What do you do when you start feeling a little peckish between meals? As a type 2 diabetic you cannot give yourself a boost with a bar of chocolate, a few sweets or a sticky bun. Here are a few suggestions.
You can control your blood sugar and beat the awful consequences of type 2 diabetes by eating an old-fashioned natural diet … of unprocessed food that is low in sugar, low in fat, low in salt, high in fibre and that is digested slowly (has low GI values).
Sticking to this kind of diet is relatively easy. You soon get used to choosing the correct foods and it all becomes fairly routine.
The problems arise when you need a snack. We all get slightly hungry between meals and the only solution is to nibble on something.
But for a diabetic, the question is: nibble on what?
Go to any sweet shop (candy store) or the confectionary counter in your local supermarket and you will be presented with a vast array of chocolates, crisps, biscuits and other processed snacks. All will pack an energy punch that will keep you going until your next meal.
The problem for you is that all of them are full of sugar and fat. Just read the nutritional data on the labels.
Eating these on a regular basis would totally destroy any chance you have of beating your diabetes.
No need to despair.
Here are some snacks for beating diabetes—some tasty nibbles that will give you a mid-afternoon boost and, at the same time, help you beat your diabetes.
Raw vegetables make a great nibble. They are low in calories, they are full of water (which makes you feel full) and they satisfy the desire to crunch.
My favourites are raw carrots and raw celery.
The beta-carotene in carrots helps protect you against macular degeneration (a major worry for diabetics) and the development of cataracts. Your body turns the carotene into vitamin A which keeps your skin clear.
Carrots are also full of carotenoids, fat-soluble compounds associated with a reduced risk of a wide range of cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies have shown that celery can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Just peel the carrots and cut off the ends. Then slice them lengthways into ‘sticks’. With celery, I rinse them thoroughly and cut them into short lengths. Chomp and enjoy. I keep a small tub of prepared raw carrot and celery on my desk.
If plain raw vegetables taste a bit boring you can liven them up with low fat dip, such as soy yoghurt. Read the labels, however, just to make sure that they are genuinely low fat and that sugar has not been added to enhance taste.
Watermelon is another food that is full of water. In fact it is about 92% water by weight, so it can make you feel full without piling on the calories.
Though watermelon contains very little dietary fibre, it is a good source of vitamin C … 100g contains 8.1mg of vitamin C, about 10% of your daily requirements. It is also a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene which is said to lower the risk of cancer, though this is as yet unproven.
Watermelon is mildly diuretic, ie it increases the flow of your urine. Some research suggests that it may be useful in helping you reduce your blood pressure but, as far as I am aware, this still has to be proved under rigorous scientific conditions.
About 6% by weight of a watermelon is sugar and it has a fairly high GI (72). However its glycemic load (carbohydrate content as a percentage of its weight) at 3.6 is very low. Thus you can safely eat watermelon as a snack.
Pears and apples
As you have probably guessed by now, the key to a healthy snack is the water content of what you want to nibble. Pears and apples are also high in water content.
Pears have no fat and very little protein. But they have plenty of vitamin C and fibre (3.1% by weight), both of which are found mainly within the skin. Most of the fibre is insoluble, making pears a good laxative … provided you eat the skins.
Apples contain very little fat or protein, and a reasonable amount of dietary fibre (2.4%). They contain relatively low amounts of vitamin C.
But they are a rich source of other antioxidants that prevent damage to cells. They also contain quercetin, a flavonoid which reduces the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prostate and lung cancers.
A possible problem with pears and apples is their carbohydrate content, about 14% for apples and over 15% for pears. In both cases sugar is more than 10% by weight.
Both fruits, however, have a low GI (35 to 40 depending on the variety), meaning that glucose will be released slowly into your bloodstream during digestion, so you can eat them with care.
Just restrict yourself to one apple or one pear a day.
Grapes and raisins
Grapes, whether purple or green, contain no fat, very little protein and less than 1% dietary fibre. However they are very good sources of vitamins C and K, and quite good sources of vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
The problem, again, is sugar. In a 100g of grapes for eating, total carbohydrates are about 18g, of which sugars are 15.5g. However, the GI of raw grapes is less than 50 so grapes should be OK as an occasional snack eaten in moderation.
Raisins are dried grapes. Removing the water from grapes shrinks them down to about one-eight of their original size. One raisin contains all the nutrients of a single grape, including the excess sugar so you have to treat them with caution. Never eat more than a few at a time.
However, if you are prone to ‘hypos’ or hypoglycaemic episodes (in which your blood sugar falls dangerously low), you should carry a small packet of raisins around in your pocket as an instant glucose boost.
There are quite a few berries you can use as snacks. These include blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and black currants. You can add in fresh cranberries if, like me, you are fond of their tart taste.
Like other fruits, berries are high in water and fibre, which fills you up and keeps you full longer. In addition, they are full of good stuff like antioxidants, including polyphenol antioxidants (naturally occurring chemicals that can have a beneficial effect on metabolic processes), as well as vitamins and minerals.
Berries, with a few exceptions, are very sweet. This means that they can satisfy your sweet tooth for a fraction of the calories you would take in gobbling buns (cookies) or brownies.
However it’s hard to figure out how some berries can affect your blood glucose.
This is because GI values can only be calculated for foods containing sugar or starch. Some berries are high in fibre and very low in starch, so a GI value for these fruits cannot be calculated.
However, if these berries are high in fibre then it seems to be safe to assume that their GI will be reasonable and these fruits can be eaten in moderation as occasional snacks.
Air-popped corn is one of the few processed foods that can be recommended as a snack. It is also the only snack that does not contain plenty of water.
Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in dietary fibre and antioxidants, low in calories and fat, and free of sugar and sodium. This is what makes it an attractive snack for us diabetics.
The problem is that, for the sake of flavour, large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt are often added to commercially-prepared popcorn, which turns it into a very poor choice for diabetics. The sort of popcorn you buy in cinemas is notorious for the amounts of fat and salt it contains.
Thus, read the labels carefully before you buy. Or best of all, pop your own corn at home. It’s easy.
There are plenty of non-dairy yoghurts around that you can use as a snack. However, you need to read the labels carefully for added ‘flavour-enhancing’ ingredients, such as sugar, fat and dairy protein.
One sure way to give yourself a boost is to drink something with caffeine in it.
Coffee fits that bill. However the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee will vary depending on the variety of the seed, the degree to which it has been roasted, and the brewing method. Strangely, espresso coffee contains less caffeine than coffee prepared using the drip method.
Coffee is an effective stimulant. However, as a diabetic, you need to drink it ‘plain black’. Adding sugar puts it out of bounds for all diabetics. If you must add milk or cream, add non-dairy creamer.
As well as caffeine, green tea contains catechins, a type of phytochemical that can affect the metabolism for a short time. To get the best out of it, you need to drink the tea several times a day.
There is some evidence to suggest that persons who drink green tea regularly may have a lower risk of developing heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Whether this be true or not, green tea is a marvellously stimulating drink and you can drink several cups a day.