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Low Carb Snack Ideas

Foods That Will Minimally Impact Blood Sugar

Michelle MacPhee, D-Mom

One of the great challenges of feeding a child with diabetes is what to do when your child is hungry and their blood glucose is sky high. What if it has been less than 2 hours since their last meal and their blood glucose hasn’t yet had a chance to return to target?

It seems, in our home, there is no time between breakfast and lunch to have a carb-filled morning snack. And afternoon snack bleeds into supper which bleeds into a bedtime snack. My pre-schooler (and especially toddler, when he was one) seemed to eat constantly. “Wait an hour to eat” has never gone over well as a strategy for allowing blood glucose an opportunity to return to normal. Neither has it worked to feed him a high-carb snack of a granola bar or cereal: his blood glucose may still have been be above-target after his last meal when we threw carbs at it; numbers in the high teens or even 20’s were not uncommon for us when we disregarded carb content when blood sugar was already high.

So when time is limited between meals, or when blood glucose is high at the time he wants a snack, we opt for low- or no-carb snacks instead. (Other possibilities include choosing low glycemic snacks and/or using a pre-bolus, that is, giving the insulin 15 minutes or more before the start of the snack.)

Lower and No-Carb (“Free”) Foods

If you are looking for low-carb snack and meal options, in general look towards:

  • green and “savoury” (rather than sweet) vegetables
  • nuts and seeds
  • meat, poultry, fish
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • prepared foods manufactured to be low-carb (ex. sugar-free Jell-O®)

The degree to which you go “low carb” is a decision for each individual family. A consistently low-carb diet is often advocated for those with type 2 diabetes who do not take insulin, as their strategy for managing blood sugar relies more heavily on restricting certain foods in their diet. However, carbohydrate-restriction is not a key approach for many individuals with Type 1, especially children, as it may negatively impact their quality of life, and contribute to control issues around food. In short, it’s not necessary to keep your child’s carb intake low just because they have type 1 diabetes, although some individuals with diabetes feel this is a reasonable and effective way to manage blood sugar spikes.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Adjusting the timing and quantity (dose) of insulin to match food intake, plus taking into account the quality of carbohydrates (for example, the glycemic index), are keys to managing type 1 diabetes, especially in children.
  • Carbohydrates are a key source of fuel for a healthy body, and a diet too high in proteins can place additional stress on the kidneys (an organ which is already at risk for complications with diabetes).
  • Consultation with a dietician is an excellent resource for planning a healthy diet that meets your child’s individual needs.

Lower Carb Snack Ideas

With that said, for those times when you want to provide a low- or no-carb snack, here are some ideas for snack components (which can be used to dream up your own low-carb snack combination). The list is not exhaustive, but is a sampling of possibilities, which have been well-received by our sons.

Note: The carb values are approximate, given as relative guidelines only – be sure to calculate your own carb values for the brands and quantities you prepare.

Free Foods (no carbs)

Individual Snack Items
Comments
Grams of Carbs
per Quantity
Avocado 0
Deli meat: ham, roast beef, turkey, chicken Check labels carefully – “loaf” type deli meats and those with more fillers may have some amount of carbs 0
Hot dog weiner (no filler) Ex. Schneider’s Country Naturals® 0
Roast chicken 0
Chicken salad 0
Shrimp 0
Hard-boiled egg 0
Devilled egg 0
Egg salad 0
Cheese (marble, mozzarella, cheddar) Some brands do have a small amount of carbs – check the package. 0
Cheese String, Cheese Twist 0
Tuna salad 0
Salmon salad 0
Olives, green Carb content varies by brand – check the package. The high fibre content of olives reduces the amount of available carb.
Olives, black Carb content varies by brand – check the package.
Jell-O®, sugar-free Jell-O® brand contains Aspartame. It can be found in the dairy cooler; Snack Pack® brand contains Sucralose. It’s found on a regular grocery shelf, usually near the puddings or granola bars. 0
Mushrooms, canned, whole Carb content varies by brand – check the package. 1 1/2 cup
Mushrooms, fresh 2 6 med. caps
Chicken Weiner 1 1 weiner
Soft cheese Ex. Laughing Cow® brand 1 2 triangles
Pickles – baby dill 2 4 pickles
Plain Nuts:
Almonds 1 11 nuts
Hazelnuts 1 10 nuts
Pecans 1 7 nuts
Walnuts 1 15 nuts
Peanuts Carb content varies by brand – check the package
Cucumber 1 3 slices (medium thickness)
Mini Cucumber 2 1 mini cuke
Bell peppers 1-2 5 slices
Grape tomatoes 1 5
Asparagus 1 3 spears
Pickled asparagus 1 30 g
Broccoli or cauliflower ~1 2 medium spears
Lupini Beans, canned These are pretty dense – not for the faint of heart. Ex. Unico® brand 1 1/2 cup
Green beans, fresh 1+ 10 beans=1oz = 30g
Green beans, canned Ex. Blue Menu™ brand 1 1/2 cup
Mini rice cake Ex. Quaker ® brand (sour cream & onion, etc) 1.2 piece
Turkey pepperoni 1 stick
Ham stick Freybe brand 1 stick
Pepperoni stick
Garlic sausage
Mini-meatballs Carb content varies by brand – check the package. 1 each
Baby corn (canned) Ex. Aroy-D brand 1 7pieces(=85g)
Chicken bologna Ex. Hal-Alal brand 2.5 1 slice
Edamame (soy beans) My kids enjoy them steamed in pod, sprinkled with salt and pepper – half the fun is squeezing the beans out of the pod. 2 20 pods
Edamame (soy beans) 3 ~1/2cup shelled beans
Black Diamond Fun Cheez® 2 package
Processed Cheese Slices 2 slice
Blackberries, Raspberries (1g carbs per 3 large or 4 med berries) 4 1/2 cup
Strawberries 4 ~3 medium strawberries
Cottage Cheese 4 1/3 cup
Yogurt, plain 4 1/3 cup
Yogurt, flavoured, sugar-free 4-5 Single-serve container
Baby MumMum® infant/toddler cookies 4 Package (2 rusks)
Gerber Graduates® Lil' Crunchies 4 16 pieces
Puffed Wheat Ex. Nature’s Path® brand 4.5 1/2 cup
Corn Puffs Ex. Nature’s Path® brand 5.5 1/2 cup
Goldfish® Crackers 5 14 crackers
Ritz Bitz® 5 12 pieces
Popcorn –plain For variety, sprinkle with parmesan cheese or drizzle with sugar-free chocolate syrup 5 1 cup
Apple slices 10-15 1 medium apple
Peanut Butter (Unsweetened) 2 1 tbsp
Cream Cheese (regular fat) 1 1 tbsp
Hummus Dip Carb content varies by brand – check the package

Snack Combinations

Here are some examples of ways you could combine the above ingredients, for a relatively low-carb snack or meal idea.

    • Mushroom Caps: fresh mushroom, stem removed, topped with cream cheese (plain, salmon-, or tomato-flavoured) and bacon bits, and then lightly baked
    • Celery with: tuna, salmon, chicken salad, egg salad (OR peanut butter OR cream cheese (plain or flavoured)
    • Cucumber slices topped with:

    cream cheese (plain or flavoured – Note: drying the cucumber slice with a paper towel will help the cream cheese to stick), or
    salsa and a cheese slice
    tuna or salmon, or
    deli meat

    • Cottage cheese with nuts and/or berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, for example)
    • Yogurt (plain, or sugar-free flavoured) with nuts and/or berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, for example)
    • Lettuce roll-up: egg salad, deli meat, tuna, and/or veggies, wrapped in a lettuce leaf
    • Meat roll-ups: avocado, cheese, peppers, olives, grated carrots, tomato, etc – wrapped in a slice of deli meat
    • Tooth-pick Kebabs: a variety of the following, cut into cubes and loaded onto a toothpick or skewer: cheese, olives, pickles, hard-boiled egg, carrots, etc)
    • Corn Thin Pizza: using a round Corn Thin as the base, load on pizza toppings (cheese, olives, pepperoni or ham stick slices) and bake until the cheese melts
    • Rice Cake Pizza: as above, using rice cakes as the base
    • Cucumber slices topped with cream cheese (plain or flavoured), salsa + cheese slice, and/or tuna, salmon, or deli meat
    • Rumake: water chestnuts, in a soy-based marinade, wrapped in a slice of bacon, then baked
    • Greek Salad: black olives, grape tomatoes, and cucumber chunks, with oil and vinegar dressing and salt/pepper (for a variation, add mushrooms, too)
    • Homemade Vegetable Soup, with extra veggies: puree if desired; add meat if desired, ex. chunks of chicken or beef

What ideas do you have for low-carb snack ideas? The sky’s the limit…

We welcome the opportunity to expand this list – please email us with your low carb snack ideas! It is especially helpful to other parents if you can specify brands, as some food items may vary widely depending on the manufacturer.

The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.

This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.

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