Allison Herries, RDN, is a registered dietitian for a telehealth company. In her role, she provides nutrition education and counseling to help her clients set and reach their personal health goals.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when your body doesn't properly use insulin, a hormone that helps glucose enter your cells. Glucose is a type of sugar that comes from the food you eat and is needed for energy. But because the insulin doesn't get the glucose into the cell, the glucose builds up in your blood, causing elevated blood glucose (blood sugar).
Since glucose comes from the food you eat, it’s important for people with type 2 diabetes to be mindful of their diet—especially their carbohydrate intake. That’s because carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the body, which enters the blood and causes your blood sugar to rise (ADA).
It’s not just meal time when you should be thinking about what you’re eating, but also snack time. Opting for snacks that include protein, fiber, and healthy fats is key to controlling your blood sugar levels and keeping hunger at bay between meals (CDC, 2021).
When people think of snacks, they often think of high-sugar, carbohydrate-rich foods. However, there are many diabetes-friendly snacks that will satisfy your taste buds without spiking your blood sugar.
Here are healthy snacks for diabetes.
Unsweetened greek yogurt is an excellent snack for diabetes because it is high in protein and relatively low in carbohydrates.
One single-serve 5.5-ounce container of unsweetened, plain, nonfat Greek yogurt provides: (USDA, 2019)
Pairing yogurt with blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries can add natural sweetness to your yogurt. Plus, berries are naturally low in sugar and a good source of fiber. One-half cup of raw raspberries provides 4 grams of fiber, 7.3 grams of carbohydrates, and just 2.7 grams of sugar (USDA, 2019).
Fiber is an important part of any diet, especially for those with diabetes. Because our body cannot absorb or break it down, it does not cause a blood sugar spike like other carbohydrates. Fiber can also improve digestion, protect against heart disease, and aid in weight management (CDC, 2022).
Dipping celery sticks in nut butter, such as peanut butter, is another satisfying snack to keep you energized until your next meal. Celery sticks are naturally very low in calories and carbohydrates.
One cup of raw celery provides: (USDA, 2019)
Pairing celery sticks with one to two tablespoons of nut butter adds protein and healthy fats to your snack to curb hunger and promote blood sugar control.
One tablespoon of peanut butter provides: (USDA, 2019)
Hard-boiled eggs are a great high-protein snack for those with diabetes.
One large hard-boiled egg provides: (USDA, 2019)
Eggs are also filling and can help reduce your overall daily calorie intake, which may lead to weight loss (Keogh, 2020). If you’re overweight, a modest weight loss of 5-10% of your body weight can improve your blood sugar control and decrease the need for glucose-lowering medications (ADA, 2015)(CDC, 2022).
Hummus is a creamy spread made from mashed chickpeas. It contains complex carbohydrates, plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fat.
Two tablespoons of hummus provide: (USDA, 2019)
Hummus has a low glycemic index, which means its carbohydrates take the body longer to digest and break down, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar. This means it is less likely to cause blood sugar spikes (Reister, 2020).
Hummus pairs perfectly with raw vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers, for a nutrient-rich, healthy snack for diabetes.
As long as it’s not served with butter or salt, popcorn is considered a good whole-grain snack for diabetes (Asif, 2014).
One cup of air-popped, unsalted popcorn provides: (USDA, 2019)
Popcorn is low in calories, which can support a healthy weight and overall management of type 2 diabetes. It also contains fiber, which can help you feel full and consume fewer calories throughout the day, also helping with weight management (MedlinePlus, 2015).
Because the majority of calories in popcorn come from carbohydrates, be sure to measure your portions and limit yourself to three cups, which provides around 18.6 grams of carbohydrates.
Almonds are an easy, nutrient-dense, on-the-go snack. Research shows that almonds and other tree nuts can improve blood sugar control for people with type 2 diabetes. Almonds are low in carbohydrates and high in magnesium and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are thought to promote blood sugar control (Viguiliouk, 2014). They’re also a good source of other health-promoting nutrients, including fiber, protein, riboflavin, and vitamin E (Barreca, 2020).
One handful, or about 23 almonds, provides: (USDA, 2019)
Apple slices dipped in peanut butter is a quick and easy on-the-go snack for people with diabetes. Apples and other fruit are considered low glycemic index foods because of their fructose and fiber content. The natural sugar in apples can also satisfy a sweet tooth, curbing cravings (ADA).
One medium-sized, raw apple with the skin on provides: (USDA, 2019)
Paired with one tablespoon of peanut butter, you will have a diabetes-friendly snack that contains healthy fats, fiber, and protein to promote blood sugar control.
Tuna salad is a high-protein, refreshing snack that can be made in just a few minutes by combining a can of tuna and one to two tablespoons of mayonnaise. You can also add other ingredients, such as bell peppers and celery, if you'd like.
One 5-ounce can of tuna provides: (USDA, 2019)
Tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce triglyceride levels (a type of fat in the blood), protect against strokes, and keep your heart healthy.(MedlinePlus, 2021).
You can eat tuna salad by itself or enjoy it with whole-grain crackers. Swap the mayonnaise for mashed avocado for an extra nutritional boost.
Avocados are good for people with diabetes because they are low in carbohydrates yet high in fiber. They also provide a multitude of vitamins and minerals and are a good source of healthy fats.
One-half of an avocado provides: (USDA, 2019)
For a diabetes-friendly snack, mash half of an avocado and spread it on a piece of fresh, toasted whole-wheat bread. Sprinkle with sea salt and red pepper flakes.
You'll want to limit your intake of processed foods, refined grains, and added sugar when snacking. These foods tend to raise your blood sugar faster than whole, minimally processed foods.
Snacks to limit include: (NIDDK, 2016)
When you do have these snacks, you should do so less often and in smaller amounts (MedlinePlus).
Snacks can serve many purposes. For example, they can keep you full until your next meal, prevent your blood sugar from getting too low, and fuel a workout.
It used to be believed that all type 2 diabetes meal plans should include several daily snacks to stabilize blood sugar. However, that thinking is no longer the case, especially if you are already eating three well-balanced meals daily (ADA, 2020).
One good way to decide whether you need a snack is to listen to your internal hunger cues and closely monitor your blood sugar levels. If you are hungry and need something to hold you over until your next meal, consider choosing a snack low in carbohydrates, such as the ones mentioned above.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with high blood sugar, but low blood sugar is possible if you are taking insulin or certain medications. If your blood sugar is low, you should consume easy-to-digest foods with around 15 grams of carbohydrates, such as one-half cup of juice or regular soda, one tablespoon of honey, or glucose tablets. Check your blood sugar after 15 minutes. If it’s still low, have another 15-gram serving and check your blood after another 15 minutes. Once your blood sugar returns to normal, grab a well-balanced snack or meal to help keep your levels in range (ADA).
Lastly, your healthcare provider may recommend consuming a snack before bed or during exercise to prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low (MedlinePlus, 2022).
Snacks can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diabetes meal plan. In fact, snacking is sometimes necessary to maintain normal blood sugar levels. The best snacks for diabetes include protein, fiber, and healthy fats to help prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Heavily processed foods, refined grains, and food and beverages with added sugar should be limited because they typically are low in nutrients and can lead to blood sugar spikes and weight gain. If you feel like you still need a little more help, work with a healthcare provider like a registered dietitian or diabetes educator to find snack options for you. They can also help you figure out how much of the snack to have and when.


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