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Smart Snacking At Bedtime

Johanna Hicks

By Johanna Hicks, Texas AgriLife Extension Agent for Family and Community Health, Hopkins County, [email protected]

 “I’m hungry!”  How many of us have said that at bedtime, as the stomach grumbles? Late-night snacking has pros and cons, especially for people with diabetes. So, how can you tell if it’s okay to snack at all and, if so, how many carbs should that snack have? One of the clues for people with diabetes is the morning blood glucose levels.

Unfortunately, it’s not often simple. Fasting blood glucose readings are only the start. According to Diabetes Daily, to get a better sense of overall patterns, test blood glucose before going to bed at night, and again at 3 a.m., in addition to your morning test. Do this for several days in a row and you will begin to see your body’s typical nighttime blood sugar cycle. A continuous glucose monitor makes it even easier.

You will want to consult with your doctor or dietitian about how to best work with the pattern you discovered. Snacking at night can lead to weight gain because we don’t always choose carefully when we have the post-dinner munchies. Sometimes we sit in front of the television or hang out with friends and don’t pay attention to how much we’re eating.  We wind up packing on the calories, which often means extra carbs. If the issues are weight control, and if you’re still hunger after dinner, grab a “free” food, which is mostly free of carbs. “Free foods” include:

  • Baby carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Cauliflower or broccoli florets
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Zucchini
  • Radishes
  • One cup light popcorn
  • Sugar-free gelatin

If you don’t have those options on hand, the following snacks are fairly low carb and may not pose a blood sugar issue.  Always check to see how your body handles different snacks.

  • Small handful of goldfish-style crackers
  • Six saltine crackers
  • 6 plain animal crackers
  • 3 gingersnap cookies
  • 4 vanilla wafers

Diabetes Daily offers some bonus tips for nighttime snacking, but options can differ depending on your specific situation. The following three bonus tips are good for anyone to follow:

  1. Exercise portion, carb, and calorie control – Know how much you need and understand what a service size actually looks like.
  2. Choose healthy snacks – this requires you to know what’s right for you and your particular needs.  Some snacks are just plain unhealthy, no matter what.  Stay away from things that are pure sugar, contain high fructose corn syrup, or have more carbs in one serving than most people with diabetes should have in an entire day.
  3. Eat mindfully – When you snack, focus on the food. Savor every bite and chew slowly allowing yourself to fully experience all the flavors. Turn away from external distractions. Cultivating mindfulness will naturally help you feel more satisfied with your snack and can help prevent mindless overeating.

The Dawn Phenomenon and Somogyi Effect are issues pertaining to off-kilter blood sugars in the morning and middle of the night.  I’ll cover those in next week’s column, so stay tuned!

Closing Thought

Children are like sponges – they soak up everything that is said and done, so be sure you are setting a good example in all aspects of life!

Contact Johanna Hicks, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family & Community Health Agent at the Hopkins County office at P.O. Box 518, 1200-B West Houston Street, Sulphur Springs, TX 75483; 903-885-3443; or [email protected].

Author: KSST Contributor

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