Packaged snacks can be a practical way of bringing food along when you’re on the go.
They are also great for portion control, since the portions are pre-packaged and the carb count is listed on the packaging.
Unfortunately, packaged food is often high in carbohydrates, saturated fats, and added sugars, and can be hard on your blood sugars.
So you might be asking yourself what snacks you can buy as someone living with diabetes that won’t make your blood sugars run wild?
I love both savory and sweet snacks, and in this review, I’ll share my favorite low-carb packaged snack alternatives and how they impact my blood sugars.
Low-carb snacks that don’t impact blood sugars
My criteria for eating a snack is that the net carb count can’t exceed 15 grams per serving.
I manage my blood sugars with insulin and I need to inject insulin for any snack containing more than 5 grams of carbs.
Our blood sugars can react differently to the same food each time we eat it, so one way to assess whether a snack is working for you in real-time is to measure your blood sugar using a glucometer before you eat and 1.5-2 hours after you eat.
If you find that your blood sugar has gone up significantly and is still elevated 1.5-2 hours after you eat, you either need to adjust your insulin dose, reduce the serving size, or maybe choose a different snack altogether.
What are net carbs and will they impact blood sugars?
I talk about “net carbs” in this article as that is the amount of carbs that will impact blood sugars.
“Net carbs” is the total carbs minus fibers and half of any sugar alcohols, if any.
We subtract dietary fibers because your gastrointestinal enzymes cannot digest fibers. If you cannot digest a food, the food cannot raise your blood sugar, and therefore you do not have to take insulin when you eat it.
Most packaged foods will have the total carbs, fiber, and sugar alcohols listed and some will even have the calculated net carbs on the packaging as well.
Savory low-carb packaged snacks
The most basic, but still satisfying, low-carb snack that has minimal or no impact on blood sugars is a serving of nuts.
Raw or roasted and salted nuts are high in fiber and healthy fats and are generally considered a good daily snack option for people living with diabetes, but you do have to watch your serving sizes, as it’s easy to overeat excess calories.
You can choose raw nuts, salted, low-sodium, or flavors such as sriracha and wasabi. Just be aware that if you choose nuts flavored with more than just salt, the carb content often goes up (because of added sugar).
I’d recommend steering clear of glazed nuts if you want to keep the carb count on the lower side, as a serving easily packs upward of 11 grams of sugar.
A serving size is generally considered about 1 oz; one ounce of almonds has about 6 grams of carbs while one ounce of cashews has 9 grams of carbs.
Blue Diamond Low Sodium Almonds
They’re portioned out in 100-calorie packs and have 3 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber (that’s a snack that I don’t need insulin for), and 25 mg of sodium.
Bada Bean Bada Boom
I didn’t expect to like these, but I’ve become a serious fan of the Zesty Ranch and Nacho Cheeze varieties.
You can buy them in individual bags or variety packs. The variety pack is a great idea if you want to try some different flavors or have a household with different preferences.
You can also get Bada Bean Bada Boom with sweet seasoning, but I’ve only tried the savory flavors.
The bags don’t look like much but they are surprisingly filling because Bada Bean Bada Boom is actually beans. The Fava, or broad beans, are roasted with sunflower oil and seasoning, sealed, and ready to enjoy.
A single serving is 1 oz. and they are 100-110 calories each, 115-130 mg sodium, 6-7 grams of protein, 14-15 grams of carbs, and 3-6 grams of fiber.
Since the net carbs are around 10 grams, I inject insulin to keep my blood sugars in range when enjoying this snack, but I won’t see a steep increase in my blood sugars; it’s more of a smooth rise.
Pipcorn – Heirloom Crunchies, Parmesan Truffle
This is a corn-based snack and the corn flavor is somewhat dominant, so if you’re not into corn, this might not be the snack for you.
The parmesan truffle crunchies are baked ground cornmeal, sunflower oil, cheese, and other seasonings, so it is gluten-free but does contain lactose.
A single serving is 1 oz. and it has 150 calories per serving, 290 mg sodium, 2 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of fiber.
The net-carb count is 15 grams per serving which is the maximum I would eat for something to be considered a “low-carb snack” and does mean that I have to inject insulin to keep my blood sugars in range.
If your blood sugars tend to react more aggressively to lactose or corn, you might want to watch your blood sugars extra carefully if you try Pipcorn. I do tend to see a more aggressive increase in my blood sugar when I enjoy corn-based products, so I know that it’s something I have to pay attention to.
Iwon Protein Puffs – Cheddar Cheese
This is my favorite of all the low-carb savory snacks. It has become such a staple that my friends will now buy it for me if we’re hanging out and snacking (yes, I have great friends).
They are very crunchy and the cheddar puffs have a strong cheddar flavor. You can also get other flavors as well as their stix.
The only downside is that the bake seems a little inconsistent between batches. I’ve purchased some bags that seemed very oily compared to the average batch.
The puffs are made from pea protein, beans, and rice and are baked with sunflower oil and seasoning.
A protein puff serving size is 42 grams (which is about 1.5 oz) and has 180 calories, 210 mg sodium, 10 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of fiber making the net-carb count 15 grams.
This is another snack that’s at the maximum net-carb count for what I would consider a “low-carb” snack.
When I buy a large bag, I usually only measure out 1 oz. which has a net-carb count of 10 grams and I’ll dose insulin for that amount to keep my blood sugars in range.
If you’re into popcorn these are a great option. You might expect that pre-popped popcorn would get soggy, but I’ve found that they’re still quite crunchy and delicious.
The ingredient list is short and simple: popcorn, sunflower oil, and salt. They are conveniently packed in 100-calorie bags. That really works for me as I have serious issues with portion control when it comes to popcorn.
Each bag has 9 grams of carbs whereas 2 grams are fiber so the net carb count per bag is only 7 grams.
And you might expect salted popcorn to be high in sodium but each bag only has 45 mg of sodium making it a relatively good option if you’re watching your sodium intake.
You can also get SkinnyPop in white cheddar flavor, and I also think they are a great option. The carb count is the same but the sodium content goes up to 105 mg.
Quest Protein Chips
These chips make my tastebuds happy.
The protein chips are extremely crunchy and have a great strong flavor. My favorites are the Nacho cheese and the Ranch flavored tortilla-style chips.
The chips are made from a protein blend, so not grain or legume-based, which means that the carb count is ultra-low.
Each serving only has 5 grams of carbs, where 1 gram is fiber, so the net carbs are only 4 grams. However, the protein count is high with 18-19 grams per serving so you might see a blood sugar impact from the protein, especially if you’re very carbohydrate-sensitive.
I find that I have to dose insulin for the 4 grams of net carbs plus a bit for the protein, but you might react differently to the protein content and not see an impact at all. Check with your doctor if you’re concerned about dosing for this snack.
The sodium content is also relatively high with 300-340 mg per serving.
Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips
This is a great low-carb snack although the chips are very thin and can tend to turn into almost powder in the bag, making them a little challenging to eat, unless you eat them with a spoon.
My favorite flavor is the cool ranch and I appreciate that this product is just kale that’s tossed with a dressing and then dehydrated.That means that all of the nutritional properties of the kale are maintained.
A serving is 1 oz. and has 6-8 grams of carbs depending on the dressing, and 3 grams of fiber meaning that the net carbs are 3-5 grams.
I find the chips have a negligible impact on my blood sugars, so I generally don’t need to dose insulin for them.
The sodium content is moderately high at 220-240 mg per serving.
Sweet low-carb packaged snacks
Kind Bar (mini)
This is a great little portable snack that will easily satisfy your sweet tooth. My favorite is the dark chocolate sea salt and I always have one in my purse.
It’s a great combination of nuts, chocolate, and salt, and if you choose the mini rather than the full-sized bar, it only has 90 calories and 8 grams of carbs, with 3 grams of fiber leaving the net carbs at 5 grams.
I do inject insulin to manage my blood sugar when I enjoy a Kind bar, but find that I don’t need to pre-bolus (inject 10-15 minutes before I eat) as it has a very subtle and slow blood sugar impact due to the high fiber content.
The only downside to this snack is that it’s coated with real chocolate, so if it’s warm, the chocolate will melt and stick to the inside of the packaging rather than to the nuts.
Since I choose a sea salt bar, the sodium content is 70 mg but you can choose other flavors and some have as little as 10 mg of sodium per bar.
Gone Berry Crazy Chocolate Covered Strawberries
I found these chocolate-covered frozen strawberries at Trader Joe’s and they are pretty amazing. Because they’re frozen they’re not portable, but it’s a great little snack if you’re craving something cold and sweet at home.
The strawberries are fairly small and covered in dark chocolate and each serving is 6 strawberries. It has 15 grams of carbs and 20 mg sodium.
If you eat the full serving, you will most likely see a small blood sugar impact, but because the strawberries are covered in dark chocolate, I find that they don’t spike my blood sugars.
I’ve done a low-carb yogurt review in the past, but this zero-sugar flavored yogurt has since come to market and it has quickly become my go-to yogurt snack.
It’s high in protein and low in carbs so it has become my favorite nighttime snack. My favorite flavors are blueberry and key lime and both only have 5 grams of carbs, no added sugar, and 60-65 mg sodium.
Dairy will always have some level of carb (due to the naturally occurring sugars from lactose in milk), but these are particularly low carb, especially given their delicious taste.
Since the carb count is so low, I often enjoy this snack without dosing any insulin for it.
Quest bars have been my preferred protein bar snack for years and they keep getting better as they continue to develop their recipes. So if you tried them years ago and didn’t enjoy them, you might find that they are more to your liking now.
A bar is a solid snack that will keep me full for hours due to the high protein and fiber content.
My favorite bars are Birthday Cake and White Chocolate Raspberry and those bars have 22-24 grams of total carbs, 7-10 grams of net carbs, and 220 mg sodium. But the nutrient varies between bars so if you choose a different flavor, remember to check the nutritional label first before dosing insulin and eating!
Despite a low total and net carb count, I find that these bars impact blood sugar levels which could be due to the high protein content or the sweeteners they use, so you might see a blood sugar impact as well. For me, the impact is subtle and they do not spike my blood sugars rapidly.
Skinny dipped almonds are roasted almonds covered in dark chocolate or yogurt. They use a small amount of maple sugar to sweeten the nuts, but so little that the carb count for a serving still stays low, and it means no artificial sweeteners.
Skinny dipped almonds can be bought in 3.5 oz bags or smaller 60-calorie bags. Although the larger bags are resealable, the small snack bags are a great option if you’re out and about and don’t want to measure out a serving while on the go.
The total carb count for a 1 oz. serving, which is about 16 almonds, of the dark chocolate skinny dipped nuts is 11 grams, the net carb count is 8 grams, and the sodium content is 80 mg.
If you get the snack-sized bags, a serving is only 0.46 oz. and the total carb count for those are 5 grams, 4 net carbs, and 45 mg sodium.
Frequently asked questions
Will these low-carb packaged snacks impact blood sugars?
Some of these snacks might have a small impact on your blood sugar and some won’t. Whether you’ll see an impact will depend on how your body reacts to certain foods and amounts of carbohydrates.
It’s a good idea to measure your blood sugar before and 90-min after you’ve enjoyed a snack to see if it’s a good snack for you or if you should try something else or perhaps eat a smaller serving size.
Do I need to inject insulin for low-carb packaged snacks?
If you manage your diabetes with insulin, you have to consider if any of these snacks will impact your blood sugars. We are all a little different so it’s a good idea to pay attention to your blood sugars and discuss a treatment plan with your medical team.
Small amounts of carbs might not impact your blood sugars at all and you won’t need to balance out your blood sugar with insulin, but if you see that even small amounts of carbohydrates make your blood sugars spike, you might need to adjust with insulin.
Can people with diabetes eat packaged snacks?
Yes, people with diabetes can enjoy packaged snacks but you should pay attention to the carb count on the packaging, the total sodium content, and any other measures your doctor might have told you to pay attention to.
Remember that serving sizes can differ. Always look at the nutrition label and assess whether the snack is right for you.
Are these snacks good for people living with type 2 diabetes?
Generally, there isn’t anything you can’t eat living with diabetes but if you don’t manage your diabetes with insulin, you might find that you have to adhere to some dietary guidelines to manage your blood sugars. Many people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition with diet and exercise alone.
Discuss your blood sugar management guidelines with your medical team and, if possible, have them refer you to a Registered Dietitian (RD) that can help you outline the best eating plan for you.
Should I worry about sodium content?
A high sodium intake can heighten the risk of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), and as someone living with diabetes, it’s something that you need to pay attention to. Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day (that’s equal to about a teaspoon of table salt); however, most adult Americans consume much more than that.
Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about sodium.
What can you snack on that won’t raise blood sugar?
In reality, most snacks impact your blood sugars to some degree.
The trick is to test different snacks and choose a snack that either will have a neglectable impact on your blood sugars or if you live with insulin-dependent diabetes, that you can manage with the proper amount of insulin.
Leave a comment below with your favorite snack so that I and the other readers can get more snack ideas!