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If you've received a pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes diagnosis, chances are, your doctor has advised you to lose weight.

The good news?

Your diagnosis adds one "upside" to dieting that you may not have considered.

Snacking. Isn't. Outlawed.

For you, snacking right, at the right time can help you to reach a healthier weight. Not to mention, manage your blood glucose level, which is important whether your diabetes is type 1, type 2, or gestational.

Even though most advice for weight loss is to avoid snacking, diabetic snacks are different. In fact, if you're pre-diabetic, adopting good habits now can help you to stay healthy.

Diet is key to diabetes management. Chances are, you will have to alter what, when, and how you eat. But it's not a life sentence of boring food.

Diabetic snacks can be easy, tasty and, yes, fun.

Life is not over because you have diabetes. Make the most of what you have, be grateful.

-- Dale Evans

Understanding Diabetes

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Our bodies use three basic types of nutrients for fuel: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Diabetes means that the body is unable, for various reasons, to properly process carbohydrates. There are many great sources for information on what your diabetes is and how to manage it with your doctor.

We're going to throw out some fast facts, then get on to talking about snacks!

Here are the fast facts on the three major types of diabetes and pre-diabetes

1. Type 1 diabetes fast facts:

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  • Sometimes called juvenile diabetes, it's often diagnosed in childhood but not always.
  • It's "uncommon," 5 percent of diabetes cases - equally 1.25 million people in the U.S.
  • People with T1D can't make it, so must take insulin every day in order to survive.
  • Some type 1 diabetics use an insulin pump delivering insulin throughout the day.
  • In addition to taking insulin, they must monitor and manage their blood sugar levels.
  • Diet and healthy diabetic snacks are an important part of this.

2. Type 2 diabetes fast facts:

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  • Sometimes called adult-onset diabetes, but can occur at any age.
  • Historically common in middle and old age, now T2D diagnosis are occurring at earlier ages
  • Can produce insulin, but the body doesn't use it right, so can't process carbohydrates properly.
  • Some type 2 diabetics take oral medication. Other people may inject insulin.
  • Some people control their T2D through diet and exercise.
  • Tends to get worse over time but the right diabetic snacks can help.

Thank the Canadians

In 1921, Canadian physician Frederick Banting and student Charles Best discovered Insulin. Banting won the Nobel Prize for their work.

3. Gestational diabetes fast facts:

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  • Just under 10 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes.
  • That is a temporary condition involving insulin resistance.
  • It usually happens around the 24th week of pregnancy in women aged 20-44.
  • Experts don't know the cause, but suspect insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta.
  • Raises the risk of developing diabetes later in life, for mom and baby.

That's all the more reason to snack right.

Pre-diabetes fast facts:

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  • Pre-diabetes has only recently become a diagnosis doctors use
  • It means the fasting blood glucose level is above normal but not yet in the range for diabetes
  • The CDC estimates that more than one out of every three Americans is pre-diabetic
  • Losing as little as 10 to 15 pounds (for a 200-pound person) and eating right can prevent diabetes
  • The CDC's online lifestyle change program cuts the risk of full-blown diabetes 58 to 71 percent.

Diabetes trivia

Greek medical writer, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, named diabetes between 100 and 200 A.D.

Diabetic Friendly Trail Mix Recipe

The best way to control your snacks is to avoid processed foods. How about you try some home-made trail mix?

Try making this tried and true tasty trail mix! You'll get about 16 servings out of this recipe (at 1/4 cup).

Don't like peanuts? Switch it up! Hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and even walnuts could be a perfect crunch for you.

Recipe via Healthline:

  • 1 cup roasted peanuts (low sodium)
  • 1 cup raw or roasted almonds
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raisins or currants

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Reasons to Snack Your Way Healthy

We've already told you that diabetic snacking is helpful. When you control diabetes, you lower your risks for complications.

Here's the list of reasons to choose the best diabetic snacks:

When your body can't properly utilize carbohydrates, glucose builds up in your cells. It can cause both short-term and long-term problems. Some of these problems include:

Your Diet is Your Lifeline

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So the bad news is that diabetes means making lifestyle changes. One of those includes snacking on the right foods more.

But there is more good news.

Many of the changes your doctor will suggest are things that all of us should be doing anyway.

Carbohydrates, Insulin, and Blood Glucose, "Oh, my!"

Counting carbs isn't just a fad. Because diabetes affects your body's ability to process carbohydrates, the amount and types of carbohydrates you eat are important. Balancing insulin levels and your carbohydrate intake can help you to manage your blood sugar levels.

A few ways that people with diabetes help control their diet include the Glycemic Index (GI), watching salt (sodium) intake, and counting carbohydrates.

Your diabetes management plan spells out the way that best works for you and your doctor.

The very basics of carb counting:

You should always discuss any changes to your management method with your doctor.

The American Diabetes Association suggests the following process for beginning carb-counters:

  • 1
    Figure out how many grams of carbohydrates you eat at each meal and snack right now.
  • 2
    Track your blood glucose before and about two hours after each time you eat.
  • 3
    Take this information to your doctor, so that your doctor can help you to figure out the right balance for you.

Wow! The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, and that's way too much.

Many foods contain sodium naturally, but the problem is often from added salt in processed foods. Processing foods removes a lot of their natural flavors, and in many cases, manufacturers replace that flavor with salt.

More delicious recipes to come, but first...

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Carbohydrates can lurk in some unexpected places

There are different kinds of carbs, and you need to count them all.

Starches are the first type of carb.

  • bread
  • pasta
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • corn
  • lentils
  • beans
  • peas

That doesn't mean starches aren't good for you. In fact, many people consider beans and pulses to be diabetic superfoods. But you do need to be aware.

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Simple, or fast-acting carbs, are another carbohydrate type. Some sugars occur naturally in fruits and dairy products, as well as added sugars in sweets and sodas.


Sugars have nearly 60 different names, in large part because manufacturers go to a lot of trouble to hide the sugar content of their products:

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What to look for on the label: 

any word ending in "-ose," like sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Also, "syrup" is also a good indicator of sugar content.

Did you know?

Some foods you might not expect to be high in sugars really are. These include ketchup, salad dressings, frozen meals, breakfast cereals, and white wine.

Love crispy, crunch Corn Nuts?

Don't want the extra salt and processing?

These are going to make your day!

You'll get four 1 carb servings of air-fryer crispy chickpeas out of this recipe (1/4 cup each).

Recipe via Eating Well:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 lime wedges

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Lay out several layers of paper towels. Spread the chickpeas over them. Cover with more paper towels, then pat until very dry. One of the best ways is to roll them between the paper towels to dry all sides.

If you have time, let the peas sit for an hour or two on the counter, to allow them to lose some moisture and really crunch!

In a medium bowl, coat chickpeas with oil, then sprinkle with spices to taste. Try different combinations, for different flavor outcomes. Pour into airfryer basket, and coat with cooking spray.

Shake the basket occasionally. After about 12 to 14 minutes, squeeze lime over the very well-browned crispy-crunchy snack and remove from the air fryer. Delicious immediately (after cooling a bit) or cold.

What about fiber?

Doctors are always saying people should eat more fiber. It's true for the general population, and it's true for diabetics, too.

Here's what you need to know about it:

  • Fiber is the indigestible part of plants and grains.
  • It helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly and efficiently.
  • It also helps you to feel full for longer.
  • For good health, adults should aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

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Wait, we'll put that in plain English for you:

How much is that 25 to 30 grams?

One measured cup of your favorite high-fiber cereal...

or three servings of many popular vegetables.

That's not so hard, is it?

The Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index measures how much any given food raises your blood sugar. The Index assigns each food a number.

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And here's what you need to remember:

  • Foods with a number < 55 equal "low GI" foods.
  • Foods with a number 56 to 69 are "medium GI" foods.
  • "High GI" foods have a number > 70.

Fat and fiber tend to lower the number. In general, processed foods tend to have a higher GI number.

Low GI Snacks

Consider making a dish of fresh, low GI, snacks to take to work with you and keep in the fridge. Or keep them at home.

With delicious snacks, you can fight cravings better.

It's a surprising variety of food, really:

  • Peas
  • Yogurt (add a small amount of honey or seasoning to make a dip)
  • Peanuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Oranges

How many carbohydrate grams you should eat

There are a couple of schools of thought on this. Meal plans put out by the American Diabetes Association typically contain a total of 135 to 230 carbohydrate grams per day.

Some experts, though, feel that it should be a lot less than that.

Historical Diabetes Treatments

Interestingly, before the development of insulin treatment in 1921, many doctors prescribed ultra-low-carb diets -- that is, 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrate per day to their diabetic patients.

Keep in mind:

Every patient is different, and not every diet will be good for every patient. Before embarking upon any new diet, it's imperative that a diabetic patient first discuss it with their doctor.

Read labels on your snacks

For packaged foods, check the nutrition label for carbohydrate grams per serving.

These apps can help

Fooducate, Glooko, Health2Sync, Glucosio, MyNetDiary Calorie Counter, Diabetes Tracker by MyNetDiary, BG Monitor, Diabetes Connect, BeatO

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Low-carb foods include non-starchy vegetables, berries, meat and fish, eggs, and tofu.

Medium-carb foods include grains and starchy vegetables and most fruits.

With grains, look for whole grains, as they're a better source of fiber and some vitamins.

Be sparing with bread, pasta, and processed foods. Not only are highly processed foods often high in carbohydrates, but they are also often high in fat and sodium, as well.

What about protein and fat?

Protein and fat can also affect your glucose levels, though not as much as carbohydrates do. If you think proteins or fats are affecting your blood sugar levels, talk to your doctor.

The importance of managing sodium

Choosing low sodium snacks will help lower risks for some bad things.

A diabetes diagnosis will often mean watching sodium as well as carbohydrates. That is because having diabetes puts a person at greater risk for heart disease and stroke by raising your blood pressure.

At a younger age.

That happens because the elevated glucose levels damage the blood vessels and nerves of the heart.

Fun fact

Sodium alone is explosive.

Here's the problem:

Most Americans consume too much sodium.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that most people limit their daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less. But the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 1,500 milligrams per day. If in doubt, check with your doctor.

But, beware of hidden sodium!:

Some unexpected hiding places for sodium include bread, soups, dinner mixes (like Hamburger Helper), sauces, salad dressings, and canned beans and vegetables.

Low sodium snacks you'll love!

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According to the American Diabetes Association, these are snacks you can count on to help you kick the salt:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Starchy and non-starchy fresh vegetables
  • Dried beans, peas, and legumes (Skip the can, skip the added salt)
  • Nuts and seeds (unsalted)
  • Oats, quinoa, and popcorn (without salt)

The secret language of sodium on food labels

If you're buying canned, frozen, or processed foods, look for the following words. These are legally defined terms with strict meanings.

  • Sodium-free (5 milligrams of sodium per serving or less, and no sodium chloride)
  • Very low sodium (35 milligrams or less per serving)
  • Low sodium (a maximum of 140 milligrams per serving)
  • Reduced (or less) sodium (25 percent less sodium per serving than the standard version)
  • Light in sodium (reduced sodium by at least 50 percent per serving)

If you're judging by DV (daily value), any product that contains less than 5 percent of your DV for sodium in a single serving is considered "low sodium."

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Did you know?

Your body needs three different kinds of exercise: 1. Cardio to keep your heart and lungs strong. 2.Muscle-building to increase muscle mass and metabolism 3. Flexibility because it feels great, and can help you to avoid injury.

The Role of Diabetic Snacks For You

Your doctor may advise you to eat at specific times. That can help you to keep your insulin and blood sugar levels balanced. Diabetic snacks are an essential part of this equation.

In fact, they can help a lot if you need to eat but are away from home. The good news is, with very little planning and preparation, you can have plenty of healthy, tasty, diabetic snacks on hand for when you need them.

Snacking to maintain your blood glucose balance

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Your doctor has probably told you about the importance of keeping your blood sugar levels balanced. You don't want them to spike too high, but too-low blood sugar is bad as well.

Eating every three to five hours can help you to maintain energy and balance. Make sure your snacks are low in sugar and salt and have plenty of protein and fiber.

The University of Ohio has a handy list of diabetic snacks containing 15 grams of carbs. Keep some of these with you in case of emergency.

Snacking helps you stick to your diet

Even if your blood sugar is in balance, you might feel hungry between meals. And we all know where that can lead. The right diabetic snacks can keep you feeling energized while staying on track with your weight management efforts. If you anticipate your hunger and head it off at the pass, you'll find it's not as hard as you think to stick to your healthy eating plan.

Did you know?

If you're missing your favorite sweets, unsalted nuts and nut butter can give you a touch of sweetness, along with protein and fiber. It's easy to make nut butter yourself in the food processor. Be careful, though. As good as nuts are for your health, they're also high in fat and calories.

Get in another serving of fruits and vegetables

We all know about getting our five a day. But what is a "serving," anyway?

The American Heart Association lays it out like this:

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One serving:

  • Fresh fruit = one medium fruit
  • Frozen or canned fruit (and always get the water-packed variety) = 1/2 cup
  • Vegetable leaves = one cup
  • Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables (sodium free, water-packed) = 1/2 cup

Dried fruits and juices can be high in sugars, so check with your doctor before eating them.

When should you snack?

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center recommends snacking when you have a long gap (several hours) between meals. They also state that if you eat dinner early, a before-bedtime snack can help you maintain your blood sugar balance overnight.

Define snack

A "snack" is 20-30 grams of carbohydrates and less than 150 calories.

As exercise can affect your blood sugar, you might consider a snack before and/or after your workout. That is especially important if you take insulin. Also, before and during your exercise, don't forget to drink plenty of plain water.

Different snacks for different folks

Most diabetics have similar dietary needs, but different people have different challenges, and, let's face it, different tastes.

Diabetic snacks for kids and teens

If you're preparing diabetic snacks for kids, it's not enough to just pick healthy ones. You also need snacks that they're going to want to eat. It's also important to pick things that either travel well or won't suffer from being at the bottom of a backpack.

Here are some ideas:

  • Nuts (if their school allows it)
  • Travel-friendly fruits like apples and oranges
  • Cheese sticks
  • Vegetable sticks with low-fat cream cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Low-fat no-sugar yogurt

Tell your kids

It's best to snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Teens will appreciate taking responsibility for their snacks and meals. Teach them how to prepare appropriate portions of healthy snacks, and always have plenty of their healthy favorites on hand.

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Diabetic snacks for adults

Many adults live busy lives. Prepare your diabetic snacks ahead of time, and stash them where you'll look for them in a pinch. Go for fresh foods, but also have emergency nonperishables on hand just in case.

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  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Fruits
  • Cut vegetables with vinegar, hummus, or cream cheese
  • Cheese and whole grain crackers
  • A hard-boiled egg (if you're not watching your cholesterol)
  • Low-sodium turkey or chicken slices
  • Avocado

Diabetic snacks for the elderly

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Some elderly people face unique challenges when it comes to food. Some have diminished appetites. Medications can affect appetite, as well as make some nutrients harder to absorb. Hard foods can present problems for people who use dentures or have weak teeth.

Many elderly people struggle with getting enough nutrition, particularly protein and Vitamin D. But healthy diabetic snacks for seniors can help.

These might do the trick:

  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Smooth nut butter with whole wheat crackers
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Half-sandwich with low-sodium deli meat
  • Avocado on toast
  • Cheese sticks
  • Eggs: scrambled, soft, or hard-boiled. Try scrambling with veggies.
  • Homemade low-sodium vegetable soups

If you're caring for an elder, be sure that you -- and they -- are aware of any special nutritional needs, and tailor all snacks accordingly.

Healthy snacking tips and tricks

When it comes to diabetic snacks, it's not just what you eat. Portion size and convenience are important, too. Here are some tips and tricks for healthy snacking.

First, plan ahead. Figure out your carbs for the day, and plan your diabetic snacks as parts of this whole. Preparation is half the battle.

Next, prepare individual portions ahead of time, and have them ready to go. Four- or eight-ounce storage containers make diabetic snacks on the go a breeze. If you have your snacks at the ready when hunger strikes, you won't be tempted to eat something you shouldn't.

Finally, have a few emergency portions of diabetic snacks available at home, in the car, at work, in the gym bag, and anywhere else you might need them.

The Nuts and Bolts of Healthy Diabetic Snacks

Many dietary recommendations for people with diabetes are common-sense ideas that everyone can benefit from. So don't let your snacks make you feel different or left out. You're taking care of yourself. And if your friends are wise, they'll take a page from your book.

A good example has twice the value of good advice. 

-- Albert Schweitzer

The elements of healthy diabetic snacks

The building blocks of healthy diabetic snacks should look familiar. Think high protein, high fiber, and low sodium and low sugar.

Understand nutritional labels, and know how to use them to find healthy foods.

No mindless snacking

Does this sound familiar?

Sitting in front of the TV, in the car, or at work, hand to bag or bowl and then to mouth. And before you know it, you've eaten the whole thing.

Don't let your mind go on auto-pilot when you're snacking. Plan not just what to eat, but when. Pay attention to what you're eating, and you'll enjoy it more that way, too.

Avoid processed foods

Heavy processing removes much of foods' natural flavor and nutrition. Food manufacturers make up for this by adding sugar, salt, and fat. It isn't good for anyone, but it can be especially harmful to diabetics. For this reason, your doctor will likely tell you to avoid processed foods.

Here's how can you tell what's a heavily processed food:

It comes in a box, bottle, can, or bag.

Choose fresh when possible. And that's good advice for everyone.

Make your own diabetic snacks

It's easier and faster than you think to make your own diabetic snacks using fresh foods. Making your own means you're in the driver's seat. You control the portion size, the ingredients list, the carb count, and the nutritional content.

Look out for this:

Bottled salad dressings have lots of fat, salt, and sugar. Vinegar has none of these, but it's packed with flavor. And different kinds of vinegar have different flavors. Balsamic vinegar has a sweet flavor. Apple cider vinegar has a sharper, tangier flavor. Red wine vinegar is slightly tart and great to drizzle on vegetables and salads. Distinctly-flavored rice vinegar is a common ingredient in Japanese food.

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Always be careful to check labels, though. Often the "seasonings" in seasoned vinegar are sugar and salt.


Choose high protein foods

Protein keeps you from feeling hungry, helps you build muscle, and won’t bump up your carb count by much. Many protein-rich foods are also convenient to keep on hand and travel well, too.

Some include:

  • Sugar-free, salt-free nuts and nut butter
  • Tofu
  • Hummus
  • Cheeses
  • Low-sodium sliced turkey and chicken
  • Beans
  • Non-fat plain yogurt (especially Greek style)

More Recipes for Healthy Diabetic Snacks

The American Diabetes Association has a wealth of recipes, information, and meal-planning tools to help you on your journey to health. Below, find a few of our favorites to get you started.

Meat lover's breakfast cups

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Have these on hand for a quick breakfast. At 110 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates, they make a terrific high-protein snack as well. Recipe by the American Diabetes Association. This recipe serves 6.

  • 2 tablespoons turkey bacon
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cup froze hash brown
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 pre-cooked turkey sausage patties
  • 1 tablespoon light sour cream
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons Monterrey Jack cheese

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then grease a muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide the hash browns evenly and press them to the sides and bottom of the muffin cups.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Sauté the onion in the oil until tender. Add the garlic and sausage, and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.

Beat the egg substitute with the salt and black pepper in a bowl, then pour it evenly into the muffin cups. Sprinkle with sausage, bacon, and cheese. Now bake for 15 to 18 minutes. These freeze well.

Caprese kabobs

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  • 18 fresh basil leaves
  • 18 grape tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella balls (18 of them, 1/4 ounce each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Arrange all ingredients evenly on the mini-skewers. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and serve.

These are great for parties, as well as hors-d'oeuvres. At only 25 calories each, with 1 gram of carbohydrates, you can have quite a few, as well. Recipe from the American Diabetes Association. This recipe serves 18.

Try this

If you're missing the flavors of your favorite high-sodium sauces, try these healthy alternatives. A burst of flavor? Black pepper or lemon pepper. A hint of Mexican? Lemon juice, lime juice, cumin, or some fresh cilantro. The Italian-style twist? Basil, thyme, garlic, or marjoram (a common pizza spice). Try Asian-inspired with: rice vinegar, ginger, or lime juice.

Pumpkin apple protein bars

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If you're after something sweet, try these protein-packed snack bars from the American Diabetes Association. This recipe makes 12 bars, two inches square each. Each bar has 65 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates. Also, they freeze well.

  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons of Splenda brown sugar blend
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 scoop reduced carb protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8-inch by 8-inch pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, mix the egg, egg whites, vanilla, Splenda, pumpkin, applesauce, and apple. Mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl then add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour into the baking pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Snack Your Way to Better Health

Your doctor may have advised you to lose weight. Lucky you, that doesn't mean cutting out snacks. It means snacking smarter.

The right diabetic snacks can not only help you to lose weight. They can also help you to keep your blood glucose in balance.

And this is most importantly:

They can keep you from feeling deprived and giving into temptation for unhealthy foods.

So read, research, and plan. Know your numbers and your needs. Better health is in the palm of your hand.

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