Super Snacks for Hypoglycemia
Managing diabetes usually means doing whatever necessary to keep your blood-sugar levels from going too high. But sometimes the treatments do their job almost too well, and levels get too low. Some medications for type 2 diabetes put you at risk of mild hypoglycemia, which can make you feel shaky, hungry, and weak. If you’re being treated with insulin, you’re at risk for more severe, life-threatening hypoglycemia, when plummeting blood sugar can cause mental confusion and even unconsciousness.
Dealing with the ups and downs is just part of diabetes life. The key? Being prepared! Over the years, I’ve assembled a list of fast blood-sugar boosting snacks. These are some of my favorites.
Glucose Tablets, Gel, & Shots
For severe hypoglycemia (a blood-sugar level below 54 mg/dL), the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends you follow the “15-15 rule.” Have 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate to raise your blood sugar and check it after 15 minutes. If it’s still below 70 mg/dL, have another serving, and repeat until your blood sugar is above 70. The most common fast-acting carbs are glucose tablets, glucose gel, or glucose shots — packaged to deliver exactly 15 g per serving. There are many brands, but my favorites are TRUEplus Glucose Shots and Glucose Gel, and Glukos Gummies.
If you don’t have a rapid-acting form of glucose handy, reach for some candy for a serious hypo low. (But avoid chocolate—the fat in chocolate slows down the absorption and you need glucose, fast!) My go-tos are Skittles or gumdrops, but some people prefer a hard candy like Lifesavers, or a chewy sweet like Twizzlers or Starbursts. See the product label for how much of a serving you need to get to 15 grams of carbs. If you want to treat yourself to something elegant, try Bella Rosa Italian Hard Candies; seven pieces have exactly 15 g of carbs.
Raisins are a healthy, fast-acting way to counteract low blood sugar. I like Newman’s Own Organic raisins in half-ounce mini snack packs, which contain 11 g of carbs per box. Not a fan? Prunes, dried apricots, dates, and dried mangos are also portable, carb-dense, and delicious ways to increase your blood sugar on the go.
If you’re having a severe hypoglycemic low and need a fast source of glucose to raise your blood sugar, consider honey. One tablespoon has about 15 g to 17 g of fast-acting carbohydrates. I love pure manuka honey, and Wedderspoon sells 100% raw, medicinal grade raw manuka honey in individual to-go packets that are convenient to carry. Four packets give you 16 g of carbs.
Regular 100% juice or juice drinks are a quick, easy way to take in some fast-acting carbohydrates. Don’t laugh, but I like the convenience of juice boxes, which I can keep at home or in the car. My favorite: organic Honest Kids juices. Two 6-ounce boxes have around 16 g of carbs. Just don’t be surprised if your kids try to steal them!
Whole fruit can be a good choice for both mild and moderate hypoglycemia (less than 70 mg/dL but 54 mg/dL or higher). If your blood sugar is on the lower end of the range, go for grapes and bananas, which are absorbed and converted quickly. One cup of grapes or half of a banana has around 15 g carbohydrates. For milder hypoglycemia, when super speedy results are less crucial, choose fruit higher in fiber, which can slow absorption of blood sugar and help improve blood sugar levels, like a small apple (21 g of carbs), a small pear (15 g of carbs), or half a mango (25 g of carbs).
Granola bars are the ultimate portable snack. They often contain fiber and protein that slows glucose absorption, though, so they’re not the best choice to treat severe hypoglycemia. However, they are a great option when you’re having a milder episode of low blood sugar. Carbs affect glucose more than other nutrients, and the right indulgence won’t blow your daily carb count. Go for a lower calorie, carb-controlled bar like the Coconut Secret Grain-Free Granola Bar, with 16 g of carbohydrates.
So many trail mixes, but which is best for a blood-sugar boost? Choose (or make) a mix that includes nuts and dried fruits and stay away from chocolate, which can dramatically increase the carb count, and because of its fat content slow down carb absorption. I like Second Nature’s California medley trail mix, which includes whole almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, and dry roasted pistachios.
Flavored Greek Yogurt
A cup of Greek yogurt, higher in protein and lower in carbs than the regular kind, is an easy and delicious snack to help when blood sugar dips into mild hypoglycemia. You can add berries or nuts to give it a nutrition and flavor boost, or choose a flavored Greek yogurt. Go for low-fat versions; non-fat yogurt tends to have more carbs to make up for the lack of fat. One of my faves: Chobani’s low-fat Berry Blended Greek yogurt; one cup has 18 g of carbohydrates.
They’re a non-starchy vegetable that can be part of a healthy diet, but the humble carrot also make a good hypoglycemic snack. Two medium-sized carrots—or the amount of carrots in a small take-along bag of baby carrots—have around 12 g of carbs: Just the right size snack to ward off hunger and deal with mildly low blood sugar.
Life-threatening Hypoglycemia: HealthCentral. (2016). Why Hypoglycemia Is So Dangerous. https://www.healthcentral.com/slideshow/why-hypoglycemia-is-so-dangerous
Low Blood Sugar Treatment: American Diabetes Association. (n.d.) Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar). https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/medication-management/blood-glucose-testing-and-control/hypoglycemia