Lone Star Family Health Center: Sugar-free suggestions for summertime snacking

Maybe summer’s heat has you craving ice cream, lemonade, and popsicles, or maybe summer holidays and parties have you surrounded with treats like these. It is easy to see that summer poses many challenges for people diagnosed with diabetes. The rising temperatures increase the risk of dehydration. Dehydration and certain types of party snacks and sweets may negatively affect diabetes by making blood sugar levels difficult to manage.

Staying hydrated with water and beverages without sugar is most important during the summer. The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), developed and published by the Institute of Medicine, recommend 3.7 liters (almost 1 gallon) of fluids for men and 2.7 liters (almost 3 quarts) of fluids a day for women. These recommendations include fluid you get from water, other beverages and food. About 80 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from drinks. Keep in mind that these are general recommendations. Other factors such as exercise level, environmental temperatures, health conditions and pregnancy can change your fluid needs. You can always check with your doctor or dietitian for fluid recommendations.

Be mindful that alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and sports drinks can increase your risk of dehydration and/or raise blood sugar. Large amounts of sugar intake from beverages will spike blood sugar levels and make them more difficult to control. Instead, infuse your own water with sliced lemons, cucumbers and other vegetables to add flavor to plain water without adding sugar. These types of flavored, sugar free waters can also be found in the grocery store in sparkling and carbonated varieties.

During summer parties it can be challenging to find diabetic-friendly snacks. Fresh vegetables such as carrot chips, sliced cucumber, bell pepper and celery sticks are great low carbohydrate alternatives to tortilla chips. They make a delicious appetizer when combined with guacamole dip.

Making your own frozen popsicles with low sugar juice or Greek yogurt can help cure a sweet tooth. Pour ½ cup of low or no sugar juice or low sugar yogurt into popsicle molds and freeze for 3-4 hours. These snacks will have less impact on blood sugar levels as compared to regular store bought ice cream and popsicles that have large amounts of added sugar. Frozen bananas can also be a substitute for soft-serve “ice cream”. Slice bananas and store them in the freezer for 3-4 hours. Then, blend ½ cup of frozen bananas in a blender to make a soft ice cream, which can be topped with crushed nuts or coconut.

So with knowledge and a little creativity you can manage your blood sugar levels and enjoy some summertime treats.

Christina Ferriola is a Registered Dietitian at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, and Grangerland, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.