Underrated Snacks for Treating a Low Blood Sugar

2/21/19
WRITTEN BY: Ben Tzeel
FacebookTwitterEmail
 

We’ve all been there

It’s 3:30 a.m. You’re sleeping soundly. Suddenly, a low jolts you awake. You test your blood sugar to see a 54 staring back at you. An intense hunger pang takes over your body. You feel the adrenaline rush in your legs, that shaky feeling we’ve all come to know over the years. You amble to the kitchen and open the fridge. A world of possibilities stare back at you.

For an instant, you want to eat it all, but, you remember that the last time that happened, your blood sugar skyrocketed the other way and you played catch up for the next 24 hours, not to mention you’ve thrown yourself off your nutrition goals for the day as well.

You’re sick of glucose tabs (and would rather eat chalk) and are out of juice and Gatorade. So, what do you eat that will raise your blood sugar to normal, but not over-treat the low or derail your nutritional objectives? Here are four unexpected and underrated low snacks to try that will do both:

(Note: These were selected with the intent of raising blood sugar levels quickly and effectively in a pinch, not necessarily to urge you to adopt these options as part of your core diet)

Candy Corn

Nutrition information (1/2 serving):

Calories: 70

Carbs: 18g

Candy corn stigmas aside, the main ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, and dextrose. To break it down further, corn syrup is maltose, a disaccharide (sugar molecule) made of two linked glucose molecules. Dextrose, what glucose tabs are made of, is another name for glucose. Sugar itself is sucrose, which is composed of fructose and glucose.

You only need 9 pieces to reach that 18g serving to treat your low, obviously adjust your intake depending on your needs. The big advantage of candy corn is that its main ingredients are the most effective types of sugar to raise blood sugar levels and to raise them quickly. It is also portable and has a very long shelf life.

Chocolate Milk

Nutrition information (3/4 cup):

Calories: 120

Carbs: 19g

Protein: 7g

This one has been tried and true for years as a great option for post workout recovery due to its combination of sugar to replenish glycogen stores as well as protein, but let’s take a look at it from a low blood sugar perspective:

Similarly to protein bars, it has the source of carbs as lactose, which can be viewed as glucose and galactose; the former will raise blood sugar levels. Sugar is also added to aid that goal. However, the small amount of protein will also aid in the maintenance of blood sugar levels so that low is less likely to repeat.

For our friends who are lactose intolerant, Fairlife brand produces a milk that contains the lactase enzyme to make their milk lactose-free, and their milk actually has 13g of carbs and 13g of protein per cup, making it an intriguing options to treat a low.  Have one cup and you’re not likely to be concerned about a repeat episode.

Flavored Greek Yogurt

Nutrition information (5oz Chobani Strawberry):

Calories: 140

Carbs: 20g

Protein: 14g

This is an intriguing and definitely underrated option for a few reasons:

It, too, follows the carbs+protein narrative outlined above, so ideally, blood sugars are sustained once they are treated. The carbohydrate source here is lactose from the milk as well as an added sugar. Here, you also receive “live and active cultures” according to the label, otherwise known as probiotics, to improve gut health. While this isn’t a greek yogurt PSA, it’s certainly an added benefit to be able to treat your low. Also, it typically comes in a single serving container, so it’s easy to maintain portion control.

Marshmallow Fluff — Beyond Type 1 Staff Pick

Nutrition information (1 oz):

Calories: 91

Carbs: 22g

Like candy corn, marshmallows also have a fantastic shelf life. A mere spoonful of fluff works to quickly bring up a low blood sugar and is definitely a worthwhile treat. (Note: Frosting is also a great substitute.)

More awesome low snacks…

  • Jelly Beans, Smarties, Skittles
  • Dried Fruit
  • Leftover Piece of Cake
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Bananas

Remember, when treating a low, the goals are to increase your blood sugar to normal range, sustaining that corrected blood sugar, and portion control as to remain within your nutrition plan and goals. These options, while not what you might automatically think of for a low snack, should help you get there!



Ben Tzeel

Ben Tzeel is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), holding a Masters in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has lived with Type 1 Diabetes since 1999 and has never allowed it to hold him back from achieving his goals. Ben is a published fitness model and author who writes about exercise, nutrition, and diabetes.