How to Snack With Type 2 Diabetes

A Guide to Healthy Snacking

Snacking with type 2 Diabetes
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The definition of a snack is: "a small bit of food between meals." This begs the question — what constitutes a small bit of food? Typically, we say to limit snacks to 200 calories or less.The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that you make snacks "nutrient-rich, mini meals" that will not exceed your daily calorie budget. Snacking with type 2 diabetes can be especially tricky because not only are you managing calories for weight purposes, you also need to snack in a way that doesn't negatively impact blood sugars. Ideal snacking will depend on your lifestyle, blood sugar patterns, and medications. If you do need a snack, it's probably best to limit snacks to about 15-30g of carbohydrates and make sure that the snacks contain protein and fiber. The exact timing of snacks and amount of carbohydrates will vary from person to person.

How Do You Know If You Need a Snack?

  • Your Blood Sugar is Low: Are you feeling shaky, sweaty or disoriented between meals? This may mean that your blood sugar is too low. Certain medications can put you at increased risk of having a low blood sugar — and if you delay or skip a meal, or don't eat enough carbohydrate at a meal your blood sugar can drop. A low blood sugar is considered anything less than 70mg/dL (some people can have symptoms at higher levels). When you feel "funny" or symptomatic, you should test your blood sugar. If your blood sugar is low, you will want to treat it with 15g of fast-acting carbohydrate: 3-4 glucose tablets, 4oz of juice (1 small juice box), 8oz of skim milk, and then re-test to make sure it has increased. Repeat these steps if your blood sugar has not increased. The goal is to prevent low blood sugars as best as you can. If you are taking medications that may cause ​hypoglycemia such as insulin or sulfonylureas you may need to have a small snack between meals. ​​
  • You are Overeating At Dinner: A snack is meant to "tide" you over until the next meal. Incorporating a small snack in the afternoon can prevent overeating at night. For example — if you eat lunch at 12 pm and dinner isn't until 7 pm, chances are you need a snack around 4 pm. 

Snacks You Should Avoid

For filling effect and prevention of blood sugar spikes, avoid high carbohydrate, low-protein snacks — white crackers, cookies, pretzels, and chips. These types of foods will send blood soaring and may even cause more carbohydrate cravings later. They are also easy to overeat because they contain little protein and fiber. Aim to keep your snacks about 15g of carbohydrate, but no more than 30g. Usually, people with type 2 diabetes do best with lower carbohydrate snacks. Testing your blood sugar more frequently will help you to see how your body is responding and which snacks work best for you. Ideally, you want your snack to contain a minimum of 3g of fiber and about 4g of protein.

Examples of good snacks

  • 1 small apple (~4oz) with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter or sun butter.

~160 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 20 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 60mg sodium, 5 g protein

  • 1 whole pepper (orange, yellow, red, green) cut up with 2 tablespoons bean dip. 

~ 110 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 120 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 3.6 g protein 

  • 20 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons hummus or 2 tablespoons guacamole.

~ 140 calories, 6 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 21 carbohydrate, 4.5 g fiber, 120 mg sodium, 3 g protein 

  • 1 ½ cups edamame in shell, sprinkle with sea salt.

~188 calories, 5.6 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 17 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fiber, 250 mg sodium, 15 g protein 

  • 2 egg whites (hard boiled) with ¼ cup part skim ricotta cheese and diced red pepper top mixture on 1 slice of whole wheat bread (15g of carb per slice) 

~200 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 280 g sodium, 6 g fiber, 17 g protein

  • ½ cup frozen peaches (warm in microwave) mix with 6oz low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt + 2 teaspoon ground flaxseed meal.

~195 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fiber, 75 mg sodium, 17.5 protein 

Snack to Your Advantage

Adding a snack to your meal plan is a great way to add vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But, going to the vending machine for a snack is usually not advantageous. Sometimes all you need is a low carbohydrate snack to curb your hunger and regulate your blood sugars. Below you will find some nutritious snack options that are about 5 g of carbohydrate:

  • 1 cup air-popped popcorn
  • 12-15 roasted or raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese 
  • 1/4 of a small avocado
  • 1 low-fat string cheese 
  • 5 baby carrots with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
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  4. Navas-Carretero S, Abete I, Zulet MA, Martínez JA. Chronologically scheduled snacking with high-protein products within the habitual diet in type-2 diabetes patients leads to a fat mass loss: a longitudinal studyNutrition Journal. 2011;10(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-74