Diabetes Diary: Carb Controlled Snacks

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Need tips for controlling carbs from snacks? You have landed on the right post - includes snack ideas and comments regarding sugar free products.

Diabetes Diary: Carb Controlled Snacks

Many people request ideas for lower carb snacks, especially if they have diabetes. Experimenting with foods and combinations will help you find a snack solution that works for you. The idea is to find a snack that satisfies yet also supports your blood glucose goals - whether you struggle with going too low or too high. Consider pairing a carb with a protein or healthy fat to help satisfy while controlling carbs.

If you are looking for more information on controlling diabetes and how to count carbs, be sure to read my article at MyNetDiary, "Diabetes Basics."

Snack Carbs

How many carbs should you eat for a snack? It depends upon you, your blood glucose control, other snack components (e.g. fat and protein), as well as how active you are before or after the meal.

Some of you might do well with a very low carb snack - one that provides only 0 - 11 grams total carbs (considered 0 - 1/2 carb choice). I often see this work well with folks who have extra weight and are on a diabetes medication with little risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) such as Metformin.

Other folks do better with a 1-carb choice snack to avoid going too low in their blood glucose (12-20 grams total carbs). I often see this when folks use sulfonylureas (e.g. Glipizide or the like) or insulin.

Some folks who are very active, especially if they use insulin, might need 2 carb choices or more (>= 30 grams total carbs) before or after activity to avoid low blood glucose. If you struggle with very high or low blood glucose levels before or after meals, be sure to ask your doctor or diabetes educator for an individualized plan to best match insulin, carbs, and activity to support a safe blood glucose level.

Read the Nutrition Facts!

If you choose a packaged product, be sure to read the Nutrition Facts panel (food label) for Total Carbohydrate grams since it includes all forms of carbohydrate (starch, fiber, sugar, and sugar alcohols). All digestible forms of carbohydrate contribute to the rise of blood glucose so don't make the mistake of just counting sugar grams - doing so will underestimate the true carbohydrate load of the food. Sure, all else being equal, it is wise to choose a product lower in sugars.

Snacks with 0 - 11 grams of Total Carbs

By Food Group

Meat/fish/seafood/poultry/organ meats/cheese/egg
Non-starchy veggies - those that provide less than 5 grams of total carbs per 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw serving size. This includes all veggies that are NOT potatoes, peas, corn, beans, or winter squash.
1/2 cup berries or melon (6-7 grams total carbs)
8 fl oz (1 cup) unflavored almond milk or unflavored soy milk (8-9 grams total carbs)
8 oz plain nonfat Greek yogurt (9 grams total carbs)

Combos or Packaged Snacks

1 oz cheese (0 grams total carbs) + 1/2 medium apple (9 grams total carbs)
1 oz (1/4 cup) nuts or seeds (6 grams total carbs)
1/2 cup sugar free Jell-O or 1 sugar-free Popsicle
1 container of Carbmaster yogurt (4 grams total carbs)
2 tbsp hummus (6 grams total carbs)
1 low carb protein shake (look for low carb brands such as Pure, EAS Carb AdvantEdge, Light Muscle Milk, etc.)
30 pieces of roasted seaweed or kale (< 5 grams total carbs) - great snack to break a chip habit

Snacks with 12 - 20 grams of Total Carbs

By Food Group

1/2 cup cooked potatoes, peas, corn, beans, or winter squash
2 tbsp chopped dried fruit
1/2 banana or grapefruit
1/2 cup sliced fruit except for berries and melon
1 cup berries or diced melon
8 fl oz (1 cup) of unflavored cow's milk (goat's milk is 1-2 grams lower)
8 fl oz (1 cup) of light vanilla or light chocolate soy milk
6 fl oz (? cup) cup of rice milk
5 oz (just over 1/2 cup) of flavored nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup broth-based soup without pasta, rice, or beans

Combos or Packaged Snacks

1 oz cheese (0 grams total carbs) + 4 whole grain crackers (14 g total carbs)
1 oz dark chocolate (depends upon brand but typically < 15 grams total carbs)
1 sandwich thin (20 grams total carbs) + 1 egg (O grams total carbs)
1 low carb protein bar (Simple Truth, Pure, Atkins, etc.)
3 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup sugar free pudding or ice cream

Sugar-Free Trap

Don't feel obliged to choose "sugar free" specialty products. These products typically contain artificial sweeteners and added ingredients to mimic a standard product's consistency and taste. However, if using these products helps you control calories and carbs while meeting your blood glucose goals, then use them. But be aware that "sugar-free" is not necessarily "calories-free" and many sweets that have starch and fat will still be high in calories. So be savvy - sometimes just using portion control with "real foods" that are packed with wholesome ingredients (perhaps that you make from scratch) will help you meet multiple goals - controlling carbs, calories, cost, and quality!

Regular Vs. Diet Pop

If you have diabetes and still drink regular soda pop, then switching to diet pop is still better than flooding your body with concentrated sugar - be it natural or high fructose corn syrup. Depending upon brand, a can (12 fl oz) of pop provides about 40-48 grams of total carbs all from sugars - that is about 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. You don't need to take my word for it - take a blood glucose reading before and 1-2 hours after a challenge to see how your body responds to regular vs. diet pop.

Soft drink switches: Try seltzer if you crave fizz, try unsweetened tea if you crave the energy boost, and try plain water if you are simply trying to hydrate!

Diabetes Tracker

For super-duper diabetes-friendly food tracking, consider MyNetDiary's Diabetes Tracker (iPhone app or via the web). You can choose what type of carb total to track (e.g. total carbs, net carbs, or carb counting for insulin users) and snack totals are grouped by time - extremely helpful! For more information on what this cool tracker can do, read "Tracking Diabetes with MyNetDiary."

Diabetes->Carbs & Carb Counting Meal Planning & Diets->Snacks
Jun 4, 2013
Katherine Isacks
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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