Editor’s Note: Talk to your diabetes management team before starting a new diet or trying a food you don’t usually eat. For some people with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to eat meals at the same time every day, so be sure to check with your provider to make sure snacking is included in your nutrition plan.
Snacks seem to make even a good day a little bit better. They can help put a little pep in your step and fuel you as your day moves along. And yet for those who may be more mindful about their eating habits, like people with type 2 diabetes, the search for snacks may feel challenging. Think about it: if you’re counting carbs or being cautious when it comes to sugar and sodium, vending machines and convenience stores may seem to carry more temptations than healthy snacks for people with type 2 diabetes—unless you know what to look for.
Choosing Healthy Snacks for People With Type 2 Diabetes
For people with type 2 diabetes, your dietary decisions are important because healthier eating habits are part of diabetes management. And healthy eating doesn’t just apply to your meals, but for snack time too. Snacks are a great way to sneak more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats into your diet while working to keep your blood glucose within its target range.
But before diving into just any snack, it’s important to understand that carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and fat can all have an effect on blood glucose levels. Carbs that are high on the glycemic index, like white bread, may have a larger impact on raising your blood sugar, and you may get hungry again soon after eating them. However, carbs that are lower on the glycemic index, like beans, may take more time to digest, may have less of an impact on your blood sugar, and may help you to stay full longer.
As a general rule, healthier snack options include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats, like turkey, and plant-based proteins, like nuts
- Foods with less added sugar, or foods that have not had sugars and syrups added during preparation or processing or at the table
- Fewer processed foods, or foods that have been changed or prepared from their original state
And, in general, you should try to avoid:
- Fried foods, which are high in saturated fat and trans fat
- Food items high in sodium, like pizza, cold cuts, and cured meat
- Foods that are high in sugar, including baked goods, candy, and ice cream
- Drinks with added sugar, including soda, juice, and sports drinks
15 Healthy Snack Ideas for People With Type 2 Diabetes
It may take a little bit more preparation and planning, but it’s possible to find many different combinations of healthy snacks that can satisfy your hunger and possibly avoid spikes and dips in your blood sugar. Here are 15 snack ideas for people with type 2 diabetes:
- 1 frozen, sugar-free popsicle
- 3 celery sticks with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- 5 cherry tomatoes or 1 cup of cucumber slices, plus 1 tablespoon of ranch dressing
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- 10 goldfish crackers
- 1 stick of string cheese
- 1 cheese quesadilla (using a 6-inch corn tortilla) with ¼ cup of cheese and salsa
- 1 cup of soup that’s not creamy, such as tomato or vegetable
- 2 rice cakes with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- A half sandwich (like peanut butter, using 1 slice of whole wheat bread and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter; or turkey, using 1 slice of whole wheat bread, 2 slices of turkey, and mustard)
- Avocado toast, using half an English muffin and 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado
- An ounce (a small handful) of unsalted nuts
- ½ cup of plain low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt topped with a handful of blueberries and a little cinnamon
- 1 small apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter
- ½ cup of baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of cottage cheese or hummus
Shopping and Preparation Tips for Snacking
Before you even set foot in the store, there are some steps you can take to prepare. Keep in mind that when shopping for snacks, it’s usually a good idea to eat a healthy meal—or one of the above snacks—before you go to the store so that you don’t make choices based on your hunger in the moment. While you’re eating that snack, make a shopping list and spend some time looking for some new snack ideas, like the list above, to mix up your routine. Some people think that eating healthy can feel boring, but by having an open mind and trying new things every week, you can bring some excitement into your diet.
When you arrive at the store, your list can help keep you on task. It’ll give you something to focus on, and it may help keep unhealthy temptations out of your basket. As you roam around, try to focus your time on the outer perimeter of the store, which is usually stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy items, like low-fat yogurt, that are ideal for snacking.
Once shopping is complete and you head home, you may want to cut up your fruits and veggies to prepare some snack packs ahead of time. That way, they’ll be easy to grab right as you start to feel hungry outside of regular meal times.
Eating well is an important tool to help manage diabetes. When you grab a snack that tastes good and that’s good for you, you may be able to satisfy your cravings, help regulate your blood sugar levels, and maybe even improve your day, one bite at a time.