Expert Q&A

Evening Snacking: Will It Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Someone told me to eat an evening snack. However, I am afraid it will raise my blood sugars. Is this true?

-Ramond from Montana

Generally, snacking after an evening meal is not a good idea. This is especially true if the snack consists of foods that contain simple carbohydrates such as cookies and ice cream. These snacks can:

  • Add extra calories
  • Increase your blood sugars the next morning
  • Contribute to weight gain in the long run.

If you are hungry after dinner, consider combining a free food, something that contains 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates with a small amount of protein, such as a glass of skim milk. If you snack smart, an evening snack may have some benefits.

For people who take diabetes medications or insulin injections, an after dinner snack may prevent low blood sugar during the night. But before doing so, talk to your doctor about possibly adjusting the dose of your medication of insulin.

Those with morning fasting blood sugars above 120mg/dl may benefit from an evening snack because it can decrease their fasting blood sugars. A diabetic's liver releases glucose into the bloodstream overnight. However, the pancreas may not release enough insulin to match it, resulting in high blood sugar in the morning even though the person did not eat.

Another cause for early morning blood sugar elevation is the Dawn Phenomenon, a mid-morning release of:

  • Cortisol
  • Epinephrine
  • Glucagon.

By eating an evening snack with 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates with some protein, the liver may be too busy to release glucose, which results in lower morning fasting blood sugars.

Again, discuss this with your physician to see if evening snacking is a good idea for your individual situation. If you have not had a meal plan designed for you, contact a registered dietitian or a diabetes educator for a custom-designed diet. An individualized meal and snack plan will give you a clear idea of what and when to eat, as well as how many carbohydrates to consume.

Megan Porter, RD/LD
Contributing Expert

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