Smart Snacking for Diabetics

Who doesn't like to snack? It's fun, it's social and it's a great diversion from boredom. Besides, sometimes snacks just taste better than regular meals. Despite how wonderful snacking can be, when you've got diabetes, it's crucial that you eat for nutritional benefit and the ability to help keep your blood sugar in control.

Don't snack without checking your blood sugar first, advises Steven Joyal, MD, endocrinologist and vice president of scientific affairs for Life Extension.  Snacking isn't always essential, he says, unless you're about to exercise. Then, if your blood sugar's between 70 and 80, you probably should eat a little something or be at risk for hypoglycemia, he explains.

"If your blood sugar is under 70 and you are about to go for a run, then you need to eat," Joyal says. "It's better to eat a snack then to risk having your blood sugar get too low. If that happens, even though you only need about 150 calories to treat the low blood sugar, you may wine up eating more like 400 or 500 calories."

When you snack--and what you snack on--depends upon what insulin you are taking, says Susan Kasik-Miller, RD, clinical dietitian at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. "Snacks used to be very important since some of the older insulins had peak times, and you had to cover these times with snacks," she explains. "With the newer insulins, you don't have that peaking anymore, and you don't necessarily have to have planned snacks."

Still, she says, snacks are important, especially for children and teenagers. "It's important for snacks to be nutrient-dense foods," she says. "While snacks are important every day for kids and teens, grownups may get buy with just occasional snacks."

While you should reach for sensible snacks most of the time, special occasions are different. Birthdays and holidays are times when people with diabetes should be ablet to enjoy a special treat, Kasik-Miller says. "Just don't overdo," she says. "You're just not getting the nutrition from a cookie that you would get from a carton of yogurt."

10 Smart Snacks

  • Whole grain crackers with peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit
  • Half a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes
  • Hummus served with raw vegetables
  • Pita pizza (half a pita bread spread with tomato sauce, lowfat grated mozzarella and a little chopped ham, then broiled)
  • Veggie pita pizza (top the half pita with lowfat feta cheese, artichoke hearts, tomato and zucchini slices, then broil)
  • Cucumber rounds and baby carrots with tzatziki (yogurt with garlic, chopped mint and a little lemon juice)
  • Bean dip with pita crisps or cut-up raw vegetables