Diabetes-friendly Snacks With 200 Calories or Less

Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes and Curb Hunger With These picks

baby carrots and hummus
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When it comes to managing type 2 diabetes, snacks can be an important part of an overall eating plan. If timed carefully, a between-meal nosh can help steady blood sugar levels, prevent them from dropping, and fend off food cravings. Healthy snacks also offer an opportunity to boost overall nutrition by providing vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and other important nutrients.

On the other hand, poorly chosen snacks—those high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar—can lead to weight gain, elevated blood pressure, and out-of-control blood glucose.

The first rule of thumb for eating between meals while managing diabetes is to limit calories to 200 or less, factoring them into your total daily calorie count. But there are other guidelines to follow as well in order to put together snacks that can help control blood sugar, boost health, and, just as important, taste delicious and leave you feeling satisfied.

Rules for Smart Snacking

Besides keeping calories in check, it's important to approach snacking in ways that won't negatively impact your blood sugar levels while also tiding you over until your next meal. This means being aware of when it's best to eat, how often to eat, and understanding how specific nutrients affect satiety and how to combine them.

Perfect Timing

The timing of meals is key to blood sugar control when you have diabetes; likewise, so is the timing of snacks. There are no one-size-fits-all rules for the number of snacks you should eat each day or when, however.

In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there's "conflicting research over whether eating more often throughout the day will help you to improve your blood glucose management... That’s because your body doesn’t have enough time to get all of the glucose from the meal out of your blood and into your cells before the next surge comes, and your blood glucose just keeps rising. Eating frequently also makes it more difficult to maintain your weight and can often lead to weight gain."

Therefore, the first place to start when scheduling snacks into your daily diet is to talk to your doctor or dietitian. He or she will be able to tell you if you should snack at certain times based on certain individual factors, including:

  • Your overall treatment plan
  • When and how much you exercise
  • Your lifestyle
  • Your low blood sugar pattern
  • Any medications you may be taking, including insulin

That said, often it's recommended that people with diabetes have a snack before bedtime to help keep blood sugar levels stable during the night. And because physical activity affects blood glucose, people who exercise often are advised to eat something before or after workouts for the same reason.

One aspect of snacking that does apply to most everyone is consistency. Eating both meals and snacks at the same times every day will help to make blood glucose levels predictable.

Anatomy of a Healthy Snack

It goes without saying, but still is worth repeating: The worst snacks for anyone, especially those with diabetes, are sweets, sugar-added beverages, and processed and refined baked goods like cookies and cake. These foods, while often considered "classic" snacks, actually are indulgences that can bring on spikes in blood glucose and contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and poor nutrition.

An ideal snack for diabetes management will combine whole foods in these proportions:

  • 200 calories or less
  • Between 15 (or less) grams and 30 grams carbohydrate
  • At least 3 grams fiber
  • Around 4 grams of protein (for satiety and to help keep blood sugar from rising too high)

To home in on the proportion of carbs that's best for you, test your blood sugar often to see how it responds to various amounts.

Sample Diabetes-friendly Snacks

These should give you an idea of the variety of delicious between-meal snacks that meet the criteria above and perhaps inspire you to create your own.

Greek Yogurt and Blueberries

If you're craving something creamy and sweet, plain yogurt pairs perfectly with fresh berries. Yogurt has been found in studies to have a positive effect on blood glucose thanks to both the protein and probiotics it contains. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins that research has shown to help regulate blood sugar levels. They're also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and weight loss, among other health benefits. A "parfait" made with 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt layered with 3/4 cup blueberries and, for crunch and added fiber, a tablespoon of chia seeds comes to 200 calories, 3 g fat, 22 g carbs, 7 g fiber, and 22 g protein.

Veggies and Hummus

Raw carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, celery, and other vegetables paired with hummus make for a delicious diabetes-friendly alternative to chips and dip. Vegetables are low in calories, virtually devoid of carbs, and high in fiber which slows digestion and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Hummus (and the chickpeas it's made from) also offers fiber, as well as a long list of vitamins and minerals. There's also emerging research to suggest that hummus may help with the regulation of glucose and insulin. A handful of sliced, raw vegetables and 2 tablespoons hummus adds up to 110 calories, 6 g fat, 14 g carbs, 5 g fiber, and 3.6 protein.

Cheesy Popcorn

When it's movie time, munching on air-popped popcorn sprinkled with grated parmesan is a smart alternative to traditional buttered popcorn. When popped without oil, popcorn is very low in calories (around 31 per cup) and also offers up some fiber (1 gram per cup). Three cups of popcorn tossed with a couple of tablespoons parmesan cheese clocks in at 135 calories, 4 g fat, 20 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, and 6 g protein.

Paper Bag Popcorn

You don't need a fancy gadget to pop popcorn without added oil. Simply pour enough popcorn into a paper lunch bag to cover the bottom in a single layer, fold the top of the bag down twice, place it folded-side up in the microwave, and hit the dedicate popcorn button.

Turkey "Wrap" With Avocado and Tomato

If you're in the mood for a sandwich, subbing crisp Romaine lettuce leaves for high-carb bread means you can have that sandwich and eat it too. Lean turkey breast provides protein to promote satiety, while a few slices of avocado offers fiber as well as monounsaturated fatty acids—a so-called "healthy" fat found in research to help improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A slice of juicy tomato brings flavor and nutrients to the table. A wrap made with two lettuce leaves, two ounces turkey breast, one-third of a small avocado, and one slice of tomato adds up to 150 calories, 8 g fat, 6 g carbs, 4 g fiber, and 13 g protein.

Apples and Almond Butter

An apple a day—especially paired with almond butter (or a handful of raw or roasted almonds)—may truly help keep the doctor away. Both apples and nuts offer generous amounts of fiber, while in studies eating almonds has improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. A small apple plus one tablespoon of almond butter makes for a snack that has 160 calories, 8 g fat, 20 g carbs, 5 g fiber, and 5 g protein.

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