If you have diabetes and tend to feel hungry during the day, is it okay to snack between meals? The short answer is yes!
Recipe in the photo: Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Toast
According to the CDC, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, 1 in 10 people. The majority (90-95%) are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, your diet plays a huge role in managing your diabetes. blood sugar, including the types of snacks you choose.
A snack that provides protein and healthy fats and is low in carbohydrates can help keep you full and reduce the chances of blood sugar spikes. Read on for strategies for choosing your snack, plus our top protein-packed snack picks.
What to look for in a diabetes-friendly snack
First, before you hit the kitchen, listen for your hunger cues. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry for a snack or if the desire to munch comes from habit, boredom or stress. If you’re hungry, choose a nutritious snack that’s easy to prepare and will keep you full and satisfied until your next meal.
When choosing a snack, consider its nutritional content, especially:
Fiber can help slow digestion and delay glucose absorption by absorbing water and forming a gel. Regular consumption of fiber may help improve glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, according to a 2021 meta-analysis in the Journal of Functional Foods. Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, nuts, seeds, and most vegetables and fruits, are excellent sources of fiber.
Including healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, as part of your meals and snacks is essential. Fats may help fill you up so you feel full longer, suggests research from 2019 in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, especially when consumed with fiber. Along with protein and fiber, fats can help slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream to prevent sudden sugar spikes and crashes.
Low sodium content
According to the CDC, having diabetes doubles the risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don’t have the condition. Since high blood pressure is also one of the risk factors for developing heart disease, choosing a low-sodium snack can help maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
Choosing a snack with 15 grams or less of carbohydrates per serving can help manage blood sugar levels. However, this recommendation can vary from person to person, so working with a registered dietitian will help you identify your needs.
Like fiber and fat, protein plays a role in regulating hunger by slowing the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Many protein-rich foods also contain healthy fats and/or fiber. The exception is if you have impaired kidney function. If so, you may need to monitor your protein intake.
7 best high protein snacks for diabetes
Here are our top seven picks of high-protein snacks that are best if you have type 2 diabetes:
1. Cheese cubes
Cheese is undoubtedly a hearty and delicious food, containing very few carbohydrates. According to the USDA, a 1-ounce slice of cheddar cheese provides 115 calories, 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat and 180 milligrams of sodium. A 2019 review posted on Advances in nutrition found that consuming dairy products, even when it comes to cheese, is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
2. Mixed nuts
With a winning combination of nutrients, walnuts are an ideal snack for people with diabetes. They are low in carbohydrates and a great source of healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition to their unsaturated fat and fiber, they also have magnesium and plant compounds called polyphenols, which may help regulate blood sugar levels, according to a 2021 meta-analysis in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Walnuts, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts and almonds are all excellent options. For example, almonds offer 6 grams of protein per one-ounce serving, according to the USDA.
While almonds and walnuts are high in fat, a 2019 study by Nutrition research indicated that eating more than 1 to 2 servings of nuts per week may not promote weight gain when consuming a balanced diet. Some nuts, such as almonds, have also been found to improve gut health, promote weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and death related to these conditions, according to a 2021 review published in Nutrients.
Choose unsalted, unflavored nuts to minimize the amount of added salt and sugar. You can also buy nuts in bulk to make your own DIY trail mix.
3. Greens with nut butter
Don’t like eating whole nuts? Consider pairing nut butters with celery sticks, baby carrots, or apple slices for a filling snack. According to the USDA, one tablespoon of peanut butter offers nearly 4 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat and nearly 1 gram of fiber. Be sure to read nutrition labels and choose a no-sugar, low-sodium option.
4. Sunflower seeds
Like nuts, sunflower seeds are also high in protein, fat, and fiber, offering 3 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, and about 2 grams of fiber for every ounce of unsalted (in-shell) sunflower seeds, according to l ‘USDA.
Sunflower seeds have been shown to help lower glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, suggests 2021 research in I care. When combined with the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in sunflower seeds can slow digestion, hindering the release of glucose into the bloodstream. The antioxidants found in sunflower seeds, including chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, may also have a blood sugar-lowering effect, although more research is needed.
Edamame is one of the nutritious snacks for people with diabetes. Like animal-based proteins, these baby soybeans are a complete, easily absorbed protein, according to a 2022 article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Research, making them a great plant-based protein option. According to the USDA, one cup (160 grams) of shelled, unsalted edamame provides 18 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat. Despite containing 14 grams of carbohydrates, shelled edamame also contains 8 grams of fiber. They’re easy to make, too: Buy them frozen and microwave them for 1 to 2 minutes, or boil them until heated through.
6. Boiled eggs
Another excellent snack between meals is hard-boiled eggs. One egg provides 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. Eggs contain about half a gram of carbohydrates, so they have little effect on blood sugar levels. In fact, a 2020 study in Clinical Nutrition found that eating an egg as a bedtime snack helped lower fasting blood sugar and improve markers of insulin sensitivity compared with a snack of yogurt, which was high in carbohydrates. Plus, eggs are packed with nutrients, so eating one egg a day may not pose any health risks, even for those with diabetes, according to a 2020 article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Enjoy them poached, boiled or scrambled. Pair the cooked egg with a couple of whole-grain crackers or sliced greens for added fiber to feel fuller and manage blood sugar.
7. Greek yogurt
Craving for something sweet? Consider Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is packed with nutrients and offers many health benefits, such as supporting muscle and bone health. Additionally, a 7-ounce container of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrates. This is double the amount of protein and half the carbohydrates of regular yogurt. If Greek yogurt isn’t enough, consider adding some low-GI fruits and nuts, like this Greek yogurt recipe with fruits and nuts.
More tips for managing blood sugar levels
You may or may not need a bedtime snack, depending on your health goals. However, these are other ways to manage blood sugar levels.
Follow the diabetes plate method
The plate method for diabetes means filling half of your plate (or bowl) with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter with lean protein, and the remaining quarter with carbohydrate-containing foods. This way of structuring your meals can help you incorporate more vegetables and keep your carbohydrate intake in check. Check out our diabetes-friendly Easy Plate Dinners for meal ideas.
Be physically active
Regular exercise also helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Your body may also become more sensitive to insulin, the CDC explains, meaning you may only need small amounts of the hormone to lower blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, with at least two days a week featuring exercise focused on building and maintaining muscle.
Maintain a healthy weight
Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, reducing visceral fat and maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce your risk of other health problems. Adopting healthy eating strategies and incorporating exercise routines can help.
The bottom line
Whether you need snacks between meals will depend on several factors, including how well your blood sugar is controlled, whether you’re on insulin, whether you have any other health conditions, your level of hunger, and more. . Finding the balance that fits your health goals and lifestyle is key to managing diabetes. Speak with your primary care provider, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator to develop a personalized meal plan that takes into account the timing of your meals and snacks. Our library of Diabetes Diet Center recipes, meal plans, and articles can inspire you to manage your diabetes your way.