Mary Ellen Phipps

Mary Ellen Phipps

Mary Ellen Phipps, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition, is a diabetes dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) renowned for combining her knowledge of diabetes and culinary expertise into easy-to-follow recipes and articles!

Treating Hypoglycemia: Foods & Snacks for Low Blood Sugar

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snacks for low blood sugar graphic

This post is sponsored by Nature Nate’s Honey Co. All thoughts and ideas are my own. 

Hypoglycemia can happen at the most inconvenient times so being prepared with snacks for low blood sugar is a must!

Hypoglycemia can happen to anyone living with diabetes, and even some people without diabetes. Having snacks for low blood sugar on hand is a necessary part of managing blood sugars. 

What is hypoglycemia?

Most health care professionals define hypoglycemia as a blood glucose value less than 70mg/dL. But, you should definitely talk with your own healthcare team about when they want you to treat a low blood sugar. Your doctor may recommend a snack for low blood sugar at a different value depending on your lifestyle and other factors. 

Symptoms of hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia can cause:

  • Confusion
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Numbness in your extremities and face
  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • …and more

It’s important to also note that in some people hypoglycemia is asymptomatic. So, if you find yourself prone to low blood sugar, make sure you monitor your blood sugar closely and always have snacks for low blood sugar on hand.

What happens if hypoglycemia is not treated?

If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, and even death. So, as I said above, being prepared with low blood sugar snacks is critically important. 

How to treat hypoglycemia

Have you heard of the rule of 15 for low blood sugar? It says that if your blood sugar is low, you should eat 15g rapid acting carbohydrate, and then wait 15 minutes. Re-test your blood sugar, and if it is not back to normal levels, consume additional carbohydrate. 

As someone who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 30+ years (and is also a registered dietitian), I find this rule frustrating at times. There are so many factors that can play into how much carbohydrate is needed to treat a low blood sugar and how long it will take your low blood sugar snack to “work”. Talk with your doctor or health care team to develop a personalized low blood sugar treatment plan. 

Best thing to eat for low blood sugar in people with diabetes

The best food for a low blood sugar is what we call “rapid acting carbohydrate.” More on what that means and examples below. 

How to treat reactive hypoglycemia

Reactive hypoglycemia is often referring to people without diabetes who experience low blood sugar for a variety of reasons. In the moment of a reactive hypoglycemic episode, we use the same type of treatment that we would use for people with diabetes experiencing hypoglycemia. But, hypoglycemia in the absence of diabetes should be discussed with your doctor to determine a cause and possible bigger picture treatment options. 

How to treat hypoglycemia in pregnancy

For people without diabetes, hypoglycemia during pregnancy is rare, but it is possible. 

People with diabetes, though, usually experience an increased occurrence of hypoglycemia during pregnancy. 

One study showed that ~23% of women with type 1 diabetes experience an extreme episode of hypoglycemia during pregnancy. Extreme hypoglycemia happened when blood sugar is so low that someone almost loses consciousness and/or needs help from an outside person to treat the hypoglycemia. 

Hypoglycemia should be treated the same way in pregnancy as it is when not pregnant. Talk with your OB/GYN about best practices for preventing hypoglycemia.

best snacks for low blood sugar nature nates honey peanut butter

So, what can you eat if your blood sugar is low?

What are some of the best snacks for low blood sugar? As I mentioned above, these are rapid acting carbohydrates. Rapid acting carbohydrates are foods that usually people with diabetes should limit or eat in moderation. And, you’ll notice these foods do not have fat or protein present. Fat and protein can slow down how long it takes for the carbohydrate to raise your blood sugar. Normally, this is what we want, but not when your blood sugar is low. 

Examples include:

  • Fat free candies
  • Juice
  • Honey
  • Glucose tablets
  • Glucose gels
  • Unsweetened applesauce
best foods for low blood sugar nature nate's honey orange juice fruit snacks glucose tablets applesauce

Best foods for low blood sugar

Many people express concern over how “unhealthy” they think a lot of low blood sugar treatment options are. For example, many parents worry about using candy for low blood sugars because they think it is bad for their child. In reality though, the most important thing in the middle of a hypoglycemic episode is to treat the low blood sugar with what you have. Stressing about finding a healthy option is not needed and it’s not helpful. 

Should you focus on healthy snacks to raise low blood sugar?

All of that being said though, there is nothing wrong with planning ahead and choosing low blood sugar snacks that also come with other micronutrients and might be considered “healthier” by some people. But remember, what’s most important is to choose something that is easy to consume and raises blood sugar quickly. 

Best snacks for low blood sugar

Here are my top 5 ways to treat a low blood sugar, because I’ve tasted enough glucose tablets in my lifetime to know I’d give anything to help people not have to taste chalk when they’re treating a low blood sugar!

  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/3-1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 4-6 fl oz. apple juice or grape juice
  • Fat free candies

Portable snacks for hypoglycemia

These are my top 3 portable snacks for hypoglycemia:

on the go snacks for low blood sugar nature nate's honey fruit snacks applesauce pouches

Best snacks for hypoglycemia in kids

Low blood sugar snacks for kids should be something that’s easy for them to consume and doesn’t take a long time for them to eat or drink. My top picks include:

  • Nature Nate’s Honey Co. honey minis
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Juice boxes 
nature nate's honey family photo

My top favorite snack for low blood sugar

Without a doubt, my personal top pick for treating my low blood sugars is with honey. It’s quick and easy to consume, and raises blood sugars back up to normal rapidly. I especially love the mini pouches from Nature Nate’s Honey Co. that I referenced above. They’re very small in size which makes them perfect for throwing in my purse or when I’m traveling. 

Nature Nate’s Honey Co. is the number-one branded honey company in the U.S. They produce 100% pure, raw & unfiltered honey. Their goal is to help the consumer (aka, YOU) enjoy honey the way nature intended. A raw blended honey like Nate’s has a more complex and nuanced flavor. They work with trusted beekeepers across the U.S. and their strict purity and testing standards ensure every bottle is as simple and pure as it is straight from the hive.

snacks for low blood sugar graphic

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