Do you have diabetes? If so, you may wonder what snacks there are that are safe for you to eat.
When you are trying hard to manage your condition and "be good", this can be a challenge to figure out, but it is actually quite an important factor for the long-term sustainability of a diabetes-friendly diet. You don't want to be denied snacks and treats, as this could lead to unhealthy binges. On the other hand, any snacks you do eat obviously need to be suitable for you, while still satisfying those hunger pangs and cravings.
The good news is that, just because you have diabetes, it does not mean you can't snack! Here are a few suggestions that will make picking the right ones so much easier...
Read the label!
It's important to read the nutritional label on any food you are thinking of eating - and this goes for everyone, not just diabetics. However, it is especially important for you. Packaging and product names can be very misleading and, just because something looks healthy, doesn't mean it is. For example, many people assume that because a food is organic, it is automatically healthy. That's not the case. Yes, it may be healthier than equivalent foods because it doesn't contain pesticides and other artificial chemicals or additives, but it may still be high in unhealthy ingredients like sugar and salt.
The same goes for diabetic-friendly snacks - read all labels carefully to check, not just the sugar content, but the levels of all other nutrients too. Ideally, you want to see good levels of dietary fibre and complex carbohydrates, which will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. And don't forget other essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and omega oils - all of which will help to boost your general immunity. In contrast, you want to avoid simple carbohydrates and sugars, which will cause your glucose levels to spike.
Unfortunately, many processed foods contain added sugars, yet there is currently no UK law that requires manufacturers to state how much sugar has been added in processing. The NHS advises adults to consume less than 70g a day of sugar for men, and 50g for women. However, people with diabetes benefit from better blood glucose levels if sugar intake can be limited to even lower levels. Because sugars provide no nutrition aside from energy (which is why they are often referred to as "empty" calories), people looking to lose weight will also benefit from eliminating sources of added sugar from their diet.
So, when picking your diabetes-friendly snacks, try to opt for natural foods (such as nuts and seeds) and whole grain foods, while avoiding highly processed foods (such as white bread, cakes, pastries, many tinned foods and ready-meals). Not only will this support your condition, it could help you waist-line too, as a happy side effect!
Everything in moderation
When you are choosing your diabetes-friendly snacks, try to bear in mind the general rule of thumb "everything in moderation". A snack should be just that; your snack food should never turn into, or replace, an actual meal. As a diabetic, it is essential to eat a balanced diet, with regular meals, in order to keep those blood sugar levels stable. The right snack foods can, of course, play an important role in helping you to do this too, but nothing can replace breakfast, lunch and supper. Use your snacks sensibly and appropriately, to keep your energy levels up and your cravings at bay.
Also taking simple steps, like taking the time to prepare a snack and put it on a plate or in a glass first, can help to avoid bingeing and turning a healthy snack into an unhealthy habit. It is so easy to overeat if you just snack directly out of packaging - and this goes back to opting for natural foods, rather than processed ready-made foods. Eating consciously and with thought will help to control portion size and also ensure that you are always snacking on foods that support, rather than aggravate, your condition. What's more, this approach will also allow you to savour your food, helping to keep you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.
Smoothies - the healthy fast food!
You can't go on social media or turn on the TV these days, without seeing some delicious recipe for a smoothie or "green" drink. There are so many variations out there, the possibilities are endless and there is a flavour to suit every palate. They really are the perfect diabetic-friendly snack because:
1) you are in total control of what goes into them if you make them yourself
2) you can pick ingredients that you find tasty
3) you can vary the flavours every time, to avoid getting bored with your snack
4) they can be made quickly and in advance, which helps to avoid spur of the moment snack choices (which are often bad)
5) they can be drunk on the go
6) they can be tailored to your specific health goals - pick ingredients that support stable blood sugar levels and satiety, while also supporting your all-round health and immunity.
Do some research and spend some time experimenting to find your perfect combination of ingredients. Use your favourite fruits and vegetables as a base, adding "boosters" for extra nutrients. Some great examples are chia seeds, organic oats and nutrients-fortified protein shakes.
So there you have it, some great snack ideas to support a healthy diabetes-friendly diet. As already mentioned above, snacks needn't be unhealthy and there's no need for you to miss out. In fact, snacks represent an important part of a healthy meal plan when you have diabetes. For one thing, the right snack foods can help to keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, as well as overnight while you are sleeping. Happy snacking!