12 Healthy Snacks for Diabetics, According to Dietitians
It used to be that if you were taking diabetes medication, you had to be religious about snacking. Knowing the best healthy snacks for diabetics might help you avoid going too long without eating something. In these instances, you might develop hypoglycemia—otherwise known as low blood sugar. Today, many medications for type 2 diabetes skirt that problem. However, it's still wise to first check with your doctor about side effects like low blood sugar before you make any major changes to your eating routine.
Healthy snacking is still important for other reasons if you have diabetes. For example, to keep hunger at bay, so you won't overeat. When you become ravenous, it's easy to fall into the temptation of packaged snacks that are highly processed and typically high in carbohydrates. But if you always have go-to healthy snacks on hand, you'll avoid getting overly hungry, hangry, and fatigued. Supply your body with the right mix of nutrients, and you'll gain quality health as well as good blood sugar control.
Here are some of the best healthy snacks for diabetics. Read through, and you'll notice a common thread that will help you come up with more on your own.
Eggs are not just a breakfast food, they're also a filling, blood-sugar stabilizing snack that's low in calories. A large egg packs only about 77 calories. "Eggs have zero carbs so they will not increase blood glucose levels but have plenty of protein and a plethora of essential nutrients from vitamin A to zinc," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO of NY Nutrition Group, and member of our Medical Expert Board.
In fact, eggs are often called the perfect protein, containing all nine essential amino acids in its six grams of protein. Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, the founder of Real Nutrition NYC and member of our Medical Expert Board, likes hardboiled eggs as a snack because they are portable.
"Add seasoning like everything bagel seasoning [too your hard-boiled eggs]. Its sugar-free for lots of flavor, but no guilt," Shapiro says.
"Flavored with healthy spices, portable so you can always keep one on you, and filling, this is a great snack idea and will not raise blood sugar levels or require insulin," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Medical Expert Board. "There are so many varieties available now and many include less than 1 gram of sugar but up to 16 grams of protein."
Moskowitz also likes turkey jerky. "Animal protein, like turkey, beef, and fish, all have minimal to no impact on blood sugar," she says. "Generally, only foods that contain carbs and sugar will directly increase blood sugar."
A protein smoothie makes a great snack for diabetics, especially if it contains some fiber and a bit of fat. Whether whey or plant-based protein, combine protein powder with 1 cup of fruit, a tablespoon of nut butter for fat and chia seeds for fiber, suggests Medical Expert Board member and registered dietitian nutritionist Sydney Greene, MS, RDN.
"Consuming protein, fat and fiber, which is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, together slows down the absorption of carbohydrates that might be found in a food," she adds.
You don't need movie night to enjoy this snack. It makes total sense for diabetics because it's a whole grain packing dietary fiber and it's very low in calories, so you can munch on generous handfuls (as long as you don't drown it in melted butter). If you want a bit more flavor, sans butter, sprinkle on Old Bay Seasoning, celery salt, or powdered garlic on top.
If you can keep the number you eat to two or three, medjool dates can be a sweet and therapeutic snack for diabetics. A study by Pakistani researchers found that eating the dates can have a beneficial effect on blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes because they are a good source of dietary fiber. But they are high in natural sugars and calories, thus the recommendation to control portions.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention oatmeal as a filling, diabetes-friendly snack. It's not just for breakfast. A bowl of rolled oats or steel-cut oats delivers 4 grams of dietary fiber, including a soluble fiber beta-glucan that's ideal for supporting metabolic health, according to researchers reporting in the Journal of Functional Foods.
Homemade energy bites
Forget the store-bought energy bars that are loaded with added sugars and preservatives. Make your own.
"Energy bites made with whole oats, protein powder, a nut butter like peanut or almond butter, and honey or pureed medjool dates are a great sweet treat that can still stabilize blood sugar," says Goodson. "The fiber from the oats, and protein-fat combination from the powder and nut butter protein will help slow down digestion leaving you satisfied with something a little sweet and energized with a steady stream of glucose."
Whole grain crackers & cheese
"The key to satisfying hunger and keeping blood sugar steady is combining a high-fiber carbohydrate, and a protein at snack time," says Goodson. "This snack combo is great for diabetics because it contains fiber plus protein."
Both fiber and protein help slow down digestion, keeping you full longer and slowing how fast sugar hits the bloodstream.
"Carbohydrates eaten by themselves digest quickly, which can potentially cause a spike in blood sugar," Goodson says.
Be sure to choose crackers that are 100% whole grain, which typically contain more fiber.
Even a block of cheese on its own, works well as a diabetic-friendly snack, according to Moskovitz. "Eating a low glycemic diet doesn't mean low-flavor diet," she says. "Cheese will satisfy your tastebuds, provide a good source of protein and calcium, and easily hold you over until your next meal."
Almonds & raspberries
Snacking on almonds can support healthy blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, according to a recent study in Frontiers in Nutrition. Based on this research, almonds can significantly decreasing hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels, a marker of glycated red blood cells, and total cholesterol and LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol in people with diabetes. The research also shows that eating almonds it can be considered a nutrition strategy for preventing the precursor to type 2 diabetes, prediabetes.
"Having diabetes greatly increases risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke," says Medical Expert Board member Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook. "But research suggests eating almonds can reduce the risk in people with type 2 diabetes."
One ounce of almonds—or about 23 nuts—makes a snack serving. Almonds are also an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese and riboflavin, and a good source of fiber, copper, and phosphorus.
Fruit and nuts are always a good snack combo. Have one cup of raspberries and ¼ cup of almonds, a pairing that's high in fiber, low in sugar, and balanced with healthy fats.
"This snack will stabilize blood sugar levels because the carbs will elevate it a bit, but the fat and fiber will slow the digestion, limiting blood sugar spikes and keeping you full at the same time," says Shapiro.
Greek yogurt & berries
Like berries and nuts, pairing berries with Greek yogurt delivers the perfect mix of protein, fiber, and fat. Plus, berries are packed with antioxidants.
"Blueberries, one of the most potent in the berry family, have many health benefits, such as promoting heart health, lowering blood pressure, and assisting with glucose processing," says Goodson.
Fresh vegetables & guacamole
Guacamole contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, making it a diabetes-friendly dip for low-carb vegetables like sliced bell peppers, cucumber, celery, and zucchini. Hummus, made from fiber- and protein-rich chickpeas, is another excellent crudité dip that'll quiet your belly grumbles.
Low-sodium protein, low-carb veggie, & cheese skewers
"Make turkey and mozzarella skewers for party appetizers or snacks," recommends Amidor.
Alternate low-sodium turkey breast, mozzarella pearls and low-carb veggies like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers onto 12 small skewers.
"The protein from the turkey and cheese helps keep you satisfied without spiking blood sugar since the cheese has only a few grams of carbs," she says. "The veggies are a nutritious, low-calorie add-in and with minimal carbs."
Enjoy three skewers and save the rest for another time.
As you can see, choosing the right snacks if you're a diabetic isn't difficult. Just remember this combination: protein, fat, fiber, and low sugar. If you look for one or more of those elements and keep portion size in mind, the possibilities are many.
Here are just a few more diabetes-friendly healthy snack combos:
- Apple slices smeared with almond butter
- Low-fat yogurt
- Cottage cheese and pears
- Grapes and a square of cheddar
- Sardines and whole wheat crackers
- Tuna or chicken salad on celery sticks or slice of whole grain bread
You take it from here.