7 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep Blood Sugar in Check
Prevent the roller-coaster ride of a blood sugar spike and then crash with these easy, nutritious snack ideas.
Snacks sometimes get the short shrift: You’re oh-so hungry (maybe even hangry) and you seek out something edible, convenient, and quick—and then eat it without much thought. Instead, practice self-care by being more intentional about your food intake. Seek out snacks that include at least one super-satisfying nutrient like protein, fiber, or a good-for-you fat—which independently and collectively will help to keep your blood sugar from quickly spiking and later crashing. In an ideal world, that snack won’t be overly carbohydrate-heavy. (If you have diabetes, aim for a snack size that’s about 50 to 150 calories per serving and at or under 15 grams of carbohydrates.) The ultimate reward is warding off hunger until your next scheduled meal time.
Remember, too, that snacks are a great opportunity to squeeze in more healthy foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains, or important nutrients like healthy fats, fiber, protein, or disease-fighting phytochemicals—and that’s for everyone, whether or not you have diabetes. With this advice in mind, here are seven snacks to buy or prep and eat—all of which will help keep your blood sugar in check.
One of the highest protein nuts at 6 grams of plant protein per serving (about a quarter cup without the shells), pistachios are a great go-to snack, says Shannon A. Garcia, MDS, RD, LD of KISS in the Kitchen Blog. The combination of better-for-you fats, protein, and fiber can help you feel fuller longer, which is one of the reasons the American Diabetes Association calls nuts like pistachios a diabetes superfood. “I like Wonderful Pistachios because they have a no-shells option. If you need an extra boost, pair the roasted and salted version with a small serving of berries for a naturally sweet snack that has an extra hit of fiber,” says Garcia.
Good news for people who never tire of eating mango (as a snack or in recipes): Even though mango is higher in carbohydrates and lower in fiber compared to other tropical fruits like pineapple and papaya, research shows that eating mango actually doesn’t spike blood sugar as much as pineapple or papaya does—making mango a healthy snack choice for people with diabetes and those without. Mango also contains a good-for-you compound called mangiferin, which may have anti-diabetes properties as suggested by preliminary research. Enjoy mango straight up, or squeeze lemon juice over cubed mango and stir in a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper. The capsaicin in the cayenne pepper might also help temper your blood sugar rise.
3. Hard-Boiled Eggs
“Perfect for fighting the ‘crash,’ hard-boiled eggs deliver 6 grams of high-quality protein to help keep your blood sugar more stable and your energy consistent,” says Christopher R. Mohr, PhD, RD. The vibrant yolk is also packed with a slew of good-for-you nutrients like vitamins A, D, and E plus eye-healthy lutein and mood- and memory-helping choline. While you can certainly prepare your own hard-boiled eggs, pre-made and pre-peeled ones are incredibly convenient, nutrient dense, and always ready to eat. Plus, they’re available in a resealable pouch. “I like to drizzle my egg with a little bit of olive oil for even more staying power, and a pinch of salt and pepper,” Mohr suggests.
4. Protein Bars
Some off-the-shelf protein bars have an ideal balance of carbs, protein, and fat with just a few simple (nutrient-packed) ingredients like egg whites, nuts, and dates. RXBARs are Garcia's pick. “They take the guesswork out of figuring out a balanced snack and have yummy flavors like Coconut Chocolate, Maple Sea Salt, and many more,” Garcia says. “I often encourage my clients to keep one of these bars in their purse, gym bag, or work bag so they're always prepared with a balanced snack.”
5. Salmon Jerky
If this isn’t a pantry snack staple, it should be: It’s shelf-stable, portable, and packed with health benefits. The dried version of this cold-water fish still delivers ample omega-3s, which have anti-inflammatory properties (chronic inflammation can up your risk of developing diabetes). The heart-protective elements of omega-3 fats are also beneficial because if you have diabetes, your risk of heart disease jumps up.
Another "diabetes superfood" according to the American Diabetes Association, oranges (plus other citrus, such as grapefruits and lemons) deliver fiber, vitamin C, and flavonoids like hesperidin, naringin, and rutin. Research suggests that vitamin C and some of the flavonoids in citrus fruits act like antioxidants, mopping up harmful free radicals that are regularly produced in our bodies and also helping quell blood sugar spikes. Want more than just an orange? Pair orange and grapefruit segments with a few pitted Castelvetrano olives and your favorite salty cheese for a greens-free take on salad. The olives and cheese will help make the “salad” more filling and add delicious briny and salty elements, and the olives will give you heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
7. Kale Chips
Packed with fiber and brimming with vitamins, a serving of kale chips is fairly low in carbohydrates. (Dark leafy greens like kale are a food group the American Diabetes Association encourages people to eat more of.) You can make kale chips at home, or keep it ultra-simple and grab a bag or clamshell of kale chips from the snack aisle of your grocery store. If you choose a flavored variety, be sure to compare the carb count; the flavoring typically only adds a gram or two of carbohydrate.