Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Kari Garner, MS RDN LD CDCES
Do you need a better bedtime snack? Whether or not you need an evening snack depends on various factors, including your current health status, medication regimen and lifestyle. Bedtime snacks may not be necessary for everyone, but can be beneficial for many living with diabetes.
As a diabetes educator and registered dietitian, I am here to help you navigate the confusion behind diabetic snacks at bedtime!
This blog is all about understanding evening blood sugars, learning what your body needs and walking away with a list of the best nighttime snacks for diabetics. Refer back to this blog featuring all you need to know about bedtime snacks for diabetics anytime on your journey!
Why Do Blood Sugars Change at Night?
There are several factors that contribute to changes in glucose levels overnight including the release of hormones, lifestyle habits, medication timing and evening food choices.
Understanding the fluctuations in blood sugar levels at night is an aspect of diabetes management to keep at top of mind. Having a grasp on blood sugar control overnight can help to improve your hemoglobin A1c, morning fasting blood sugar and overall health.
What is the Morning Blood Sugar Goal for Diabetes?
According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals should aim for fasting blood sugar levels 80 to 130 mg/dL in the morning before a meal.
This target is a general recommendation for the majority of adults. You should continue to work with your diabetes care team to determine your specific target range for blood sugars.
Can I Snack with Diabetes?
Absolutely! The secret is creating a personalized plan that includes the foods you want to eat while being mindful of the fiber, protein and fat content of the snack.
While there are many great low carb evening snacks for diabetes, the goal is not always to eat low carb, but instead to focus on balanced nutrition. This balance of nutrients ensures you are satisfied after snacking without blood sugar spikes in the middle of the night.
Reasons to Snack Before Bed
If you find yourself asking the question, “do I need a snack?”, keep reading! Bedtime snacks are not necessary for everyone. Instead, snacks should be selected based on your individual needs and blood sugar goals.
It can be extremely tempting to grab a snack and mindlessly eat in the evening. This can happen while scrolling social media or watching television. If enjoying an evening snack, be mindful of the portion and reason you are eating.
Here are a few common reasons why you may need an evening snack:
- Prevent Hypoglycemia: Having a balanced snack before bed can help to prevent nighttime hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
- Prevent Hyperglycemia: A balance of nutrients helps to provide the body with a slow release of glucose to sustain blood sugar levels throughout the night. If you currently experience high blood sugar overnight, consider booking a Diet Discovery.
- Experiencing Dawn Phenomenon: This is also known as the dawn effect, but it is a rise of blood sugar levels that occurs in the early morning due to natural hormonal changes. This phenomenon can be experienced by individuals with diabetes and an evening snack can be a solution to help keep stable glucose levels.
- Experiencing the Somogyi Effect: This is also known as rebound hyperglycemia and is a pattern of elevated blood sugar levels upon waking due to a response to hypoglycemia during the night. While medication such as insulin may need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider, having a balanced snack can also help to prevent this overnight low and morning high.
- Hunger: If you are feeling hungry before heading to bed then this can be a signal to have a balanced snack to curb the hunger. It can also be a signal to consider the portions or quality of the evening meal you consumed.
Evening snacks for diabetics should be consumed in conjunction with blood sugar monitoring. By experimenting with the timing, amounts and types of nutrients that you consume, you can understand the impact of the snack by testing your blood sugar.
From a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to a glucometer, there are a multitude of tools available to help guide you in determining the best nighttime snacks.
My personalized diabetes education sessions were created to empower you to take charge of your health and arm you with information. Take advantage of this resource for a deeper dive into the connection between blood sugar levels and nighttime snacking for diabetes.
How to Choose Healthy Bedtime Snacks for Diabetes
Pick snacks packed with protein, healthy fat and fiber to provide a balance of nutrients and sustained energy overnight.
Unhealthy snacks without this nutrient balance can have a significant impact on overall blood sugar control. Snacks high in added sugars or simple carbohydrates can cause our bodies to experience blood sugar spikes.
This spike should trigger the release of insulin, which is the hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
However, whether you have a lack of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance (prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes), your body cannot regulate blood sugars effectively.
Below you will find a list of foods that fit into these three categories to use as a guide as you build snacks.
Protein will extend the time it takes your body to break down carbohydrates, which can prevent spikes in blood sugars.
Foods such as beans, edamame, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products are examples of protein sources. Aim for 1-2 ounces of protein in a snack.
Like protein, fat also extends the time it takes your body to convert carbs into glucose to prevent blood sugar spikes. It also contributes to feelings of satiety. Healthy sources of fat include olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives, fatty fish and avocados.
Last, but certainly not least, dietary fiber! Dietary fiber will slow digestion to help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. Aim to include high fiber foods with a snack to prevent blood sugar spikes after eating.
Examples include seeds, nuts, beans, whole grains, lentils and vegetables. Aim for at least 3-5 grams of fiber in snack.
Typically, carbohydrate rich foods like whole grain crackers, oats, wheat bread, fruit, popcorn or rice are in this nutrient category.
A good rule of thumb is selecting a complex carbohydrate that contains approximately 15 grams (along with the 3-5g of fiber) for snacks.
*Consult with your medical professional, specifically a Registered Dietitian, on how much of each nutrient is the right target for you.
30 Bedtime Snacks for Diabetes
Now that you know if you need a snack and the nutrients to prioritize, let’s drive into this ultimate list of good snacks for diabetes.
From crunchy vegetables and savory dips to the sweet flavor of fresh fruit and creamy yogurt, there are snack options to satisfy all taste buds.
Explore any of these 30 easy bedtime snack ideas and embrace the benefits of balanced nutrition:
- Sliced cucumbers with hummus and whole grain crackers
- Cheese cubes and whole grain crackers OR fresh grapes
- Greek yogurt cup with fresh berries and walnuts
- Hard boiled egg
- Cottage cheese with sliced peaches
- Apple slices with nut butter
- Carrot sticks with guacamole
- Cocoa-dusted almonds
- Roasted chickpeas
- Sliced cherry tomatoes with mozzarella cheese
- Celery sticks with nut butter
- Low-sodium beef jerky
- Sliced bell peppers with dip
- Steamed broccoli with cheddar cheese
- Tortilla spread with hummus topped with low-sodium deli meat and cheese
- Air fryer tortilla pizza
- Sliced avocado on whole grain bread or crackers
- Rice cake topped with nut butter, blueberries and cinnamon
- Olives, cheese, whole grain crackers
- Greek yogurt covered blueberries or raspberries
- Lettuce, turkey and cheese roll-ups
- Toasted pecans drizzled with dark chocolate
- Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
- String cheese with fruit or vegetable
- Crispy kale chips
- Pico de Gallo with whole grain chips
- Trail mix
- Greek yogurt topped with chia seeds
Flourish with Diabetes
It is possible to select good bedtime snacks for diabetes that are both satisfying and nutrient-rich? This blog is meant to be a resource for you to eliminate any confusion or frustration around nighttime snacking.
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If you are ready to take the leap and transform your health, check out my Resources Page. I can help you grow & flourish with diabetes!
Springtime Nutrition, LLC was founded on my passion to partner with individuals to eliminate the stress, frustration and overwhelm of changing their nutrition lifestyle. I am committed to supporting you at every step of your journey. Ready to transform your life? Get started today!
Kari is a diabetes expert with more than 18 years of experience. Kari currently works as a diabetes educator with a large hospital system in Charleston, SC and is committed to improving the lives of people with any type of diabetes.