Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine
From our community: “My average blood sugar over the past few months was higher than it should have been, so I’m trying really hard not to eat the wrong foods. Any tips for healthy snacks?” Lynnae Daniel
Getting creative with your snacks can really help make your daily meal plan more exciting. We all get into a rut with our meal choices, and adding different (healthy) snacks can improve variety, colour, flavour and even add valuable nutrients to your daily intake.
Not every person with diabetes needs to snack. Some people are happy with three square meals a day, while others prefer small snacks throughout the day. Your unique eating style largely depends on your own natural eating patterns, medication, blood sugar control, and how active you are.
Remember: If you go for more than 4 or 5 hours between meals you may need to snack in order to prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low. But snacking on the wrong kind of food can cause blood sugar levels to rise and also cause unwanted weight gain.
So what does a healthy snack look like?
- A snack should be between 300 to 600 kilojoules otherwise it is more like a meal.
- Snacking is a good chance to increase your vegetable or fruit intake (remember, the aim is 5 servings of vegetables a day).
- Plate your snack to help control portion size: don’t eat straight out of a bag, box or packet – or straight from the fridge!
- Portion your snacks into snack-size packets, or buy suitable snack portions.
Ask yourself: are you actually hungry? Don’t snack because you’re bored, stressed or worried.
Healthy snack ideas:
- One piece of fruit (carb 15g, fat 0g, 300kj)
- 100ml low-fat flavoured yogurt (carb 16g, fat 2g, 400kj)
- 2 cups popped popcorn sprinkled with fat-free parmesan cheese (carb 15g, fat 7g, 636kj)
- 30g lean biltong (carb 0.7 g, fat 2g, 346kj)
- 3 Provitas or 2 Ryvitas with cottage cheese, tomato and gherkin (carb 20g, fat 2g, 382kj)
- ½ an apple with 20g sliced low-fat cheese (carb 8g, fat 5g, 430kj)
- Raw veggies (carrot sticks, cucumber, baby tomatoes, gherkins, baby corn, snap peas) with cottage cheese, hummus or avocado dip (carb 8g, fat 7g, 540kj)
- 30g nuts/seeds (carb 3g, fat 14g, 735kj)
Tip: Nuts and seeds are high in fat and kilojoules. However, the type of fat is much healthier than that found in a chocolate bar.
Unhealthy snack choices:
- 50g bar of chocolate (carb 30g, fat 12g and 1120kj)
- 30g packet of potato crisps (carb 24g, fat 12g, 766kj)
- 300ml bottle of drinking yoghurt (carb 45g, fat 5.6g, 1140kj)
- 25g packet of sweets (carb 18g, fat 0g, 316kj)
Tip: It might seem like this snack is within the recommended carb, fat and kilojoule allowance, but they are empty kilojoules with no fibre and very little vitamins and minerals.
Snacking for exercise:
Remember that exercise can also cause low blood glucose. It is important to check blood glucose before and after you exercise. People react differently to exercise depending on the type, duration and intensity: some people see a rapid drop and others an increase in blood sugar levels, so it is important to test and see what your individual response is.
As always, you should see a dietician to help you plan suitable snacks for different situations. Fresh snack ideas can bring a sense of fun into your daily eating plan.