10 Delicious, Healthy Snacks That Balance Your Blood Sugar
I recognize that everyone’s body is different, but that doesn’t mean I really understand people who don’t eat breakfast. I’m usually a pretty together, reasonable person, but when I haven’t eaten, I have serious trouble concentrating and sometimes get the “hunger shakes,” which, yes, are exactly what they sound like. Basically, I’m susceptible to mild hypoglycemia, even though I’m not diabetic or pre-diabetic (yep, I’ve had my blood sugar tested recently). If you relate, know that a lot of us are in this same boat: many people need to stay on top of managing their blood sugar or they become hangry, absent-minded, or less coordinated.
So I spoke with Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, for her best tips on managing blood sugar through healthy snacking — and why it’s so important to do so. She notes that 96 million American adults have prediabetes, and almost 90% don’t know it. That’s 38% of the adult population — really, we should all be paying attention to our blood sugar because so many of us are at risk.
“When people try to treat blood sugar, they often think ‘I have to go keto,’ but that means they avoid all the other aspects of a healthy diet,” Harris-Pincus says. “Eating enough fiber is actually the key to helping control blood sugar, and fiber is only found in plant-based, carb-containing foods, like vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. 95% of us miss the mark on fiber goals, so while everyone’s complaining about eating too many carbs, the truth is, we’re just not eating the right ones.”
For snacks, consider three components, Harris-Pincus sayas: combining healthy carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, or whole grains with a lean protein and a good-for-you fat. “This combination helps your food absorb much more slowly so your blood sugar rises less quickly, keeping your energy levels sustained and your blood sugar more stable,” she says. “Combining protein and fiber, you’re not hungry again as quickly, and don’t end up in a vicious snacking cycle.”
This gives us the opportunity to pair some of our favorite snacks together for a blood sugar-balancing supersnack. “For instance, if you’re going to have a cup of protein-packed Greek yogurt, toss in some fiber-filled raspberries and a handful of walnuts, which contain lots of heart-healthy fats,” Harris-Pincus says. “Or if you’re going to have an apple, enjoy it with a little cheese or peanut butter to help temper the absorption of that carbohydrate.”
Using this carb-protein-fat formula, I put together a bunch of truly healthy snacks that I really enjoy and that temper my blood sugar levels. I hope you enjoy them, too, and if you have a blood sugar-balancing snack you love, please send it to Clean Plates on Instagram @cleanplates — we’ll feature our favorites in stories this week.
I love this seriously easy cannellini bean dip recipe, and usually toss in whatever fresh herbs I have in the fridge and drizzle some extra olive oil on top. I think it’s a good idea to always have a dip and some cut-up, washed vegetables hanging out in the fridge just because it makes healthy snacking such an easy, ready-to-go option.
2. Kimchi deviled eggs with a handful of air-popped popcorn
Ok, I know this may not make a lot of sense as a pairing, but it’s one of my favorite afternoon snacks. You can make a batch of deviled eggs at the top of the week and they’ll be good for four days, although I rarely have leftovers that long. The kimchi provides a sharpness and a good hit of probiotics, but I like to swap the mayo in this recipe out for full-fat Greek yogurt (extra probiotics and more protein) and sometimes throw in a little arrowroot powder as a thickener. I also always have a bag of popped popcorn on hand — it’s tasty, low-calorie, and full of fiber. My favorite brand is Lesser Evil, and I’m a huge fan of their Avocado-licious organic popcorn.
Chia seeds have a magical amount of fiber in them — 10g in two tablespoons. So if you mix up a chia seed pudding with your favorite protein powder, you’ve got a seriously blood sugar-stabilizing blend of healthy carbs and proteins. I like to toss in some organic cocoa powder (my favorite is Anthony’s organic), whatever berries are in the fridge, and some almond butter, too.
4. Tuna salad with whole-grain crackers
I mix up a chicken salad or a tuna salad at least once a week. Typically, the tuna salad is just Vegenaise (I like the grapeseed oil kind best), a little Greek yogurt, some chopped celery, and a can of Wild Planet Albacore tuna, which is the best canned tuna in the history of the world and no one can convince me otherwise. For chicken salad, I’ll usually throw in some garam masala and sliced grapes, too, for a really lazy version of coronation chicken salad (but one that makes a great blood sugar-balancing snack all on its own). For crackers, I love the Wasa whole grain, which are low-calorie and have delightfully simple ingredients (whole grain rye flour, yeast, salt).
These DIY granola bars are surprisingly easy to make and are filled with both healthy fiber and protein, thanks to a combination of amaranth, an underutilized ancient grain, and peanut butter. The recipe calls for three tablespoons of honey, but I like things a little less sweet and always opt for less honey. To balance out the stickiness (the honey acts as a binder as well as a sweetener), I just add in some extra peanut butter — they still come out great.
6. Peanut butter toast
Peanut butter toast is the rare comfort food that’s also healthful — so long as you choose both high-quality peanut butter and bread. My favorite peanut butter is the Trader Joe’s organic, which contains just peanuts and salt, but somehow magically does not require tons of stirring. For bread, I especially like the Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted whole grain bread, which you can find in the frozen section of many grocery stores. It’s made with a combination of six grains and legumes, including barley, millet, and lentils, and it contains exactly zero sugars. Even better: top with some sliced banana and a sprinkling of flax seeds.
7. Fresh mozzarella with watermelon and balsamic drizzle
I generally don’t buy pre-chopped fruit and vegetables because I am not made of money, but watermelon is the major exception. Unless you’re having a party and want to cut it into cute sticks, splurging on pre-chopped watermelon in the summer means always having access to the best flavor of the season without the hassle of carving. It’s a worthwhile splurge, in my opinion. This snack takes less than two minutes to make and looks so elegant, you’d feel good about serving it to the Queen. If you happen to have some basil on hand, you can toss that in too, or swap the watermelon for tomatoes for a proper little caprese. For a high-quality balsamic that doesn’t break the bank, I am devoted to Fini Modena Organic, which is a terrific value.
8. Baked chicken tenders with guacamole
This is what I think of as a “heavy snack,” which is probably more like someone else’s “light meal” or even “regular lunch” depending on your dietary needs and preferences. A friend of mine who is really into bodybuilding eats this with just strips of poached chicken breast, but I tend to use these baked chicken tenders. They’re made with just organic chicken strips, almond flour, an egg, and whatever spices you have on hand. By serving these with guacamole, you’re getting a good hit of healthy fiber, too, achieving that all-important balance.
9. Baked sweet potato chips and French onion dip
Chips and French onion dip are a healthy, blood sugar-balancing snack? Yes, it’s true: sweet potato chips are delicious and incredibly easy to make if you use a mandoline (although for the love of all that could possibly be holy, please use a cut-proof mandoline glove). As for the French onion dip, yes, it’s basically the same flavor profile as the 1970s classic, but in this instance, just combine organic Greek yogurt and this organic French onion dip mix. (Don’t judge me, it’s delicious and takes under 30 seconds to make.) Together with the sweet potato chips — or a handful of crudités — you’ve got healthy carbs, protein, and fats, which makes for an indulgent-feeling snack that’s actually totally good for you.
This is a great basic popcorn trail mix recipe, but you can mix it up as much as you like. Personally, my favorite version is air-popped popcorn with almonds, cashews, dried cherries, and toasted coconut chips. (My favorite are the organic coconut chips from Terrasoul — they contain zero added sugar and only 1g of natural sugar per serving, but somehow taste sweet.) If you like, you can make spiced nut clusters to toss with the trail mix, too, for some extra-flavorful spices.
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