Low-carb and lower carbohydrate snacks can serve a purpose for people with type 1 diabetes in a variety of scenarios. For example, perhaps you’re hungry between meals and not ready to figure out your carbohydrates. Or your child with type 1 diabetes wants to eat, but you don’t have their insulin ready.
You might be attending a cocktail hour and know you are going to eat a large meal later and don’t want to eat carbohydrates right now. Or you need to get your blood sugar to a safe range before bedtime or a workout.
These are just some of the many scenarios in which people with type 1 diabetes would benefit from a low-carb or lower carbohydrate snack. This article will discuss type 1 diabetes, when low-carb snacks might be used, examples, and the importance of balanced eating.
What Is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the pancreas, destroying the cells that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin by means of infusion, injection, or inhalation to keep their blood sugars in a healthy range.
Many variables can influence blood sugar—food, stress, illness, exercise, and hormones, to name a few. To obtain tight blood sugar control, people with type 1 diabetes need to test their blood sugars often or wear a continuous glucose monitor and carefully manage their insulin and food.
Although people with diabetes do not need to follow a low-carbohydrate diet, there are times when lower carbohydrate snacks are appropriate.
When Is a Good Time to Have a Lower Carbohydrate Snack?
One of the best ways to gather information is to ask people living with diabetes about their experience. We reached out to Kimberly Avelin, a schoolteacher living with type 1 diabetes since she was 11 years old.
She tells Get Meds Info, “I think low-carb snacks are great for those times when you are hungry but don’t want to have to worry about taking too much or too little insulin. For example, when you are on the go or between meals.”
Parents who have children with type 1 diabetes may also find lower carbohydrate snacks useful when their children are hungry but a meal is not ready, or when their children are not supervised by someone who can administer insulin or count carbohydrates.
Low-carbohydrate snacks can be appropriate when blood sugars are elevated and you don’t want to deal with “chasing a high blood sugar” before or during exercise. They might be used when blood sugars are not necessarily considered to be low, but are not high enough to work out without developing hypoglycemia.
When in doubt, discuss certain scenarios with your medical team or certified diabetes care and education specialist. They can help you identify patterns and address your needs accordingly.
What Are Lower Carbohydrate Snacks?
There is no universal definition of a low-carb or lower carbohydrate snack. Low-carbohydrate definitions vary among professionals and people living with diabetes. However, most of the time, a low-carbohydrate diet consists of consuming less than about 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Typically a food is considered a very low-carbohydrate snack if it has five grams or less of carbohydrates per serving and a lower carbohydrate snack if it has 15 grams or less per serving.
But people with diabetes who are not necessarily following a low-carbohydrate diet can still find lower carbohydrate snacks useful. In addition, low-carb snacks can be defined differently for individuals because of insulin needs.
For example, if you are prescribed one unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbohydrates, a lower carbohydrate snack would contain less than 10 grams of carbohydrates.
If you have a child with type 1 diabetes, be sure to discuss whether they should take insulin for their snacks with their doctor.
Snacks With 5 Grams or Less of Carbohydrates
These are examples of snacks with five grams or less of carbohydrates:
- Cheese (string cheese, most hard cheeses): About 1 ounce (oz), 4 cubes, 1/4 cup, or 1 slice
- Parmesan crisps
- Egglife wraps topped with cheese, veggies, avocado, or cream cheese
- Cottage cheese or low-fat ricotta: 1/2 cup (add a few nuts)
- Vegetables (celery, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli to dip in sour cream or salad dressing): 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower): 1/4 cup, no shells
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios): About 1/4 cup
- Eggs (hardboiled, omelet, scrambled)
- Cauliflower thins or flats topped with roasted turkey or cream cheese
- Greek yogurt: Two Good has 3 grams of carbohydrates. You can add one or two strawberries. Other plain varieties have about 6 grams of carbohydrates.
- Lettuce wrap with turkey or shredded chicken
- Tuna or egg salad prepared with mayo or avocado
- 1 piece of grilled chicken or fish
- Olives: Up to 15
- Jerky: Look for all-natural versions
- Kale chips: 1 oz
Snacks With 6 to 15 grams of Carbohydrates
These are examples of snacks with 6 to 15 grams of carbohydrates:
- Avocado, cauliflower, almond crisps: Like HIPPIE Snacks
- Cauliflower dip: Like NAYA, with vegetables or a few whole-grain crackers
- Almond flour crackers: Like FAT SNAX
- Kefir: 3/4 to 1 cup (check labels for carbohydrates)
- Broad Bean Snacks or other roasted beans (check label): Such as Bada Bean Bada Boom
- Popcorn: 3 cups air-popped, topped with nutritional yeast for non-dairy cheesy flavor or Parmesan cheese
- 1 slice of whole-grain bread with cheese or nut butter (check label)
- 1/2 apple with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- 3/4 cup of berries with a handful of nuts
- 1 graham cracker topped with 1 tablespoon nut butter or cream cheese
- 1/2 sandwich: Deli meat (roast turkey, ham), cheese, vegetable
- Edamame: 1 cup
- 10 baby carrots with 1 tablespoon peanut butter or guacamole
- Hummus or guacamole and whole-grain chips (check chip labels for amount of carbohydrates)
- Low-carb wrap (almond flour, coconut, cauliflower, kale) topped with your favorite protein
- 1/2 Ezekiel English muffin or another whole-grain variety (check label) topped with melted cheese or butter
- 1/2 cup low-carb cereal such as Catalina Crunch, or you can make your own version (berries, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, cinnamon, vanilla powder)
Balanced Eating Is Still Important
Low-carb and lower carbohydrate snacks may serve a purpose for specific situations, but this doesn’t mean that all people with type 1 diabetes need to follow a low-carbohydrate diet.
If a low-carbohydrate eating style supports your goals and is created in a way that ensures you are receiving the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, you may choose to eat this way. But you don’t have to.
There is no one-size-fits-all to meal planning. Eating styles and meal plans should be person-centered. Eating patterns should be pleasurable, sustainable, and fit into your lifestyle while also supporting your medical needs.
Avelin shares, “One of the biggest things that I hope to educate people on is that people with type 1 diabetes can eat foods they like, but they’ll need to manually figure out how to match insulin to meet their needs.”
In people who don’t have diabetes, upon eating, their body puts out just enough insulin to keep their blood sugars in a healthy range. And when they are at rest, their body does the same.
People with type 1 diabetes need to adjust insulin levels to keep their blood sugars in range. Avelin says, “Sometimes it is just harder having to get the exact formula right and taking in all of the other factors that impact blood sugar.”
If you or your child has type 1 diabetes, low-carb and lower carbohydrate snacks can be useful at various times. A very low-carbohydrate snack has five grams or less of carbohydrates per serving, and a lower carbohydrate snack has 15 grams or less per serving, but this can also vary with individual insulin needs.
A Word From Get Meds Info
Low-carb and lower carbohydrate snacks can serve a purpose for people with diabetes. What is considered a low-carb or lower carbohydrate snack can be different for everyone. Nowadays, there are many lower carbohydrate snacks on the market made with wholesome ingredients.
Although low-carbohydrate snacks can be useful, most people with diabetes can still control their blood sugars while eating the foods they love. If you have questions about your meal plan or insulin dosing, be sure to reach out to your medical team.