You’ve likely been there: heading out the door, knowing that you should grab a snack on your way out because you’re not sure what food options will be available at your destination. Whatever the circumstance, having healthy, blood glucose-friendly snacks on hand is always a wise decision to ensure you can keep your blood sugars steady throughout a busy day.
Not sure what to grab? Stock up on any of these seven portable, diabetes-friendly snacks the next time you’re at the grocery store and never worry again about an unexpected hunger pang or sugar crash.
1. Nuts. Nuts are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, making them a great option to nosh on between meals. Some studies have shown that regularly eating nuts, such as almonds, can decrease insulin levels, help manage blood sugars, and reduce cholesterol levels. Look for raw or roasted (lightly salted or unsalted) varieties. A handful of nutrient-dense nuts is a great portion size for a healthy snack.
2. Fresh fruit and cheese. Cheese and fruit are a perfect pairing for a quick grab-and-go snack. Although fresh fruit contains carbohydrates, it also contains fiber to help slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Cheese, on the other hand, has relatively no carbs and is high in protein and fat. This profile makes it a perfect match for foods like fruit, where the cheese helps to lessen the glycemic impact. It’s also a great option for a sunny day in the park with a picnic blanket!
Opt for fruits that are lower on the glycemic index, when possible, like fresh berries, stone fruits, (nectarines, plums, peaches), grapes, apples, or cherries. Although soft cheeses like mozzarella and goat cheese tend to be lower in calories, they also are more likely to spoil quickly and might require a small cooler pack for transport if it’s warm outside. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, may be more tolerable to warmer temperatures but can be more calorie-dense, so just be mindful of portion sizes (about the size of a matchbox per serving) when considering these options.
3. Veggies and hummus. Crisp, crunchy veggies such as celery, carrot sticks, radishes, and broccoli heads are extra delicious when dunked in creamy hummus. Even better, hummus is made from chickpeas, which are loaded with fiber and protein. This snack pairing is also chock-full of nutrients and is sure to keep you full between meals.
4. Grown-up ants on a log. Who knew that this childhood staple could still be a great option as an adult? Celery is a fiber-rich veggie that makes a great vessel for rich, creamy nut butter -- think natural peanut butter or almond butter. Top with a sparing amount of your dried fruit of choice -- cranberries, raisins, chopped apricot, etc. -- or fresh blueberries for a lower-carb version of this classic snack.
5. Popcorn. Popcorn is extremely portable and can stay fresh in almost any weather. It is also a whole grain that is known for being low in calories but quite filling!
Purchase air-popped popcorn (or make at home) and get creative with the flavors to mix it up and keep it healthy -- things like taco mix seasoning, garlic powder, ranch seasoning, cinnamon, curry spice, or even cocoa powder!
6. Tuna salad and whole-grain crackers. Tuna fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been known to help reduce inflammation and improve blood sugars. It is also rich in protein, which makes a great union with whole-grain crackers if you’re in need of a little blood sugar boost.
You can purchase portable tuna salad kits at the grocery store or make a larger batch ahead of time at home and keep in a small, cooled container when out and about. Traditional tuna salad ingredients, such as mayo and chopped celery, are fine options. Or you can boost the protein level even further by mixing in some Greek yogurt or cottage cheese in place of mayo.
7. Protein bars. Protein bars are a great option when you’re looking for a snack that requires no utensils or refrigeration, such as while on a hike! Many commercially sold protein bars contain a ton of processed ingredients or can be high in sugar, so you might consider making some from scratch.
Look for recipes that contain things like nut butter, minimally processed protein powder, whole rolled oats or oat flour, chopped nuts, or seeds. You can always reduce the amount of sweetener that the recipe calls for and leave out high-sugar ingredients like chocolate chips, depending on your glucose tolerance.
If you prefer to find a product in the store, look for one that has as few ingredients as possible and where the sweetener used is not the first ingredient on the list. Also be mindful of multiple sources of sweeteners in tricky names, like honey, brown rice syrup, malt syrup, agave nectar, etc. Bars made primarily from fruit and nuts with little to no added sugars are always a nice option.