8 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 snacks that include at least one super-satisfying nutrient like protein, fiber, or a good-for-you fat—and you’ll be that much more likely to ward off hunger until your next meal. But also those nutrients independently and collectively will help to keep your blood sugar from quickly spiking and later crashing. In an ideal world, that snack also won’t be overly carbohydrate-heavy. If you have diabetes, a diabetes-friendly snack is about 50 to 150 calories per serving and at or under 15 grams of carbohydrates.
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, or are mindful about your blood sugar level.
Healthy Snacks That Won’t Raise Blood Sugar
With this advice in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of eight snacks for diabetes to buy or make yourself.
Here us out, you don't just have to eat it plain (though, good for you, if you enjoy that!). A cup of raw broccoli clocks in at just 6 grams of carbohydrate (and 2 grams of fiber, which leaves you with just 4 grams net carbs if you’re counting net carbs). That low carb count automatically makes broccoli diabetes-friendly. Then there’s also preliminary research that shows a compound in broccoli may improve (both short- and long-term) blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. The compound, called sulforaphane, is one that also has other health benefits like anti-cancer properties, mopping up harmful free radicals in your body, and promoting liver health. So, dunk broccoli to this healthy dip recipe, or snack on a bag of those Crispy Broccoli Florets from Trader Joe’s.
2. Cheese Crisps
"Sometimes it’s a challenge to find diabetes-friendly snacks that are portable,” says Christopher R. Mohr, RD. Enter cheese crisps, which are high in protein, low in carbs, and as portable as any other chip. “Cheese crisps fit the bill. And Whisps Snacks are a company that’s always on hand in our house, particularly during travel," he says. "One serving delivers 10 grams of protein and only 2 grams of carbs. Outside of just the protein and carbs, they're an excellent source of calcium, are gluten free and vegetarian friendly (if those matter to you)," continues Mohr. You can also DIY your cheese crisps at home—it’s a simple two-ingredient snack you can make in a big batch.
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 Mohr. 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 (see, so many health benefits!). 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. Kale Chips
Packed with fiber and brimming with vitamins, a serving of kale chips is fairly low in carbohydrates, and so a great snack for diabetes. Dark leafy greens like kale are also 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.
Good news for people who never tire of eating mango (as a snack or in recipes): Even though mango is higher in carbohydrates 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—perhaps because mango is lower on the glycemic index than pineapple and papaya. As a result, though, mango is a healthy snack for people with diabetes and those without. Another health benefit to mango is that it contains a good-for-you compound called mangiferin, which may have anti-diabetes properties (per 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.
Another "diabetes superfood" according to the American Diabetes Association, oranges (along with other citrus, such as grapefruits and lemons) deliver fiber, vitamin C, and flavonoids like hesperidin, naringin, and rutin. Research suggests that the health benefits of oranges comes from the vitamin C and some of the flavonoids, which 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.
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, RD 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. There are also quite a few other health benefits of pistachios: they’re good for your heart, and pistachios offer healthy doses of fiber and potassium (a mineral that’s good for your blood pressure). “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.
8. 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.”