The 7 Best High-Protein Snacks for Diabetics

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If you have diabetes and feel hungry easily during the day, is it okay to have a snack between meals? The short answer is yes!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , more than 370,000 Americans have diabetes — or one in 10. Most (1% to 10%) were diagnosed with type 90 diabetes. If you have diabetes, your diet, including the types of snacks you choose, plays a huge role in controlling your blood sugar.

Snacks that provide protein and healthy fats and are lower in carbohydrates may help keep you full and reduce your chances of blood sugar spikes. Read on to discover strategies for choosing a snack, as well as our picks for protein-rich snacks.

What to Look for in a Diabetic-Friendly Snack

First, before heading to the kitchen, listen to your hunger cues. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry for a snack, or if the urge to nibble stems from habit, boredom, or stress. If you’re hungry, choose a nutritious, easy-to-prepare snack that will keep you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal.

When choosing a snack, consider its nutritional content, especially:

fiber

Fiber can help slow digestion and delay glucose absorption by absorbing water and forming a gel . Regular consumption of fiber may help improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, according to a 2021 meta-analysis in the Journal of Functional Foods . Whole grains (such as whole-wheat bread), nuts, seeds and most vegetables and fruits are Is an excellent source of fiber .

healthy fat

It is essential to include healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds as part of your meals and snacks. A 2019 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that fat can help fill you up, especially when eaten with fiber . Along with protein and fiber, fat can help slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream to prevent sugar spikes and crashes.

low sodium

According to the CDC , having diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease compared to someone without diabetes. Since high blood pressure is also a risk factor for heart disease, choosing low-sodium snacks may help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

carbohydrate

Choosing snacks with 15 grams or fewer carbohydrates per serving may help manage your blood sugar levels. However, this recommendation can vary from person to person, so working with a registered dietitian will help determine your needs.

Egg

Like fiber and fat, protein regulates hunger by slowing the release of glucose into the blood . Many protein-rich foods also contain healthy fats and/or fiber. The exception is if your kidney function is impaired. In this case, you may need to monitor your protein intake.

The 7 Best High-Protein Snacks for Diabetes

Here are our picks for the top seven high-protein snacks that are the best if you have type 2 diabetes:

1. Cheese block

Cheese is undoubtedly a filling and delicious food that contains very few carbohydrates. According to the USDA , a 1-ounce slice of cheddar cheese provides 115 calories, 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat and 180 milligrams of sodium. A 2019 review published in Advances in Nutrition found that dairy consumption , Includes cheese, which has been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

2. Mixed Nuts

Nuts have a successful combination of nutrients and are an ideal snack for diabetics. They are low in carbohydrates and an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition to unsaturated fat and fiber, they contain magnesium and plant compounds called polyphenols that may help regulate blood sugar levels, according to a 2021 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . Walnuts, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, and almonds are all good choices. For example, almonds provide 1 gram of protein per 6-ounce serving, according to the USDA .

Although almonds and other nuts are high in fat, a 2019 study in Nutrition Research suggests that eating more than one to two servings of nuts per week may not promote weight gain when a person eats a balanced diet. Some nuts, such as almonds, have also been found to improve gut health , promote weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and death associated with these conditions, according to a 2021 review in Nutrients .

Choose unsalted and unflavored nuts to minimize the amount of added salt and sugar. You can also buy nuts in bulk to make  a DIY trail mix .

3. Nut Butter Vegetables

Don’t like eating whole nuts? Consider pairing nut butters with celery sticks, baby carrots or sliced ​​apples for a filling snack. According to the USDA , 1 tablespoon of peanut butter provides nearly 4 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat and nearly 1 gram of fiber. Make sure you read nutrition labels and choose no-added-sugar and low-sodium options.

4. Sunflower seeds

Like nuts, sunflower seeds are high in protein, fat and fiber, with each ounce (with shell) of unsalted sunflower seeds providing 3 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat and about 2 grams of fiber, according to the USDA .

Sunflower seeds have been shown to help lower glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, a  2021 study by Cureus suggests. When combined with carbohydrates, the proteins and fats in sunflower seeds may slow digestion and hinder the release of glucose into the blood. Antioxidants found in sunflower seeds, including chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, may also have hypoglycemic properties effect, although more research is needed.

5. Edamame

Edamame is one of the nutritious snacks for diabetics. Like animal-based protein, these small soybeans are a complete and easily absorbed protein, making them a good plant-based protein option, according to a 2022 article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Research . According to the USDA , 1 cup (160 grams) of shelled and unsalted edamame provides 18 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat. Despite containing 14 grams of carbohydrates, shelled edamame also contains 8 grams of fiber. They’re also easy to prepare : Buy frozen and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or boil until heated through.

6. Hard boiled eggs

Another excellent between-meal snack option is hard-boiled eggs. One egg provides 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat . Eggs contain about half a gram of carbohydrates, so they have little effect on blood sugar levels. In fact, a 2020 study in Clinical Nutrition found that eating eggs as a bedtime snack helped lower fasting blood sugar and improve markers of insulin sensitivity compared to a carbohydrate-heavy yogurt snack. Additionally , Eggs are so nutritious that eating one egg a day probably doesn’t pose any health risks, including for people with diabetes, according to a 2020 article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

You can also enjoy poached, boiled or scrambled eggs. Pair hard-boiled eggs with a few graham crackers or some sliced ​​veggies for a boost of fiber to feel fuller and control blood sugar.

7. Greek yogurt

Craving something sweet? Consider Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is packed with nutrients and offers many health benefits , such as supporting muscle and bone health. Plus, a 7-ounce container of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrates. That’s double the amount of protein and carbs The compound is half that of regular yogurt . If Greek yogurt isn’t enough, consider adding some low-glycemic fruit and walnuts, like this Greek yogurt with fruits and nuts recipe.

Additional Tips for Managing Blood Sugar Levels

You may or may not need a bedtime snack, depending on your health goals. However, these are other ways you can control your blood sugar levels.

Follow the Diabetes Tablet Method

The diabetic plate method means filling half of your plate (or bowl) with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the remaining quarter with carbohydrate-containing foods. This way of organizing your meals can help you include more vegetables and keep your carb intake in check. Check out our easy-dish, diabetic-friendly dinners for meal ideas.

be physically active

Regular exercise can also help stabilize blood sugar levels. Your body may also be more sensitive to insulin, meaning you may only need a small amount of the hormone to lower your blood sugar levels, the CDC explains. The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, involving activities that focus on building and maintaining muscle on at least two days per week.

maintain a healthy weight

Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, losing visceral fat and maintaining a healthy weight may also reduce your risk of developing other health problems. Employing a healthy eating strategy combined with an exercise routine may help.

the bottom line

Whether you need to snack between meals depends on several factors, including how well your blood sugar levels are controlled, whether you take insulin, whether you have other medical conditions, your hunger levels, and more. Finding the balance that works for your health goals and lifestyle is key to managing diabetes. Talk to your primary care provider, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator to develop a customized meal plan that takes into account the timing of your meals and snacks. Our library of recipes, meal plans, and articles at the Diabetic Diet Center can inspire you to manage diabetes on your own terms.

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