Conventional wisdom: Eat three square meals per day to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
For people from all walks of life, that may sound good in theory. But it’s not practical in many cases, especially for people who are managing diabetes. For many diabetics, having a healthy snack on hand is essential to making it through the day – and it’s not a bad idea for people who don’t have diabetes, either.
Diabetes management is about balancing the things that raise blood glucose with those that lower it. Carbohydrates and stress can raise blood glucose, while exercise and diabetes medications, for example, can lower it. Striking a balance is the key to preventing complications from diabetes and feeling your best, said Linda Hoffsis, a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and diabetes educator at the St. Elizabeth Physicians Regional Diabetes Center.
Eating within the first two hours of waking up and at least every five hours during the day is important to keeping your blood glucose at a steady, healthy level, according to Hoffsis.
“If you will go more than five hours between meals, it is a good plan to have a healthy snack,” Hoffsis said. “This healthy snack should include healthy carbohydrates and healthy protein.”
For healthy sources of carbohydrates, Hoffsis recommends natural sources like fruits and whole-grain breads, while good sources of protein include peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, poultry and even lean roast beef.
“Some foods, like yogurt and legumes such as black beans, cannellini beans and hummus, contain both healthy protein and healthy carbohydrates,” Hoffsis said. “Carbohydrates will give your body and brain the quick fuel they need, and the protein will help keep you full and steady your blood glucose.”
Some diabetes-friendly snack ideas from Hoffsis include:
- A small, sliced apple or pear with a tablespoon of peanut butter;
- Greek nonfat yogurt (with or without fruit);
- Peanut butter on whole-grain crackers;
- Half a turkey or lean roast beef sandwich;
- Whole wheat pita and hummus;
- Whole grain crackers with cheese;
- Some small grapes with a handful of nuts;
- Three cups of light popcorn with one string cheese;
- A cup of berries and a quarter-cup of low-fat cottage cheese;
- Half a cup of sugar-free pudding and a tablespoon of peanut butter;
- Five Triscuit crackers with a hard-boiled egg;
- Vegetables, like red bell pepper strips, sugar snap peas, or carrot sticks, dipped in hummus or low-fat ranch dip.
To make Hoffsis’ low-fat ranch dip, combine half a cup of plain, nonfat yogurt, half a cup of low-fat sour cream, and half a packet of powdered ranch dressing mix.