One of the best-known strategies to help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels stable is for them to eat small meals throughout the day. These meals are generally spaced out every two to three hours, and they’re small—more like snacks than full meals. This helps diabetics to control the amount of carbs they get at one time, so their blood sugar levels don’t spike.
However, it’s also important to choose the RIGHT snack foods. Munching on chips or downing a fun-size piece of chocolate could send blood sugar skyrocketing, even when they may have less calories than some other foods. The best snacks for diabetics have low glycemic indexes, decent protein levels, fiber, and other supportive nutrients.
If you’re interested in learning more, read through this list of the 15 best snack foods for diabetics that you can add to your diabetic-friendly diet. At the end of the list, I’ll share three winning combinations to try.
P.S. You can also find diabetic friendly versions of some of your favorite treats, like ice cream. However, it’s still important to watch your portion sizes and not rely on these too frequently.
Snack Foods For Diabetics
Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats, and both of these play a role in how diabetics feel. High-fiber foods help keep diabetics full, so they’re not snacking when they shouldn’t be. Fiber could also help control blood sugar levels.
Pumpkin seeds also have a nice mix of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids could help reduce symptoms like neuropathy, and they could improve insulin sensitivity, too.
The mineral zinc is known to help improve blood sugar levels, and pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc. A one-ounce serving of shelled pumpkin seeds provides 20% of the daily recommendation for zinc. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of magnesium, iron, and several B vitamins.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics should limit their fat intake to 20-35% of the total calories each day. While eating a lot of cheese could bump them over that calorie target, having a piece of cheese as an occasional snack may be a good idea.
An ounce of reduced-fat cheddar cheese contains 90 calories, with no carbs and 16% of the daily recommendation for protein. Some sources suggest that eating a high-protein diet could help diabetics better manage their blood sugar levels, and the fat in cheese could help them feel satisfied so they don’t overeat.
An ounce-sized serving of cheddar cheese also provides 17% of the daily recommendation for calcium, 11% for zinc, and 18% for selenium, which could positively impact blood sugar levels.
Berries are low-calorie, high-fiber, nutrient-dense foods that can support diabetics in a variety of ways. The low-calorie profile makes them a great treat for diabetics who want something sweet that won’t set their blood sugar levels rising. A cup of strawberries provides only 49-54 calories, with around 4 grams of carbohydrates and 11% of the daily recommendation for fiber.
The nutrient profile varies from berry to berry, and they all offer something unique that could benefit diabetics. For example, a cup of strawberries contains 99% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C, while blueberries could positively impact abdominal fat. Raspberries have been shown to decrease insulin levels and blood glucose levels.
Boiled eggs make a great snack for diabetics because they’re high in protein and carb-free. One boiled egg provides 34% of the daily recommendation for protein. It’s also a good source of vitamin D and calcium, which is a great combination that has been associated with a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Eggs are rich in vitamin A, which could help support eyesight in diabetics. They’re also a good source of iron, selenium, zinc, and several B vitamins that help the body function well.
Avocados are rich in healthy fats, including oleic acid, which is the same healthy fat found in olive oil. This healthy fat influences insulin secretion and improves insulin sensitivity, and it helps reduce inflammation while boosting the immune system. It’s also been shown to help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
One avocado also provides 36% of the daily recommendation for fiber, along with 15% for potassium. This could be important for people with pre-diabetes because low potassium levels have been associated with developing diabetes.
Avocados are rich in several other supportive vitamins and minerals, too. These range from a host of B vitamins to zinc, vitamin C, magnesium, and folate.
Nuts are rich in protein and fats while being generally low in carbs. Like berries, the nutrient profile varies between the types of nuts, and some are more supportive than others.
Brazil nuts are one of the foods that can provide an enormous boost of selenium, so much so that it’s recommended to limit your intake to 6 Brazil nuts per day. Cashews can positively impact blood pressure, and walnuts could help control blood sugar levels. Almonds limit the increase in blood sugar levels and insulin levels following a meal.
An ounce of mixed nuts, including peanuts, provides 8% of the daily recommendation for fiber and 11% for protein, with just 6 grams of carbohydrates. It’s also a decent source of other vitamins and minerals that could support healthy cell functioning and overall body health.
Dark chocolate is a great dessert for diabetics because it’s packed with compounds that could improve insulin sensitivity, and this could have a positive impact on blood sugar levels. It’s important to get very dark chocolate, though, in order to prevent blood sugar spikes that come from added sugar. Good dark chocolate contains 70% or more cocoa.
An ounce of dark chocolate also provides 11% of the daily recommendation for fiber, 19% for iron, 16% for magnesium, and 24% for manganese. Manganese is of particular interest because people with diabetes often have low levels of manganese in their bodies. Some animal research indicates that supplementing with manganese could positively people with diabetes by improving glucose metabolism and insulin secretion.
Celery is a low-carb food with just 14 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates in a one-cup serving. This serving size also provides around 6% of the daily recommendation for fiber. It’s also a decent source of several B vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Where celery really shines, though, is in a set of compounds that are strongly anti-inflammatory. This includes an anti-inflammatory substance called apigenin, as well as some flavones which could help manage blood sugar levels. Celery also has a low glycemic index, so eating it won’t cause blood sugar levels to spike.
Peanut butter, which is made from crushed peanuts, is a favorite snack stand-by for many diabetics, and for good reason. It can provide a protein boost, and peanuts have been shown to help control blood sugar levels in both healthy people and people with type 2 diabetes.
It’s important to choose a peanut butter that is made from peanuts and salt only. Some peanut butter also contains sugar, which could cause blood sugar levels to spike. Pure peanut butter with no sugar added makes a great topping or dipping sauce for other healthy snacks such as celery or apple slices.
As with peanut butter, the type of yogurt you choose for a diabetic snack makes a difference. Many yogurt varieties are loaded with sugars that could spike blood sugar levels.
However, low-fat, plain Greek yogurt is a great choice. A seven-ounce container provides 40% of the daily recommendation for protein, with just 3% of the daily recommendation for total carbohydrates. Yogurt is also a good source of calcium, vitamin A, several B vitamins, and zinc.
Tuna and other fatty fish, such as kippered salmon, may make delicious, nutritious snacks for diabetics. These fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, as well as significant levels of protein. Because these are carb-free foods, they don’t boost blood sugar levels when you eat them.
Both tuna and kippered salmon can be eaten with whole-grain crackers and vegetable slices for healthy, balanced mini-meals. One suggestion for diabetics is to mix tuna salad using low-fat Greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise.
Whole Wheat Crackers
Whole wheat crackers are high in carbs, but they’re also rich in fiber, which could keep blood sugar from spiking too high. The serving size of whole wheat crackers provides 19 grams of carbs, with 10% of the daily recommendation for fiber and 6% for protein.
Whole wheat crackers also provide a nice amount of several B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, cobalamin, and folate. These B vitamins are particularly important for helping metabolize sugars into energy and helping cells function properly. Besides these nutrients, whole wheat crackers are surprisingly rich in manganese. One serving provides 26% of the daily recommendation for manganese.
Hummus is a delicious dip for fruits, vegetables, and crackers. It’s made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. A tablespoon of plain hummus provides just 3 grams of carbohydrates, with 3% of the daily recommendation for fiber and 2% for protein.
Hummus provides a wide variety of nutrients, including several B vitamins, vitamins C, E, and K, and minerals such as selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
Beans and legumes are generally recommended for diabetics because of their high fiber and protein contents. Diabetics who eat hummus and other legumes could have better control over their blood sugars.
Bananas are high on the glycemic index, but they have several properties that could make them great snacks for diabetics. Because of their rich carbohydrate content, they could help provide an energy boost if blood sugar levels drop too quickly.
Bananas also contain a type of soluble fiber called inulin, which helps promote gut health. It’s also associated with better control of blood sugar levels. The greener the banana is, the more inulin it contains. Inulin is also found in garlic and onions.
Besides the interesting carbohydrate profile, bananas provide potassium, iron, calcium, pyridoxine, folate, vitamin C, and other supportive vitamins and minerals.
Like bananas, apple slices can be a quick source of energy when blood sugar levels drop. However, they also score relatively low on the glycemic index, so they won’t cause a dramatic spike in insulin levels.
One cup of apple slices provides 11% of the daily recommendation for fiber, and it’s a good source for B vitamins, vitamin C, and several minerals.
Apple slices pair nicely with the spice cinnamon, which has been shown to help manage blood sugar levels.
Three Winning Snack Food Combinations
Now that you’ve read through the list of the 15 best snack foods for diabetics, I’m ready to share my favorite three snack food combinations for helping keep diabetes under control.
Combination #1: Cheese And Berries
The fat and protein in cheese and the fiber in berries make a winning combination, and the flavors go well together, too. Some of my favorites are raspberries and brie or strawberries with cheddar.
Combination #2: Celery And Peanut Butter
Celery has a low glycemic index, so it makes a great snack anytime. Peanut butter adds a rich flavor and a protein boost, too. Just make sure to use peanut butter with no added sugar.
Combination #3: Crackers And Tuna
A tuna salad mixed with Greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise makes a great topper for whole-wheat crackers. You could also top crackers with cheese or hummus.