Nutrition Articles

Eating with Diabetes: Smart Snacking

20 Diabetes-Friendly Snack Ideas

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What to Eat: Diabetes-Friendly Snack Ideas
So how do you meet these calorie and nutrition goals in a healthful way? Here are several diabetes-friendly snack ideas that meet the nutritional criteria above. Select a snack that fits into your daily meal plan for calories and carbohydrates but also meets your personal taste preferences. Keep in mind that different foods and food combinations (carbs, protein and fat) affect every individual's blood sugar levels differently. The following chart merely shows some options, but you'll still need to monitor your blood sugar response and find the best food combinations for you.

Snack Carbs Calories Protein
Frozen fruit juice bar, 1.3 oz 11 g 45 1 g
Orange, small (2.5-inch diameter) 11 g 45 1 g
Light popcorn, 3 cups popped 12 g 60 2 g
1/2 sandwich, with 1 slice each bread and lunch meat and 1 oz cheese 13 g 149 15 g
3 saltine crackers with 1 oz cheese 13 g 172 9 g
Apple, small (2.5-inch diameter) 14 g 53 0 g
Sugar-free pudding, 3.7 oz container 14 g 60 2 g
2 graham cracker squares with 1 Tbsp peanut butter 14 g 153 5 g
2 light Wasa crackers with 1 large hard-boiled egg 15 g 138 8 g
3 saltine crackers with 1 Tbsp peanut butter 15 g 153 6 g
Mixed berries, 1 cup fresh or frozen 17 g 70 0 g
Pear, small (1/3 pound) 22 g 81 1 g
Pudding, 4 oz. container sweetened 24 g 130 1 g
Sandwich,  2 slices bread, 1 slice lunch meat and 1 oz cheese 25 g 204 16 g
6 saltine crackers with 1 oz cheese 25 g 231 10 g
Low-fat chocolate milk, 8 oz. 26 g 158 8 g
Light popcorn, 7 cups popped 28 g 140 4 g
6 saltine crackers with 1 Tbsp of peanut butter 28 g 212 7 g
5 graham cracker squares with 1 Tbsp peanut butter 30 g 242 6 g
Yogurt, 6 oz. container (low-fat, fruit-flavored) 33 g 174 7 g


If you have trouble selecting appropriate snacks or practicing portion control, pre-packaged meal replacements (including snack bars and shakes) can be a smart solution for some. In their Evidence Analysis Library, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) states that "Substituting one or two daily meals or snacks with meal replacements is a successful weight loss and weight maintenance strategy." Not all energy bars or weight-loss shakes will meet the needs of people with diabetes, so look for products designed specifically for diabetics, and be sure to read labels to determine if the product you're considering meets your nutritional needs.

Here are a few examples of daily eating schedules that include 1-3 snacks.

1 Snack Example 2 Snacks Example 3 Snacks Example
7 a.m.—Breakfast
12 p.m.—Lunch
5 p.m.—Dinner
9 p.m.—Snack
7 a.m. – Breakfast
12 p.m.—Lunch
3 p.m.—Snack
6:30 p.m.—Dinner
9 p.m.—Snack
6 a.m.—Breakfast
9 a.m.—Snack
12 p.m.—Lunch
3 p.m.—Snack
6 p.m.—Dinner
9 p.m.—Snack


As you can see, snacks can be especially beneficial for people with diabetes, and there really are endless options that can help you stay within your daily nutritional goals.

Source
Adult Weight Management Meal Replacements, American Dietetic Association Evidence Library, accessed September 2011.
Diabetes Care, January 2003.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.
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About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.

Member Comments

  • 15 grams of carbs for a snack without any added protein? THat would have me needing insulin in a hurry instead of being able to keep myself controlled with oral medication and diet. This advise is definitely not a 'one size fits all' option, and I wish diabetes educators would realize that some people really are able to do well with a food plan with less carbs so insulin is not needed instead of acting like the only healthy food plan includes at least 30 grams per meal and 15 grams per snack and pushing everyone on insulin. No thanks. - 8/18/2014 11:30:46 AM
  • This was a great article, especially since it urges us to learn and know about how our own bodies react. I restart SparkPeople to prepare for a doctor's appointment - so I could show what I have been doing and that we could figure out together what's going wrong. I have always know that I couldn't have 3 fruits in a day or that bananas makes my sugar go banana (excuse the pun). Today I will not follow the food plan exactly but eat and monitor blood sugar levels. It will be a test day. - 4/16/2014 7:09:16 AM
  • I am going to be brutally honest. The diabetes educator nearly put me in the hospital, and her advice caused an 8 pound weight gain in just 2 weeks.

    I have discovered (the hard way) that self education and the assistance of a real certified nutritionist to be far far far more valuable than the diabetic center in the closest city to my rural home.

    Just because someone in "authority" tell you something, doesn't make it gospel. Know yourself, know your body, and test your blood sugars to be sure their advice is appropriator for you. - 4/10/2014 12:14:11 PM
  • I find myself needing a snack at night. My go to is low calorie whole wheat bread and 2 tbsp low fat smooth peanut butter and 8 ounces of fat free milk. My sugars tend to spike very low about 4-5 hours after dinner so this ensures that it comes up enough and stays up diuring the night. My morning sugars are well within normal range for fasting so I am doing okay. I had discussed it with my Diabetic Specialist and Peanut butter is a very good choice. I add a whole grain for the fiber and healthy benefit and the milk well a peanut butter sandwich always tastes better with an ice cold glass of fat free milk. - 12/6/2013 2:54:24 PM
  • PENNYPOET
    I agree with the poster who wrote "these suggested foods contain absorbinate amounts of artificial sweetners, high fructose corn syrup, and highly processed meats and cheeses that are very high in sodium content, none of which are good for your health!" In fact, I find it shocking to see a photo of a large bowl of fruit at the top of this article. It reminds me of the Weight Watchers ads that show big pieces of frosted cake. Let's face reality. There are good snacks and a large bowl of fruit is not in that category. A small bowl of berries, yes. A small bowl of berries with sliced almonds atop, yes. - 4/14/2013 12:07:59 AM
  • If you are having that much trouble keeping your glucose at high enough levels througout the day and night it likely means you need an insulin adjustment! Consult your endo and eplain what is happening and that you are on this program. As a Nurse Practitioner I can assure you that they don't want you taking more insulin than you need and will be glad to work with you as you work toward healthy goals - 3/18/2013 2:54:22 PM
  • I'm finding it hard to keep my sugars stable enough during the day with the calories allowed me, but impossible to have my sugars high enough to go to bed Take tonight for example. I used up all my calories keeping my sugars stable during the day, but had a low of 77 right before I was due to go to bed - and required a sugar hit and a long-acting (low GI) snack to see me through the night - sending me way over my calories for the day - which happens at least three times a week. I have also noticed that many articles are aimed squarely at the Type 2 diabetics not on insulin, not at those of us who are on insulin for sugar control. I have reduced my insulin by 75%, but I require some every day. It is a balancing game that even after 13 years with diabetes I still cannot get right - and nor can my diabetic educator, my gp or my endocrinologist. I just want to lose weight, but my sugars won't let me :( - 3/18/2013 10:03:26 AM
  • MONADM1
    Amy, based on personal experience, I strongly disagree with the carb amounts per meal or snack you recommend for diabetics. They seem way too high. Have you considered the findings in "The Diabetes Solution" by Richard K. Bernstein, MD?

    Following Dr. Bernstein's recommendations of low-carb eating helped my husband control his Type 2 diabetes with diet alone, getting him off 20 years of high doses of medication. The moment he reverts back to the carb levels you recommend, he needs his meds again... - 2/25/2013 12:42:14 PM
  • I usually do 2 snacks a day. Between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner. If my day is light and I have calories to spare I do something sweet for dessert after dinner that won't make me go over on my calories. - 2/10/2013 4:03:07 PM
  • RONNIEB462
    I'm always looking for snacks that add variety to my program. The chart was helpful in doing this. Thanks, SparkPeople! - 10/5/2012 8:06:55 AM
  • My recent bloodwork showed a slightly raised fasting glucose level of 109. My husband is prediabetic and I want to know what some good choices of foods are. Chart containing amounts was helpful. - 9/9/2012 11:51:08 AM
  • Thanks for the article. It gave me some ideas. I don't plan for snacks. Like the person before me posted - I can't go for 5 hours so a snack is a great idea but I need to plan for it so I don't blow my hard work. I was tempted by donuts today ...instead I had pretzels and a slice of cheese. Progress not perfection. - 4/12/2012 4:15:39 PM
  • I notice that some of these suggested foods contain absorbinate amounts of artificial sweetners, high fructose corn syrup, and highly processed meats and cheeses that are very high in sodium content, none of which are good for your health! Some choices are good but there are better choices like fruits that give you natural sugars, snacks bars that have no hi-fructose corn syrups, and unprocessed meats or even a serving of pecans or almonds that are not high in the bad fats nor sodium content! - 4/12/2012 1:58:50 PM
  • This may not be the right place to post this, but why doesn't the menu give alternative foods to eat like the regular menu? At least give us options. we should be able to figure out the rest, but at least knowing what the healthy food choice are makes sense. I will probably switch back to the regular menu just so I can see those choices. - 3/25/2012 10:41:33 AM
  • I find it interesting to note that on the snack list and the link to the sample meal plan that there are very few vegetables, especially those that are low-energy high-nutrient (i.e. dark leafy greens) in the plans. How much better would be be if more of these were included in our meals plans in place of the "carbs" ones listed? - 12/2/2011 11:22:04 AM