Stop reaching for these pick-me-ups for better blood sugar control. Here are the worst snack foods for spiking blood sugar.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, your healthcare provider may have suggested a lower-carb diet to help manage your blood sugar.
For many, eating low-carb feels restrictive and can be hard to maintain long-term. So instead of focusing on cutting out all carbs, it’s better to strive for a balanced plate for your meals and snacks. In fact, the research shows that a meal or snack that is balanced with all food groups—proteins, carbs, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables—can improve blood sugar control after the meal.
The good news is that rather than removing your favorite foods from your diet, you can pair them with other food groups that slow down the rise in blood sugar afterward.
While it is possible to pair certain foods together to keep blood sugar levels in check, there are still some foods that are not nutritionally well balanced, and it is probably best to reach for a different option as a snack. Enjoying these foods every once in a while is perfectly fine, but if you reach for any of these following snack options regularly, you might consider changing up your snack habits to reach for something a bit more balanced.
Candy tends to be a food that is low in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. It’s often quickly digested and absorbed right away—both raising blood sugar and potentially increasing hunger later.
Work toward choosing options that take longer to digest and help keep you full instead. Then, consider having a piece of candy or two after you’ve had a balanced snack if you still want it. You’ll feel more energized and stable throughout the rest of the day without a huge change in blood sugar.
Chips are often a quick snack from the vending machine that are easy to grab. However, sometimes a more convenient choice at the moment can lead to high blood sugar later. Chips are often low in protein and fiber, making them a blood sugar-spiking food.
Luckily, you don’t have to remove this crunchy snack from your diet completely to manage blood sugar. There are new brands out now making more blood sugar-friendly options. Brands like Quest Protein Chips, Wilde Chicken Chips, and even bean-based chips like Beanitos are all high in either protein or fiber for better blood sugar control.
Pair these options with a high-fiber dip like hummus, veggie sticks, or yogurt, and you have a blood sugar-balancing snack.
3. White Bread
You can have bread, but just not the white kind, says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, author of Eat What You Love Diabetes Cookbook. “White sandwich bread is a refined grain, not a whole grain. When eaten as is, it has a high glycemic index and can directly lead to elevated blood-sugar levels.” Swap white bread for whole grain or Ezekiel bread.
4. French Fries
It’s not that you can’t eat potatoes, you just have to be cognizant of how they’re prepared and how much you consume. French fries, for example, are a no-go. “Fried foods are high in simple carbs and fat, which is a tough combination for diabetics. It will raise blood sugar quickly and keep it high for a long time because the fat takes a while to digest,” Zanini explains.
5. Cinnamon Rolls
Though you likely assumed sugary donuts and muffins weren’t the best way to kick off your day, we bet you didn’t realize just how awful certain pastries can be. Cinnamon rolls, for example, can contain more saturated fat and added sugars than people with diabetes should have in an entire day. Yikes!
6. Mixed Coffee Drinks
Sure, they look awful tempting topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, but you’ll want to say “no” to sugary coffee drinks, Zanini advises. “A small ice-blended chocolate coffee drink from a café can easily contain over 44 grams of sugar, which is equal to 11 teaspoons. That’s much more than the American Heart Association’s 6 teaspoon recommendation.”
Sugar-sweetened beverages might offer a nice energy boost, but they are notoriously low in nutrients and high in sugar. This includes soda, juice, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee. A large blood sugar swing between meals will only result in increased hunger and lower energy later. So, you’re likely better off switching to options that have more protein, fiber, and healthy fat in them for your blood sugar.
Trying to kick your soda habit? Swap out your regular choice for diet soda if you are working to wean yourself off your soda snack habit. Diet soda has been shown to be safe in moderation and does not cause blood sugar spikes.
Speaking of pretzels, this addicting snack isn’t the best choice for diabetics either. The one-two punch that makes pretzels a no-go for diabetics? It’s the combination of being high in heart-taxing sodium and refined, simple carbs that can easily spike your blood sugar.
9. Energy Drinks
And the reason isn’t only because they taste awful. Researchers from the University of Calgary found that consuming caffeinated energy drinks (with 200 milligrams of caffeine) can cause blood glucose and insulin levels to spike by upwards of 30 percent and may lead to subsequent problems bringing blood sugar levels down to normal. According to one of the researchers behind the study, the caffeine is at fault for your body’s inability to subsequently stabilize blood sugar as the stimulant persists in your system for four to six hours after consumption. The underlying mechanism behind caffeine’s influence on blood sugar is currently unknown.
Get this: Just one commercially prepared blueberry muffin has as many carbs as not one, not two, but five slices of bread! It’s also a fat and calorie-mine, carrying over 520 calories and a third of the day’s fat in one pastry. And eating half now and “saving the rest for later” is nearly impossible; foods rich in carbs, fat, and sugar are downright addicting. A University of Montreal study found that mice who had been fed diets with high levels of those very nutrients displayed withdrawal symptoms and were more sensitive to stressful situations after they were put on a healthier diet.
11. Cereal Bars
They might be the perfect early-morning shortcut, but it’s probably best for you to reconsider your grab-and-go meal if you have diabetes. Granola- and cereal-based bars aren’t just high in refined carbs, but they’re also coated in countless grams of syrups and sugars to keep them bound. Cereal bars, in particular, can serve up nearly 30 grams of carbs and 16 of those are straight up sugar. With only 1 gram of fiber, your blood glucose levels will be hitching a ride on the sugar roller coaster.
Pastries like donuts, cinnamon rolls, or croissants are often a combination of refined flour, sugar, and added fat and oils. The carbohydrates and sugar will be quick to raise blood sugar, and the added oil or butter will keep blood sugars higher for longer due to delayed absorption.
Of course, these foods can be part of your lifestyle in moderation, but you might want to reconsider reaching for something sweet every day.
Instead, focus on pairing a carbohydrate with a protein at snack time. The carb source will provide a quick energy boost and the protein will help stabilize your blood sugar for hours after you eat.