Snacking when you have diabetes
Blood Sugar and Food
People with diabetes need to control their blood sugar. Insulin or diabetes medicines, as well as exercise, will lower their blood sugar.
To balance this, the food they eat will raise their blood sugar. The three major nutrients in food are carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
- Your body quickly turns carbohydrates into a sugar called glucose. This raises your blood sugar level. Carbohydrates are found in fruit, cereal, bread, pasta, and rice.
- Protein and fat can change your blood sugar too, but not as fast.
If you have diabetes, you need to know how to eat carbohydrate snacks during the day. This will help balance your blood sugar. This is especially important if you have type 1 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you should learn how to count the carbohydrates that you eat. This will help you plan what to eat. It will also keep your blood sugar under control.
See also: Counting carbohydrates
Your health care provider may tell you to eat a snack at certain times of the day, most often at bedtime. This can help keep your blood sugar from getting too low at night. Other times, you may have a snack before or during exercise for the same reason. Ask your health care provider about the snacks you can have.
You will also need to ask about what snacks to avoid. You also need to know how to control your diabetes when you do snack.
Snacks for a Purpose
Your health care provider can tell you if you should snack at certain times to keep from having low blood sugar.
This will be based on your:
- Diabetes treatment plan from your doctor or nurse
- Expected physical activity
Most often, your snacks will be easy to digest foods that have 15 - 45 grams of carbohydrates.
Snack foods that have 15 grams of carbohydrates are:
- ½ cup of canned fruit (without the juice or syrup)
- ½ banana
- 1 medium apple
- 1 cup melon balls
- 2 small cookies
- 10 potato chips (varies with size of chips)
- 6 jelly beans (varies with size of pieces)
Snacks for Enjoyment
Many people eat snacks.
Having diabetes does not mean that you must stop eating snacks. It does mean that you should know what a snack can do to your blood sugar. You also need to know what healthy snacks are. Ask you health care provider about what snacks you can eat. Also ask if you need to change your treatment (such as extra insulin shots) for snacks.
Snacks with no carbohydrates change your blood sugar the least. The healthiest snacks usually don’t have many calories.
Read food labels for carbohydrates and calories. You can also use carbohydrate counting books. Over time, it will get easier for you to tell, how many carbohydrates are in foods or snacks.
Some low carbohydrate snacks, such as nuts and seeds, are high in calories. Some low carbohydrate snacks are:
- Celery sticks
- Peanuts (not honey-coated or glazed)
- Sunflower seeds
American Diabetes Association. Nutrition recommendations and interventions for diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:S61-S78.
Carbohydrate counting. American Diabetes Association. (accessed October 30, 2010)
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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