Snacks for Stable Blood Sugar
In my nutrition practice, I often see patients with concerns related to either high or low blood sugar. I reassure them that healthy snacks and small, balanced meals, evenly spaced throughout the day, are essential for the body to maintain stable glucose levels.
Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly sugar in various foods is released into the bloodstream and the subsequent effect on blood glucose levels. It represents an important guide, especially for people with diabetes (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). For example, nuts are low on the glycemic index; the minimal carbohydrates they release, which are subsequently transformed into glucose, enter the bloodstream gradually as a result of their mix of fat and protein. Consequently, nuts help maintain steady blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy.
A small handful of nuts would be a highly recommended snack choice, but don’t exceed that amount due to the high caloric content. Nut butters can be used as well, and I suggest spreading them on whole grain crackers or even on fruits, such as apples.
Seeds are another food group with a low glycemic load. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds provide fiber, protein, and healthy oils, which help stabilize glucose levels. A small handful would be an appropriate serving size. Flaxseeds and sesame seeds – either whole or ground – can be added to applesauce, yogurt, and whole-grain muffins for tasty, nutritious snack options.
How about snacking on fresh vegetables? I encourage my patients to munch on carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, and unsweetened pickles. They are all high in fiber, which helps slow the release of sugar. Similarly, fructose (fruit sugar) is released into the bloodstream slowly due to the high fiber content of most fruits. The best low-glycemic fruit choices include cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, oranges, apples, apricots, pears, strawberries, and blueberries.
A wide variety of whole-grain snack items are available today. Unlike refined, processed snacks, which are typically high in added sugars and low in fiber, whole wheat, oat, or spelt pretzels tend to be high in fiber and are good choices. Plain popcorn is another wholesome alternative. I highly recommend whole wheat breadsticks, crackers, and flatbreads as well.
Eating these whole-grain products together with a protein, such as cheese, further reduces the likelihood that carbohydrate levels will increase too rapidly and result in elevated blood sugar levels. Keep in mind that proteins slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, so it is a good idea to include high protein snacks in your diet. Unsweetened yogurt is an excellent choice, especially with added wheat germ or ground flaxseeds.
Finally, I recommend protein bars as low glycemic options, provided that their sugar and carbohydrate content is low, and their protein and fiber content is high. Most important, always read food labels to ensure that you are selecting the most nutritionally balanced snack items available.