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Healthy snacks for low blood sugar…


Do you often get hungry right after a snack? Do you need some kind of snack to hold you over between meals? Today we will discuss snacks that will “stick to your ribs” as my mother used to say. Stick to your ribs? What she meant by this is a snack that will keep you feeling satisfied for a reasonable amount of time. My mom had an eater on her hands. As a kid when I was growing, it seemed as if I had a hollow leg. My mom had to become an expert on keeping her growing daughter fed for fear of a grumpy kid. Grumpy Cat is no fun… TRUST ME!. But I did learn a thing or two about snacking from my mom back then. When I attended graduate school for nutrition, I learned the technical term for what mom explained as  sticking to the ribs… healthy glycemic index foods.

The glycemic index is a scale by which foods, meals, and snacks are rated with regards to how they spike people’s blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index are high in carbohydrates (starches, sugars, etc) and low in fiber, and other food groups. Think foods that are either pure carbs, or mostly carbs. Candies, sugared beverages, white starches like white pastas, white rice, white breads, etc. I am not saying any of those foods are completely bad, just that they should be eaten mindfully, and perhaps be combined with a little fat and protein. When you eat these foods alone they tend to provide your blood with simple sugars that break down really fast making your blood sugar spike. It is usually not very long after a simple sugar snack that you feel hungry again. After a spike in blood sugar, your sugar level crashes low leaving you feeling rather hungry… and probably grouchy. Its nice to have a little fat and protein with your carbs because then your body has a little more to digest and absorb than just pure carbs. When it has more to do… its more likely to stay out of trouble.

Foods or snacks with low glycemic indexes typically have less carbohydrates, or they contain complex carbohydrates which are combined with fats and proteins. What is a complex carbohydrate and why is it better? A complex carbohydrate is a carbohydrate that is a little bit harder to break down when you metabolize it. Examples of complex carbohydrates are starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains (whole wheat vs. white flour, brown rice vs. white rice) FIBER! Essentially, a complex carbohydrate is absorbed slower which means that your blood sugar will not spike up as high and then crash. Instead it will steadily rise a little less drastically which makes you feel fuller for longer… and not crashing an hour after a drastic blood sugar high. Yipeee!

Lets do a healthy glycemic snack make over shall we?

Typical Higher Glycemic Snack Lower Glycemic Version
An apple An apple with peanut/almond/ sunflowerseed butter
Jolly Ranchers Honey roasted nuts (still sugar involved but at least there is fat and protein as well)
Strawberry non fat yogurt Plain greek yogurt  LOW FAT rather than NON fat…with fruit and nuts added (add a teaspoon or two of pure maple syrup/ table sugar if you’d like, you’ll likely be consuming less than half the added sugar from your store bought yogurt… 2 teaspoons is better than 5!)
White bread and butter Whole wheat pita with hummus

Do you get the idea? I think it is OK to have a little added sugars in your snacks. See! I can be fun too! I just think it helps if we are all mindful and put some thought into how MUCH sugar we need in our snacks. If you eat that non fat strawberry yogurt from the store for example they LOAD that thing UP with added sugar to make sure you like it and will buy more. Or maybe artificial sugar… but that’s a whole other blog topic for another day. Who needs 5 or 6 teaspoons of sugar in their yogurt!!??!! You might as well eat cake at that point.

The honey roasted nuts I see as a better option to just pure sugar candy… the good old Jolly Rancher. You will actually feel less jolly after eating that rancher I think.

Now I know what you may say… is ice cream OK then? Fat, Carbs, and protein right? The answer is it is better blood sugar wise to eat a combined food group food like ice cream than pure sugar food, HOWEVER… if you eat too much ice cream… the sugar content might win and make you crash. If you are starving I suggest something with more fiber than added sugars like one of the snacks above. Save the ice cream for a time when you’re not starving and less likely to over eat the ice cream.

Have a low glycemic day!