Healthy Non-Perishable Foods & Snacks for Diabetics
While non-perishable foods often get a bad rep, they can be convenient for those managing blood sugars. Add these diabetic-packaged foods to your next grocery haul and pantry.
Non-perishable foods often get a bad rep as not as healthy as "fresh" foods. However, some non-perishable foods can play a large role in any healthy diet, including for diabetics.
Having delicious, healthy non-perishable food on hand can minimize trips to the grocery store. They also offer a variety of convenient shelf-stable food options for snacks or meals.
Finding healthy diabetic-friendly packaged foods can be difficult, so our experts created this list to help simplify your grocery shopping.
Benefits of Non-Perishable Foods
Non-perishable foods do not need to be refrigerated to keep from getting spoiled. They can stay at room temperature, like in a pantry, and often have a longer best by date compared to refrigerated foods. Examples of non-perishable foods include dried, canned, and other packaged foods.
A benefit of non-perishable foods is they can be stocked in the pantry if the room allows. This way, foods will be on hand and will more than likely use before the expiration date.
Not all non-perishable foods are considered unhealthy and non-perishable foods can be equally nutritious and delicious. Look for packaged foods that have minimally added preservatives like sugar and salt. Examples of nutritious non-perishable foods include dried/canned beans, nuts/seeds, canned vegetables, and whole grains.
Diabetic-Friendly Packaged Foods
Fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy (or dairy alternatives) and meats have nutritional merits, but so do some packaged foods. Diabetic-friendly packaged foods are low in added sugar, nutrient-dense and have minimally added preservatives.
1. Canned or Dried Beans
High in fiber and protein and considered low-glycemic, beans are a great diabetic-friendly packaged food. Having beans as part of a meal or snack can also prolong satiation after eating.
Canned or dried beans are so versatile, as they can serve as a base for soups, dips, taco filling, sandwiches, and more. All types of beans can be a healthy diabetic-friendly option, so experiment with kidney beans, black beans, and other varieties. Chickpeas are especially versatile and can be used many delicious ways.
2. Canned Tuna or Salmon
Canned tuna and salmon are nutritious, non-perishable protein sources that can easily fit into a diabetic-friendly diet. Unlike fresh meat or seafood, they are conveniently able to stay on the pantry shelf. Besides protein, canned tuna and salmon are good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Canned tuna or salmon can be used to make a quick sandwich or into a dip. Simply drain and mix with a little plain Greek yogurt, mustard, and/or other optional seasonings.
3. Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts have many health benefits and may offer heart health benefits for those with type 2 diabetes according to Cleveland Clinic. Type 2 diabetics who eat a small handful (1 ounce) of nuts a day may lower their risk of heart disease.
The type of nut or nut butter does not exactly matter, as they are all considered heart-healthy. In order to pick the best diabetic-friendly nut products, choose packages that do not have added sweeteners and minimal salt.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, compared to milk or white chocolate, has a higher percent of cocoa. Cocoa beans are a source of antioxidants and various minerals. Therefore, eating dark chocolate can provide some of the nutritional benefits of cocoa beans.
However, keep in mind dark chocolate is bitter, especially products that have a higher percentage of cocoa. To counter this, sweeteners are often added to dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is naturally low in carbohydrates and higher in fat content. To keep it diabetic-friendly, choose dark chocolates that have a higher percent, like 70 percent or above. Make sure there are minimally added sweeteners and keep portion size per day to around one ounce or less per day.
5. Single-Serve Whole Grain Chips or Crackers
Chips and crackers are a carbohydrate source that can impact blood sugar, but choosing single-serve packages for a snack can help control portion sizes. Whole grain chips or crackers are higher in fiber compared to refined flour-based snacks.
The extra fiber from whole grains can help slow the release of blood sugar from the digestive tract after eating. Pair with hummus or guacamole for a more filling and balanced snack.
Jerky is another diabetic-friendly, high-protein, low-carb, non-perishable food choice. It can serve as a low-carb, portable snack option that can keep one feeling full.
Keep in mind jerky can be higher in sodium and may have added sugars for certain flavored jerky. Check labels and keep in mind this should be eaten in moderation as a diabetic-friendly packaged food.
7. Canned or Frozen Vegetables
Fresh vegetables are of course considered a solid nutritional choice for any diet type. However, canned or frozen vegetables can get overshadowed as somehow subpar compared to fresh vegetables. These packaged vegetables are just as nutritionally dense as fresh vegetables and can be cheaper and easier to store.
Keep in mind salt is often added to canned vegetables. Therefore, check labels to choose no salt added if that is a concern.
8. Whole Grains
Research studies have shown high intake of whole grains is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. For people with diabetes, recommended amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods at meals can vary.
However, whole grains can still be a part of a healthy diet and serve as a nutrient-dense food for diabetics. Uncooked whole grains like oats, quinoa, barley, farro and bulgur are considered non-perishable and can be a staple of a healthy, balanced diabetic-friendly meal.
Snacks for Diabetics
A general recommendation for diabetic-friendly snacks is high-fiber carbohydrate foods paired with foods that provide healthy fats and protein. Specific carbohydrate recommendations for snacks may vary depending on the progression of diabetes, other health factors, and insulin use.
Below are some healthy options for diabetic-friendly snacks.
Single Serve Cheese
Packaged single-serve cheese can serve as a quick diabetic-friendly snack on the go. The single-serve packaging adds convenience and ease for portion control. Most cheeses are virtually carbohydrate-free, but it is still wise to check labels.
Pair with a piece of fruit or a few whole-wheat crackers for a carbohydrate source if desired.
Nut Butter with Fruit
Two tablespoons of nut butter can pair well with a banana or apple for a filling, balanced snack. The nut butter can be measured with an apple cut up and put in a small Tupperware for a snack to enjoy on the run.
Hummus and Veggies
For a diabetic-friendly snack that provides 15 to 20 grams of carb, pair 1/4 cup hummus with non-starchy veggies. Examples include carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Eggs are a good source of protein and are carbohydrate-free. Make the hard-boiled eggs ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Add an egg or two to a container for a high-protein snack to eat on the go.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
A small handful (one ounce) of nuts can provide a satisfying snack. Pair with a few prunes, dates, or two tablespoons of raisins or dried cranberries for a sweet, nutritious pairing.
Pre-portioning these amounts in snack bags or other containers can be an easy snack on the go option.
Crunchy chickpeas can be a versatile, fun snack for diabetics. Make crunchy chickpeas from canned or cooked chickpeas or find at most major grocery stores.
A benefit to making crunchy chickpeas at home is using a variety of seasonings such as ground cinnamon, Italian seasoning, paprika or curry.
Non-Refrigerated Lunch Ideas
No fridge? No problem! These lunch options do not need to be stored in the fridge before consumed. The options are virtually endless with these, so never be bored with lunchtime meals!
Bento boxes are the ultimate template for creating a lunch to fit nutritional and taste needs. They are pre-portioned boxes that can be filled with a variety of foods.
Some example of non-refrigerated bento box ingredients include:
• Whole grain crackers with hummus
• Mandarin oranges
• Dried fruit
• Snap peas or other cut-up vegetables
• A can or pouch of tuna
• Dried, shelf-stable cheese crisps
• Dark chocolate
• Vegetable chips
Can of Soup with Whole Grain Crackers
If a can opener and microwave are available, bring a can (or packet) of soup for lunch. This is convenient because there is no need to worry about keeping the can cold beforehand.
Overall, choose a soup that is lower in sodium and has high fiber ingredients like vegetables and/or legumes.
Elevated Peanut Butter & Jelly
A non-perishable lunch does not have to be a boring peanut butter and jelly!
Make an elevated PB&J by smearing whole grain bread, toast, or pita with nut butter and a dash of ground cinnamon. Next layer thinly sliced fruit of choice such as bananas, apples, pears, or halved grapes.
With access to a hot water kettle, enjoy an easy, filling lunch with oatmeal. Pack desired oatmeal toppings like a few tablespoons of chopped nuts and dried fruit in a bag or other container. Take a packet or two of instant oatmeal (ideally plain). Make oatmeal as suggested on the packet and add desired toppings.
Or, give overnight oats a try! However, it is important to use dairy-free milk or water, as well as other non-perishable ingredients, that will not spoil without proper refrigerating.
There are many non-perishable foods that can fit into a healthy diabetic diet. Look for packaged foods that have minimal added sugar, salt, and preservatives such as those mentioned above.
Non-perishable lunches can also be made with a combination of these packaged foods by prepping into bento boxes. Or, simply grab a can of soup, warm up a packet of oatmeal, or make an elevated PB&J.