December 30, 2023
Snacks, those bites between meals, serve various purposes—addressing hunger, boosting energy, or fulfilling specific cravings. However, the snacking path can lead to health trap if not navigated wisely. Common snack choices, often easily accessible and highly processed, tend to be loaded with sodium, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates.
The positive twist? Thoughtful snacking can be beneficial. It provides an excellent opportunity to incorporate fruits, milk, and yogurt into your meal plan, contributing essential good carbohydrates. To optimize benefits, consider spacing snacks between meals rather than adding them directly, preventing an excess carbohydrate load.
My patients often inquire, “Is it okay to snack if I have diabetes?” The answer is straightforward: If you manage diabetes through three balanced meals, exercise, and perhaps medications like metformin, snacking might not be necessary. However, for those on insulin or sulfonylureas, snacking could help prevent low blood glucose levels, a consideration best discussed with your healthcare team.
Your daily schedule plays a role; it’s advised not to go more than 5 to 6 hours without eating with diabetes. For instance, if breakfast is at 7 a.m. and lunch at 2 p.m., a healthy mid-morning snack can maintain steady blood glucose levels. Conversely, a bedtime snack may not be necessary, but individual blood sugar levels should guide this decision. Options include nuts with green tea, a hard-boiled egg, veggies with low-fat cottage cheese or hummus, whole grain toast with nut butter, fresh fruit, plant-based milk with nuts, and plain yogurt or milk.
A common question my patients always ask me is, “Can I have fruits? They are sweet and have sugars like fructose and glucose, right?” Yes, you can have fruits; however, choose the portion size and the timing of when you eat them. Fruits are great sources of nutrients, fibre, and the fruit sugar “fructose.” Nature is the best provider, as it has packed fruits with the sweetness of glucose and fructose, but it also provides antidotes to this sweetness, which include fibre, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. These antidotes nullify the effect of fructose.
Large population studies have consistently highlighted the protective impact of fruit consumption on diabetes risk and glycemic control. In my cross-sectional study involving 843 individuals with diabetes in the United Arab Emirates, I observed a positive association between fresh fruit intake and improved glycemic control. Conversely, regular consumption of fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, and soda, even on a weekly basis, demonstrated a significant negative impact on glucose control. This underscores the importance of distinguishing between whole fruits and sugary alternatives. In essence, incorporating fresh fruits into your diet not only proves harmless but can be instrumental in effectively managing diabetes and mitigating associated complications.
Opt for intelligent snack selections by choosing fresh, seasonal, and vibrant fruits rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber. Favor fruits with a low glycemic index, such as berries, oranges, apples, plums, papaya, kiwi, guava, and pears. Consume smaller portions of higher glycemic index sweetened fruits like mangoes, bananas, jackfruit, and grapes.
Consider healthier alternatives by swapping juices for whole fruits, replacing ice cream sundaes with frozen yogurt, and opting for sparkling water with lemon and mint instead of soda. These choices not only enhance nutritional value but also contribute to a balanced and mindful snacking approach.
Smart Snacking Tips for Diabetes:
Establish Regular Eating Times: Maintain a consistent schedule for meals and snacks, spreading carbohydrates throughout the day for sustained energy and better blood sugar control.