Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E
Happy National Diabetes Month! This is a month to celebrate what we have learned about the prevention and treatment of diabetes and to continue to educate the public about this disease. There are a lot of myths about diabetes. Today, I'm going to tackle just one.
Myth: People with diabetes must have several snacks throughout the day.
Truth: For most adults, even those with diabetes, snacks are optional. It's best to eat wholesome food on a regular schedule, but whether you eat three, four, five or even six times per day should be up to you.
My take on how this myth got started: Years ago there were few diabetes medications available, and they all were likely to cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Because of this risk, people with diabetes were rightly told to eat carbohydrate-containing foods such as fruit, milk, crackers or yogurt every few hours. Today, our treatments are far more sophisticated; many drugs don't cause hypoglycemia, and sometimes insulin dosages can be adjusted for the amount of carbohydrate the individual eats. All of this gives the person with diabetes more flexibility. If you fear hypoglycemia or if you have it often, talk to your healthcare provider about changing your medications. You may need less medication or a different medication. (Do not alter your treatment before discussing it with your medical team!) Rarely after medication changes does someone need to snack more often than they want to.
So are snacks right for you? To decide, ask yourself these questions.
- Am I hungry between meals?
- Does having a small snack help me prevent overeating later in the day?
- Does snacking help me fit in missing food groups? Think fruits and vegetables!
If you decide to snack, be prepared with several smart snacking solutions. Don't let extreme hunger force you into poor decisions. You've been in that situation before, right? I think we all have. Be sure to have healthful choices on hand. Some of my patients find that keeping a list of snack options in sight helps them make a good choice. Try it. Grab a 5” x 7” index card (or make a note in your phone), and write a list of acceptable snacks. The snacks you choose should reflect your meal plan, taste preferences and convenience. Here are some of mine, but you should choose what's appropriate for you.
- Nonfat (or low-fat) Greek yogurt and fresh fruit
- Cottage cheese, raisins and cinnamon
- Mini whole grain bagel with peanut or almond butter
- Chocolate-covered almonds (chocolate is my weakness, but really, I eat just 6 at a time)
- Hummus and veggies
- Low Sodium V8® 100% Vegetable juice
I carry some shelf stable items in my purse for times when I'm stuck in traffic, late at the doctor's office or otherwise inconvenienced and away from my lunchbox or refrigerator. I like nuts with a bit of dried fruit for sweetness. I also carry wholesome high-fiber snack bars.
So what are your favorite nutritious snacks? Keep them handy, so you'll always have something wholesome to reach for.
Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.
Jill Weisenberger is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, consultant and writer in SE Virginia. She counsels patients in her Newport News office. She is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week. Learn more about Jill at www.jillweisenberger.com.