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Overwhelmed by the snack aisle? Use this guidance to help you choose healthy snacks for diabetes, plus find our top snack food picks .

Natalie Rizzo, M.S., RD
March 16, 2021
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A selection of 4 healthy snacks
Credit: Amazon

Snacks can make or break a healthy diet. Some snacks are a great source of nutrients and can tide you over until your next meal, but others are nothing more than empty calories in pretty packaging. With thousands of snack products out there, how do you tell the difference between the good-for-you options and the other guys? Here, we break down what to look for on the labels and give our top picks for packaged snacks that won't wreck your blood sugar and some healthy homemade snacks too.

Read The Ingredients

For any packaged food, it's important to look at the ingredients list under the Nutrition Facts panel. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, and the first few ingredients make up the majority of the snack. The healthiest snacks contain whole foods—like nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—near the top of the ingredients list. If the starting ingredients are sugar (or syrup) or enriched flour, steer clear of that snack.

Opt For Protein

Protein helps regulate hunger and blood sugar levels, making it a vital part of a healthy snack (here's how much protein you should be eating every day). In fact, some research suggests that eating foods with protein, fiber, and complex carbs can help keep you full between meals. Choosing snacks with a few grams of protein can help you stay fuller, longer.

Avoid Too Much Added Sugar

Added sugar loves to hide in packaged snacks. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total daily added sugar intake to 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women, as higher amounts of added sugar have been linked to heart disease risk. Many snacks have a few grams of added sugar to help with taste, so look for ones that have less than 6 grams per serving. (Here are 5 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugars That Are Probably in Your Kitchen Right Now.)

Plan Out Your Portion Size

Although many snacks are sold in large bags, the suggested portion sizes are usually small. Sticking to the recommended portion size on the Nutrition Facts panel will help you keep calories, sugar, and sodium in check. If you have trouble sticking to the portion size, buy snacks that are preportioned into single servings, like individually wrapped bars or 100-calorie packs.

Know Your Numbers

Check the Nutrition Facts label for each snack, and look for snacks that meet these numbers per each serving:

  • < 200 calories
  • < 2g sat. fat
  • < 360mg sodium
  • < 15g carbs
  • > 2g protein (ideally 3-5g)

Our Top Picks

Here are our favorite products that meet the above nutrition criteria—and also please our taste buds!

Popchips Yes Peas Himalayan Salt Vegetable Chips

Serving size: 1 ounce (21 chips)

Cal 110, Carb 16g, SAT. FAT 0g, Sodium 160mg, Protein 6g

SkinnyPop Original Popcorn Skinny Pack

Serving size: 1 package (18g)

Cal 100, Carb 9g, SAT. FAT 0.5g, Sodium 45mg, Protein 2g

Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds 100-Calorie Pack

Serving size: 1 package (17.5g)

Cal 100, CARB 5g, SAT. FAT 0.5g, Sodium 30mg, Protein 3g 

RX Bar Kids Chocolate Chip

Serving size: 1 bar

Cal 140, Carb 14g, SAT. FAT 1.5g, Sodium 70mg, Protein 7g

Somersaults Cinnamon Sunflower Seeds Crunchy Bites

Serving size: 28 grams (10 pieces)

Cal 150, Carb 12g, SAT. FAT 1g, Sodium 90mg, Protein 5g

DIY Homemade Snacks

Prefer to make your own healthy snacks at home? Here are two quick options that are simple and nutritious. For more snack recipes, see our recipe roundup of 100-calorie snacks.

Everything Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread 2 cups pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) on a parchment-lined baking sheet; bake for 40 minutes. Carefully transfer the seeds to a bowl. Add 1 lightly beaten egg white and 2 Tbsp. everything-bagel seasoning; toss to coat well. Return the seeds to the baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool before serving. Store cooled seeds in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Serves 8: 1/4 cup each

Cal 197, Carb 3g, SAT. FAT 3g, Sodium 249mg, Protein 10g

Guacamole & Veggies

Combine 1 chopped avocado, the juice of 1 lime, 2 Tbsp. diced tomato, 2 Tbsp. diced white onion, 1 Tbsp. diced jalapeño, 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Use a fork to mix well, mashing the avocado as desired. Serve with sliced raw veggies, such as carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers.

Serves 3: about 1/3 cup guacamole each

Cal 114, Carb 7g, SAT. FAT 1g, Sodium 199mg, Protein 2g