creamers, spreads, margarine, and frozen dinner. They are also available in baked goods to extend their shelf life.
Even though trans fats don’t raise glucose levels, they can increase insulin resistance, gut inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction.
These are high-carb processed foods. It has been demonstrated that bread and other refined foods significantly increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Yogurt is an ideal snack for people with type 2 diabetes. However, fruit-flavored varieties have a different story.
Flavored yogurts contain high carbs from their added fruits. A 245-gram serving of fruit-flavored yogurt contains up to 31 grams of sugar. This contains a high level of glucose.
Many commercial kinds of cereal are highly processed and have more carbs than you could imagine. For instance, ⅓ cup of granola has 44 grams of carbs, while grape nuts contain 47 grams. This can spike your blood sugar levels instantly. In addition, they also provide little protein.
Snacks such as cookies, pretzels, chips, crackers, and doughnuts have unhealthy trans fats. Trans fats increase bad cholesterol and raise your risk of heart disease.
Snacking when you have type 2 diabetes is possible and not at all difficult to do. Your rule of thumb when selecting snacks is to find foods rich in protein and fiber and low in carbs.
Don’t forget to consult your healthcare provider to create a healthy snack plan that will help your medical condition.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes | Heart Attack and Stroke Symptoms
Dietary Guidelines for Americans | Dietary Guidelines.gov
Hypertension in diabetes (2021)
Nutrition therapy for adults with diabetes or prediabetes: A consensus report | American Diabetes Association
Carbohydrates and blood sugar | Harvard T.H. Chan
Metabolic effects of monounsaturated fatty acid–enriched diets compared With carbohydrate or polyunsaturated fatty acid–enriched diets in patients with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2016)
Black beans, fiber, and antioxidant capacity pilot study: Examination of whole foods vs. functional components on postprandial metabolic, oxidative stress, and inflammation in adults with metabolic syndrome (2015)
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