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Healthy swaps: snacks

Everyone enjoys a snack in between meals occasionally.  

Healthy hummus

But, if you have diabetes, choosing healthier options will help manage your condition. Watching your portion size will also help you keep an eye on your weight. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the easy swaps you can make and the kinds of snacks that are best if you have diabetes. We’ve also listed healthy suggestions for snacks under 10g carbs, as well as those containing 50, 100 and 150 calories. 

This will make it easier to find healthy options that suit you, if you have a goal around weight management.

Snacks to avoid

We don’t recommend snacks labelled ‘diabetic’ and to say food is a "diabetic food" is now against the law. 

This is because there isn’t any evidence that these foods offer you a special benefit over eating healthily. They can also often contain just as much fat and as many calories as similar products, and can still affect your blood glucose level. These foods can also sometimes have a laxative effect.

The key is to plan your favourite snacks so they fit into your overall diet, and watch your portion sizes.

Easy snack swaps

You’d be surprised how much of a difference you can make to your diet by swapping out your usual snacks for healthier options. These are all great places to start if you’re looking to eat healthier snacks:

  • Swap a packet of crisps with a small handful of seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. You could even toast them and add spices or cinnamon.
  • Swap bread and dips with carrots and celery with salsa or hummus. Try making your own healthy hummus or roasted beetroot hummus.
  • Swap milk chocolate for two or three squares of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has a more intense flavour and you therefore need less.
  • Swap ice cream for frozen banana or frozen unsweetened yogurt with berries.
  • Swap fizzy sugary drinks for water flavoured with mint or fresh fruit.
  • Swap salted nuts for unsalted nuts.

Snacking and diabetes

If you treat your diabetes with insulin or certain diabetes medications that put you at risk of hypos (low blood sugars), or both, you may need a snack in-between meals sometimes to help keep your blood sugars up. These snacks should contain some starchy carbohydrate. However, if you find you are having to snack regularly to prevent hypos, speak to your diabetes team. Regular snacks can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and, in the long term, this can affect your diabetes management.

"The snack challenge: put as many foods on your plate that add up to 10 grams of carbs in total to help kids find out the carb content of different foods in a fun way.”
Joanne, parent of a child with type 1 diabetes

Eating snacks when you’re not hungry

If you find yourself reaching for snacks when you’re bored, emotional, nervous or anxious, try to recognise this behaviour but don’t beat yourself up about it. 

To combat this, next time you open your cupboard or fridge for a snack, try and stop for a second. Ask yourself why you’re reaching for that snack. If you’re not actually hungry, try and do something to distract yourself, like calling a friend, reading a book or going for a walk.

Read more advice on emotional eating and feasting.

Eating snacks at night

Eating too many late-night snacks over time can lead to weight gain and affect your diabetes management. One of the reasons for this is because you are less able to use the calories in night time snacks for energy as you need less energy when you are sleeping. 

If you do find yourself hungry and in need of the occasional snack at night, we recommend eating a piece of fruit or vegetable sticks. Fruit and vegetables contain a good mix of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. Other snacking options include unsalted nuts and seeds, oatcakes, rice cakes, wholegrain crackers, or unsweetened yogurts. 

Nut butters 

Nut butters such as peanut, almond or cashew are a source of healthy fats, which are helpful for protecting the heart, and they are also high in protein. This makes them generally a healthy and filling snack for people with diabetes. That’s why we include peanut butter in our low carb meal plan and tips for eating ‘on the go’

It is important to recognise that the nutritional value of nut butters may differ depending on the type and brand you buy. Some can have added sugar, or unhealthy oils such as palm oil. We suggest checking the food label to get more specific information.

Nuts and seeds 

Nuts and seeds are high in fibre and healthy fats, making them a great snack for a healthy, balanced diet. As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to choose unsalted options. As they are high in fat, be mindful of portion sizes if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. 

Nuts and seeds also have different health benefits depending on which type you choose:

  • Almonds: these are a good source of calcium, which helps maintain strong bones.
  • Brazil nuts: these are a good source of a mineral called selenium. Selenium is an essential nutrient, and is an important part of many enzymes (substances that speed up reactions in our bodies).
  • Walnuts: these are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health, making them a great option if you don’t eat oily fish.
  • Linseeds: are also high in Omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. 

We’ve included different types of nuts throughout our nutritionally-balanced meal plans

Our snack suggestions

Depending on whether you need help with calorie-controlled snack ideas or low-carb snack options, click on the relevant link below.

The nutritional information for these snack suggestions comes from the sixth edition of Carbs and Cals.

12 snacks under 50 calories

  • 1 small apple (around 85g): 37 calories
  • 2 satsumas: 44 calories
  • 80g blueberries: 32 calories
  • 80g grapes: 50 calories
  • 1 kiwi fruit: 25 calories
  • 1 peach (around 138g): 46 calories
  • 2 pineapple rings: 33 calories
  • 1 light cheese triangle (25 calories) and 4 cherry tomatoes (18 calories): 43 calories
  • 30g ready-to-eat partially rehydrated prunes: 48 calories
  • 1tbsp raisins: 30 calories
  • 25g cottage cheese (26 calories) with a quarter of a cucumber (11 calories): 37 calories
  • 1 x 115g pot sugar-free jelly: 8-10 calories 

5 snacks under 100 calories

  • 1 crispbread (31 calories), 25g cottage cheese (26 calories) and 4 cherry tomatoes (18 calories) : 75 calories
  • 100g cherries (48 calories) with 50g natural yogurt (39.5 calories): 87.5 calories
  • 10 almonds (1tbsp): 61 calories
  • 80g celery with (6 calories), a quarter of a cucumber (11 calories) and beetroot hummus (72 calories): 89 calories
  • Golden soup: 63 calories

6 snacks under 150 calories

  • 1 tbsp (15g) smooth peanut butter (91 calories) spread onto slices of a small apple (37 calories): 128 calories
  • 125g natural yogurt (99 calories) plus 80g raspberries (20 calories): 119 calories
  • 3 crispbreads (93 calories) and 50g cottage cheese (52 calories): 145 calories
  • 20g pumpkin seeds: 114 calories
  • 1 (25g) slice Edam cheese (85 calories) and 1 small apple (37 calories): 122 calories
  • 30g dried apricots (56 calories) and 10g almonds (61 calories): total of 117 calories

Snacks under 10g carbs

If you have type 1 diabetes, and have been on a carb-counting course such as DAFNE, you will know that you don’t have to take insulin to cover snacks with less than 10g of carbs. (If you’re on an insulin pump, you will probably still be covering it with a bolus.)

For people with type 2 diabetes who are trying to limit their carbs, these snacks are low in carbs to give you useful ideas.

  • 115g pot of sugar-free jelly: 1.2g carbs and 8 calories
  • 30g almonds: 2g  carbs and 184 calories 
  • 30g houmous (3g carbs and 92 calories) and 80g fresh sliced peppers (2g carbs and 12 calories): 5g carbs and 104 calories
  • 1 chopped boiled egg: 0g carbs and 79 calories
  • Homemade vegetable crisps: 8.4g carbs and 48 calories
  •  Half an avocado (70g): 1g carbs and 133 calories (Although high in calories, they are calories from good fats)
  • 1 kiwi fruit: 5g carbs and 25 calories

Our snack recipes

We’ve got lots of suggestions for healthy snacks in our recipes section, such as:

•    Butterbean pâté
•    Scandinavian pickled cucumber and salad sandwich
•    Fruit and nut bars
•    Spicy roasted chickpeas

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