Maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is important for everyone. But if you've been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, keeping blood glucose in the healthy range can be a matter of life and death. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with this chronic health condition, the good news is many people find that opting for four to six small meals a day instead of three large ones is a great way to keep their blood sugar on an even keel. And with so many healthy food options to choose from, eating for blood sugar control doesn't have to be a drag. So, with that in mind, we offer up these 17 healthy snacks for diabetics that will help keep your energy up and your blood sugar under control.
Choosing Diabetes-Friendly Snacks
When it comes to healthy snack ideas for diabetics, ditch the processed foods and instead focus on fresh fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Unlike processed foods, which are low in nutrients and high in added sugar, salt, and saturated fat, whole foods are loaded with the nutrition your body requires to stay healthy and strong.
Protein is required for almost every process in the body, and fiber helps maintain a healthy GI tract and cholesterol levels, while fruits and veggies are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytonutrients and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
However, it's important to remember that the best snacks on earth can backfire on you if you eat too many of them.
So when planning your snacking, don't forget portion size. To make it simple, focus on approximately 200 calories per snack.
And don't forget you can't have a snack without something to drink—but not all drinks are created equal. So grab some water, black coffee, unsweetened tea, or vegetable juice and avoid fruit juice, alcohol, energy drinks, and both regular and diet sodas.
Why no diet soda?
Some studies have found that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the balance of good and bad gut bacteria in sensitive individuals. And this disruption may lead to poor blood sugar control.
But if both sugar and artificial sweeteners can lead to erratic blood sugar levels, does that mean if you're diabetic you're doomed to a life without sweetness?
In fact, studies have found that the natural sweetener stevia may actually reduce blood sugar levels.
17 Healthy Snacks for Diabetics
When it comes to the best snacks for diabetics, we've got you covered with 17 of the healthiest (and tastiest!) snacks around.
With 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber in every serving, hummus is a low glycemic food that makes a perfect snack. Plus, its chickpea base provides a slow release of carbs, which means you get plenty of great taste without any nasty blood sugar spikes. And with our easy 10-minute recipe, you can skip the grocery store hummus and whip up a fresh batch right in the comfort of your own home.
2. Greek Yogurt
Did you know that Greek yogurt contains less sugar and twice the protein of regular yogurt? As much as 17 grams, or a third of your daily requirement!
Where does all the extra protein come from?
Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey. This results in a thicker, creamier consistency and tons of protein. All that protein boosts metabolism, reduces cravings, and keeps you feeling fuller longer. And that can come in handy if you're interested in weight loss.
Greek yogurt also contains probiotics, which can help keep your digestive system in balance. And studies show that that can help keep blood sugar levels in check.
Greek yogurt is also more versatile than its regular counterpart. Whether topped with a sprinkling of juicy blueberries or crunchy homemade granola or added to your favorite recipes as a low-calorie substitute for sour cream, Greek yogurt makes a healthy addition to any meal plan.
3. Peach, Cherry, and Oat Parfait Smoothie
With the fiber of oats, the low glycemic index of cherries and peaches, the healthy fats (and fiber) in flaxseeds, and the protein of yogurt and almond milk, our peach, cherry, and oat parfait smoothie is a super flavorful snack option that will boost your energy while being kind to your blood glucose.
Peach, Cherry, and Oat Parfait Smoothie
4. Peanut Butter
Like other types of nuts, peanuts are chock-full of protein and fiber. In fact, the standard serving size of 2 tablespoons supplies 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
Peanuts are also a low-sodium food and provide a rich source of the mineral magnesium, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Interestingly, many diabetics are lacking in magnesium, so snacking on some apple slices or celery sticks dipped in peanut butter can be a tasty way to stock up on this important nutrient.
Just be sure to look for natural or organic peanut butter with the oil on top.
Because no-stir brands are often made using partially hydrogenated oils, which wreak havoc on your cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
5. Almond Butter
Another nut that's jam-packed with protein, fiber, and magnesium is the humble almond. What's more, almonds are a great source of monounsaturated fat—a healthy fat found in avocados and olive oil—and a special form of vitamin E known as gamma-tocopherol.
Gamma-tocopherol has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been found in studies to help protect against heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
Edamame, whose name means "bean on a stem," has been an integral part of Asian diets for more than 2,000 years. But until recently, it was rather hard to come by in Western grocery stores.
But as more people have gotten into healthier eating, this Asian superfood has begun to spring up in restaurants and grocery stores across the United States. And when you take a look at its nutritional profile, it's easy to see why. Just 1 cup of edamame contains:
- 34% of the RDA of protein
- 32% of the RDA of fiber
- 16% of the RDA of vitamin C
- 52% of the RDA of vitamin K
- 21% of the RDA of thiamine
- 14% of the RDA of riboflavin
- 121% of the RDA of folate
Edamame—which is really just another name for an immature soybean—is as versatile as the mature soybeans that are used to make tofu and soy milk. However, unlike mature soybeans, which are hard and beige, edamame is green, and its vegetable-like texture makes it equally at home in soups, stews, and salads. It makes a great snack, too, especially when roasted with your seasonings of choice.
Speaking of superfoods that make great snacks for diabetics, don't forget the guacamole!
The avocados alone make guacamole worth the price of admission. Just check out the nutrition in one avocado:
- 54% of the RDA of fiber
- 33% of the RDA of vitamin C
- 21% of the RDA of vitamin E
- 53% of the RDA of vitamin K
- 26% of the RDA of vitamin B6
- 41% of the RDA of folate
- 28% of the RDA of potassium
What's more, studies have found that eating more avocados can help lower blood sugar and blood pressure and may even help you lose weight.
So grab some whole-grain crackers or low-carb spelt tortillas and dip away!
8. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese may not be the superstar it was in the 1970s, when low-fat diets were all the rage. But if you thought cottage cheese was a relic of the past, think again. Because this simple, fresh cheese may just be making a comeback.
And it's not because low-fat diets are back in style. On the contrary, it's all about full-fat cottage cheese now.
Not only does the fat in cottage cheese make it a good choice for people following a ketogenic diet, studies have also found that the fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals in cottage cheese can actually lower the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Plus, approximately 80% of the protein in cottage cheese is casein—a slowly absorbed form of milk protein that studies have found is just as effective as whey protein in stimulating muscle growth.
Like many other nuts and seeds, pistachios are a tasty snack that's good for you too. In fact, just an ounce of pistachios serves up 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. And that's not all. The same serving size also contains:
- 16% of the RDA of thiamine
- 18% of the RDA of vitamin B6
- 19% of the RDA of copper
- 18% of the RDA of manganese
Pistachios are also one of the richest sources of antioxidants—including zeaxanthin and lutein—of any nut or seed. Studies suggest they can even help lower fasting blood sugar levels.
Like pistachios, cashews are a good source of beneficial phytonutrients, including carotenoids and phytosterols. But they're also jam-packed with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
What's more, they've been found in studies to decrease serum cholesterol and insulin levels and may even help maintain healthy weight.
And, like other nuts and seeds, they're a smorgasbord of vitamins and minerals, with just 1 ounce containing:
- 12% of the RDA of vitamin K
- 20% of the RDA of magnesium
- 17% of the RDA of phosphorus
- 11% of the RDA of zinc
- 31% of the RDA of copper
- 23% of the RDA of manganese
11. Trail Mix
One of the best snacks for keeping your energy up and blood sugar balanced is trail mix. But not the store-bought kind that's generally loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and sulfites.
We know. It's so easy to just grab a bag on your way through the local grocery store. But instead of filling your body with toxic additives, you can quickly put together your own homemade trail mix using a healthy blend of your favorite dried fruits, seeds, and nuts.
Plus, the healthy fats in the nuts and seeds, combined with the fiber in the dried fruit, will fill you up and keep you energized. And it doesn't take much. Just a couple of handfuls will do.
Need some trail mix ideas? We recommend:
If you're in the mood for a sugary treat that won't spike your blood sugar, look no further than the humble date.
Believe it or not, while this Middle Eastern staple may contain as much as 70% to 90% sugar, its extremely high fiber content makes it a low glycemic food. In fact, studies have found that eating dates can actually lower your blood sugar.
And dates are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids and carotenoids too—especially fresh dates, which may contain as much as 6 times the amount of phytonutrients seen in dried dates.
So the next time you're craving sugar, be kind to your body and grab a date instead.
Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years because of their high cholesterol content. But did you know that studies have found that eating eggs may actually improve cholesterol levels—and even help prevent heart disease?
Plus, they're loaded with protein, which probably helps explain why studies have also found that eggs may reduce both fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c.
So the next time you're looking for a quick snack you can take anywhere, try cooking up a few hard-boiled eggs. Then pop them in the refrigerator, and they'll be ready to go when you are.
14. Chia Seeds
If you could pack everything you need to support healthy blood sugar in one itty-bitty package it would probably look a lot like a chia seed. If you don't believe us, just check out the nutrition you'll find in just 2 tablespoons of these tiny little seeds:
- 10 grams of fiber
- 5 grams of protein
- 15% of the RDA of thiamine
- 17% of the RDA of niacin
- 18% of the RDA of calcium
- 17% of the RDA of iron
- 27% of the RDA of magnesium
- 35% of the RDA of phosphorus
- 37% of the RDA of manganese
And that's just for starters.
Chia seeds also contain more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than a comparable amount of salmon. And they're chock-full of antioxidants too!
Chia seeds are great in yogurt or smoothies and can even be made into pudding by soaking the seeds in milk. But watch out! Chia seeds can absorb up to 27 times their own weight in water—or milk. So give them a little time to do their thing before you start tossing back tablespoonfuls of dry seeds.
With all this talk about healthy fats, we'd be remiss if we left olives off our list. But in addition to the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that make olive oil so revered, olives are also a surprisingly rich source of both fiber and vitamin E.
And they make the perfect accompaniment to a slice of cheese.
But remember that not all olives are created equal. Some brands are packed with loads of salt and unhealthy additives, like sodium alginate and potassium sorbate. Instead, look for natural or organic olives that give you all the good stuff and none of the bad.
16. Fermented Foods
If you're not eating fermented foods, you should be.
With naturally high levels of enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics, fermented foods support gut health, which in turn supports healthy blood sugar.
What's more, the process of fermentation actually increases nutrient bioavailability, which means your body is able to absorb more important vitamins and minerals than it otherwise would. In fact, studies show that the increase can be as much as several hundred percent!
Fermented foods that can make a great addition to a diabetes-friendly snacking plan include:
17. Go Nuts for This Protein Smoothie
If you're looking for a diabetes-friendly smoothie with flavor to spare, look no further than our go nuts for this protein smoothie. With the goodness of oats, walnuts, and almond milk and the antioxidant power of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cacao, it's a delicious high-fiber, high-protein way to start your day!
Go Nuts for This Protein Smoothie
There's no denying it. Living with diabetes can be hard. But by eating a whole foods diet that includes plenty of nutritious snacks, you'll be helping to support healthy blood sugar levels. And that means better overall health and a decreased risk of long-term complications.