Healthy snacking doesn’t have to be boring
Portion sizes are key. Keeping the glycemic load down (a measurement of how much food spikes blood glucose levels) means cutting down on portion sizes, since the measurement accounts for the number of grams of carbohydrates per serving of a food item, which of course will increase with portion sizes. Eating huge portions of even healthy snacks can quickly turn them unhealthy.
Snacks between meals can help you reduce portion sizes at main meals and also keep blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day. This can keep you feeling energized and in a good mood as you go about your day.
To help control portion sizes try using small plates, consuming plenty of water while snacking or during meals, and limiting snacks to 100-calorie portions, when feasible, and otherwise just avoiding the habit of eating out of the package.
It’s not just about portion sizes, though. At each snack, protein is critical to slow down blood glucose absorption and prevent sugar spikes.
1. Raw Almonds or Cashew
Lori Kenyon, certified nutritional consultant, says that raw almonds and cashews are high in protein and fiber, making them a very satisfying treat. One 1-ounce serving, or 24 to 28 medium-sized nuts, has around 170 calories, 5.5 to 8 grams of carbohydrates, and almost no transfat.
Kenyon also recommends jicama to her clients. Jicama is a root vegetable that is super tasty raw or cooked. After peeling, you can slice it into sticks and then refrigerate until cold. Either dash the slices with diced red pepper or hot spices for a kick, dip into salsa or your favorite hummus, or grill or bake it with a little olive oil to make a diabetic-friendly french fry. Eat your fill, since each ounce of jicama has only 11 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of sodium.
Edamame are also a favorite of Kenyon’s. She says one 1-ounce serving of this tasty snack has only 34 calories, 1 gram of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 milligrams of sodium, and 3 grams of protein. You can boil and eat them alone or toss some into a blender or food processor with a little olive oil and seasonings to make a tasty dip or spread to pair with raw veggies.
4. Veggie Slices with Dip
Kenyon says that similar to jicama, zucchini and yellow squash can be sliced like french fries, chilled, and then dipped in salsa or hummus for a tasty treat that satisfies cravings. One cup of yellow squash has 18 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 3.8 grams of carbohydrates, 2 milligrams of sodium, and 1.37 grams of protein. One tablespoon of salsa adds around 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 96 milligrams of sodium, and 1 gram of protein.
5. Black Bean Salad
If you are hankering for a mini meal, make yourself a salad with plenty of greens, and be sure to add black beans for the filling combination of fiber and protein. Half a cup of the below recipe, added to mixed greens, has 57 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrates.
Rinse a 15-ounce can of low-sodium black beans under running water and drain well. Mix the beans with ½ cup of: chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, chopped green bell pepper, and peeled and cubed avocado. Stir in 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Stella Metsovas, certified clinical nutritionist, recommends olives of all varieties — such as Kalamata olives — as they are perfect options when combined with vegetable sticks. The fiber in the vegetable sticks and fatty acids in the olives are a win-win combination for diabetics.
7. Shredded Coconut
Metsovas says that shredded coconut works very well mixed into smoothies, as well as combined with fresh blueberries. Coconut helps maintain consistent blood sugar, and the antioxidants found in blueberries helps with free radical damage caused by high blood sugar.
8. Whole-Wheat Pretzels
Angela Shelf Medearis, author of The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook, recommends staving off hunger with this low-calorie snack. According to SelfNutritionData, one 1-ounce serving contains just more than 100 calories and only 1 gram of fat. It also contains 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber to help keep you feeling satisfied.
9. Baked Tortilla or Pita Chips
So you’ve made a diabetic-friendly, low-calorie salsa with fresh ingredients. But, what do you do now? Obviously, you’ll need to scoop it up with something. Medearis recommends baked tortilla or pita chips, which are lower in fat than their fried counterparts.
10. Rice Cakes
Medearis says rice cakes are delicious with low-fat toppings like spicy mustard or salsa.
Air-popped popcorn is a healthy alternative to regular popcorn. Medearis recommends spicing up air-popped popcorn with a little cayenne or garlic powder.
12. Cottage Cheese
Lisa DeFazio, R.D., celebrity diet expert, suggests combining ½ cup cottage cheese with one piece of fruit such as a small banana or nectarine for the perfect combination of carbs, fiber, and protein. She says that about 15 grams of carbohydrates per snack with a little protein and fat is ideal.
13. High-Fiber Cereal
DeFazio also suggests high-fiber cereals such as bran flakes or shredded wheat with ½ cup of low-fat milk, perfect for quelling mid-morning hunger pangs.
14. Greek Yogurt (Pops)
Stacie Castle, R.D., CDN, has more than 25 years of experience in her field and is co-author of the food journal and nutrition guide Bite It & Write It! One easy-to-make snack that Castle suggests is one 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt combined with ½ cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon agave syrup for a hint of sweetness without going over the top on calories. You can also blend these ingredients together and freeze into an ice pop for a nice, cool, refreshing treat.
15. Whole-Wheat Graham Crackers
Got the munchies just before bed? It happens to all of us. Castle suggests dipping 1 ½ sheets whole-wheat graham crackers into 4 ounces of 1-percent milk (instead of cookies, of course).
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