Healthy bedtime snacking for people with diabetes

Snacking at any time of the day—particularly at night—is not a habit to encourage for people with diabetes. But if you want to take a snack once in a while, consider choosing healthier options.

A woman eating oatmeal, a healthy meal and a good snack option for people with diabetes

Key takeaways:

  • The quality of snacks a person eats is as important as the quantity, frequency, and timing of the snacking. For people with medical conditions like diabetes, snacking regularly on certain foods, such as sugary or heavy, high-carb foods, is not ideal.
  • Choose healthy foods to snack on over highly processed foods.
  • Healthier bedtime or evening snack ideas for people with diabetes include whole fruits (in moderation), vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein, whole grains, and nuts as snacks. 

We’ve all had those moments. You’ve just had your last meal a few hours ago, and although it’s not time for the next, your tummy growls. At that point, you'll most likely reach for a snack to silence the hunger.

But what exactly are snacks?

They are a bit more complicated to describe than you’d think, as different cultures and groups classify food differently. However, most people agree that snacks are meals you eat outside of standard meal times.

Unfortunately, most popular snack foods are far from healthy. They’re often loaded with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, which are not what the body needs to stay healthy.

Also, regularly taking snacks in between meals can constantly spike your blood sugar (glucose) level and keep your insulin levels high always. This can ultimately induce weight gain—as insulin causes excess glucose to be stored as fat.

That’s not to say that everyone with diabetes should completely cut off snacking. Occasional snacking may not be harmful if done moderately. With the right food choices, you can transform this cheat meal of the day into another opportunity to nourish your body.

Keep reading to discover healthy snacking tips for people with diabetes.

10 great bedtime snack ideas for diabetes

A high-protein, moderate-fat, and high-fiber snack can help limit blood sugar spikes at night and ensure lower blood sugar levels in the morning.  Here are some great bedtime snacks for diabetes:

1. Unsweetened Greek yogurt

Unsweetened yogurt is a great bedtime snack idea for people with diabetes. It contains an abundance of calcium and protein, healthy fat, and low carbohydrate. It also enhances gut health.

Yogurt is also one of the most healthy types of dairy and can be taken with nuts, seeds, fruits, and whole grains.

2. Non-starchy vegetables

Vegetables like cucumber, garden eggs, cabbage, and lettuce make excellent evening snacks for people with diabetes. They don’t have significant amounts of calories, fats, and carbohydrates but contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Vegetables are also rich in fiber, which boosts heart and gut health. Additionally, you can combine some of these veggies with nuts for more protein.

3. Boiled eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and are great snack ideas for people with diabetes. But they don’t provide as much fiber, so you can balance this out by eating them with shredded vegetables like carrots and tomatoes.

Fiber slows the digestion process, resulting in gradual energy release from food, which helps stabilize blood sugar.

4. Fruits

Fruits like apples, berries, oranges, and pears contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber and can be good snack ideas for people with diabetes.

You may be wondering if you can just drink fruit juice instead of eating fruits whole, and the answer is no. When you juice your fruits, you miss out on eating the pulp and skin, which are rich sources of fiber. 

Fiber isn’t only great for maintaining gut health, it also slows down how quickly the fruit sugars are absorbed, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes. Fruit juices are also less filling, making you more likely to eat more food. Consider pairing whole fruits with nuts or seeds as a healthy snack.

5. Nut butter

Peanut, almond, and cashew butter are sources of healthy fats that are good for the heart. They’re also rich in protein, making them a healthy and filling snack for people with diabetes. Combining these kinds of butter with other healthy food options, like apples and garden eggs, is excellent for blood sugar control.

Homemade nut butters are the most preferred because you have control over the ingredients used in the preparation. For store-bought ones, be sure to check the nutrition labels and list of ingredients.

6. Unsalted nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are healthy snacks that provide lots of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

They also have different health benefits depending on which you choose. For example, walnuts and chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep the heart healthy. They are also low-carb and won't spike your blood sugar level.

7. Oats

Oats, bran, or whole grain foods like unprocessed cereals have a high fiber content and a low glycemic index. This means that they have less effect on blood sugar levels. These foods can be part of a healthy bedtime snack for a person with diabetes.

Remember, you have to be careful when buying instant oatmeal from the stores because many brands are heavily processed and contain too much sugar. Instead, only buy whole oats without added sugar. 

8. Milk, cheese, and soya milk

Dairy provides protein and calcium required for the health of your bones, teeth, and muscles. Admittedly, full-fat dairy can be a source of saturated fat. Therefore, choosing low-fat milk or alternatives like unsweetened, calcium-fortified soy milk might be better snack options. 

9. Popcorn

The difference between healthy and unhealthy popcorn is what you add to it. By itself, popcorn is a light, healthy snack, containing vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Instead of filling up your popcorn with sugar and butter, opt for healthier oils like olive oil and add a moderate amount of milk, and little to no sugar. You can also throw in some of your favorite nuts for an extra bit of protein.

10. Roasted chickpeas

Chickpeas provide a healthy boost of protein and fiber. They can be an alternative to chips and other refined snacks. Plus, special pasta products made from chickpeas can serve as a way to help you limit your carbohydrate intake. 

If you have diabetes, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people should follow meal plans tailored to their current eating patterns, preferences, weight goals, and blood sugar levels.

Bedtime snack ideas for pregnant people with gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes refers to a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It affects about three to nine percent of pregnant people and typically resolves after the birth of the baby. 

If you have gestational diabetes, a good snack taken in moderation before bed may help stabilize your blood sugar levels overnight.

Although there are few studies on which snacks are best, it’s generally recommended that they follow the guidelines of a healthy diet by having lean protein, healthy fat, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, instead of refined carbs and simple sugars. 

Some good snack options include:

  • Cucumber 
  • Garden eggs
  • Pear
  • Olives
  • Boiled eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Oatmeal with berries
  • Green vegetables like pumpkin leaves
  • Cooked fish like mackerel, salmon slices, and prawns
  • Cooked meat like chicken, turkey, and pork
  • Nuts like peanuts (groundnuts), walnuts, and almonds
  • Seeds like chia seeds and sesame seeds

You should also talk to your dietitian for a personalized recommendation. 

Is snacking before bedtime good?

For so long, we’ve been warned about the dangers of late-night snacking. A study carried out by ZOE PREDICT found that eating past 9 p.m. correlated with worse health outcomes, like increased blood glucose and lipid levels. But there’s more to this discovery than meets the eye.

The truth is that most of the late snackers observed in the study weren’t picking the best-quality foods for their bodies. Think about it this way: the quality of snacks you eat makes a huge difference to your health. 

Consuming many ultra-processed foods with poor nutrient profiles, such as cakes, candy, and cookies, can negatively affect your health. Also, late snacking shortens your overnight fasting period, which could still negatively affect your blood glucose levels and overall gut health.

Bottom line: Regularly snacking late in the evening or night is not good. But if you must take snacks, choosing better-quality snacks may reduce the harmful effects. Healthier snacks can also help you maintain a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI).  

Tips for healthy snacking before bed

By making mindful snack choices, you fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to survive and protect your health. Here are some tips for healthy snacking before bedtime:

  • Snack on healthy, whole-food items to stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Limit sugary drinks, processed foods, and unhealthy fats, which can cause blood glucose spikes.
  • Make only healthy snacks available in your home to prevent unplanned, unhealthy snacking.
  • Read the nutrition information on food labels and choose options with less or no salt, sugar, or unhealthy fat.
  • Choose snacks from various food groups to consume essential nutrients.
  • Eat mindfully by focusing on enjoying the food.
  • Avoid snacking while watching TV, reading, driving, or when distracted to prevent overeating.
  • Learn about and pay attention to portion sizes as you snack.
  • Protein and fiber make you feel full faster, so incorporate them into your snacks.

Final Thoughts

Snacking isn’t necessarily bad, but food quality, quantity and timing are important to remember. If you tend to snack late at night, consider moving your snack time earlier.  

Your choice of snacks is just as important because high-quality foods may help regulate your blood sugar and fat levels. Healthy snacks will also keep you satisfied for longer periods and are beneficial to your overall health.

If you have diabetes, consult a registered dietitian to plan your meal and snack times. They can also help you choose the best snacks for your meal plan. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is oatmeal a good bedtime snack for people with diabetes?

Yes, oatmeal is a good bedtime snack option for people with diabetes. Whole grains like oats are fiber-rich, so they can reduce blood sugar responses after eating.

A review studied the effects of oatmeal on people with type 2 diabetes and discovered that adding it to participants’ diets improved their blood sugar control. Frequently, eating whole grains is also associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Will snacking at night increase your blood sugar?

The short answer is that it depends on what you eat and in what quantity. People who eat unprocessed and minimally processed snacks in moderation tend to have less sugar in their blood. They’re also less likely to experience excessive weight gain and belly fat, unlike those who eat ultra-processed snacks.

Timing is also important because eating too late at night could raise blood sugar. Although choosing healthier snacks may reduce some risks, you should still try moving your bedtime snacks to an earlier time.