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9 Ways to Raise Blood Sugar Quickly

When you have type 1 diabetes, you are probably an expert at treating low blood sugar attacks. You also know the CDC 15-15 guidelines for treating hypoglycemia (Take 15 grams of carbs, allow blood sugar to rise, then check 15 minutes later) don’t always work flawlessly. Every rule has exceptions, and you must be your advocate as you know your body best. Here are some perfect go-to low-carb snack ideas to treat those pesky low glucose episodes and keep you thriving throughout the day.

 9 Ways to Raise Blood Sugar Quickly

What Should My Go-to Low Carb Snack Be?

It’s the worst feeling. You’re out with friends enjoying a fun shopping day at the mall, and suddenly, three deafening rings blare from your phone. Or you’re at the movie theater in the middle of the most climactic scene, and suddenly, your Dexcom app is nagging at you like your morning alarm. Your heart skips a beat as you scramble to find a low snack in the quiet, suspense-filled movie theater, petrified that what everyone assumes is a forgotten wake-up alarm will go off again. Unfortunately, you can’t snooze this one.

You’ve heard the sound before, of course, but you never quite get used to it. The sound never ceases to catch you off guard and certainly never gets quieter. But what should that low-carb snack be in the middle of this inopportune moment? And should it differ depending on your situation? The answer to those questions is up to you, but there are pros and cons depending on what you decide to pack in your purse or backpack.

The typical carbohydrate intake recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for low blood glucose (70 mg/dL or below) is 15 - 20 grams of carbs.

Though it would be nice to indulge in your favorite high-carb treat every time for low alert, a carb amount that is too high may cause you to run the risk of hyperglycemia, further worsening an already critical situation. And though it may be hard to find a snack-size packet that measures precisely the correct carb specification, it certainly is possible to find portable snacks within a few grams of this range! Whether you are into sweet treats or salty snacks, you can find an option that works for your lifestyle.

Here are 9 low-carb snacks to raise glucose levels quickly. 

1. Fruit Snacks

Coming in hot as one of the seemingly most popular low-carb treats—are your everyday, run-of-the-mill fruit snacks. Most fruit snack packs, no matter the brand, have a carb amount that falls between that 15 - 20 gram requirement, making them a convenient size and a perfect treat for those annoying lows. Fruit snacks offer a fruity and chewy option that is easy to eat quickly. They can also often be bought in bulk at certain stores, or various brands can be found in your typical 12-pack at almost any grocery store, meaning you will likely always be able to find them.

2. Glucose Gummies 

Glucose Gummies have a similar feel to fruit snacks but are a more health-conscious option. Similar to the fruit snack option, glucose gummies are similar in consistency and explicitly made to provide that recommended carbohydrate amount. Though possibly a little pricier, they are designed to raise glucose quickly without the additional sugar. They often come in bottles similar to vitamins and are located in or around the pharmacy. Pack them in a plastic baggy and keep a few on your nightstand for those dreaded 3:00 a.m. lows. Just down a couple of gummies and fall right back asleep! (Always read label instructions for safe use)

If the texture of gummies and fruit snacks is not for you, glucose tablets and gels are two standard products that deliver those necessary grams of carbohydrates. 

3. Glucose Tablets 

Glucose Tablets are like glucose gummies but come in a chalky, pill-like form. The tablets, designed to raise blood sugar levels quickly, offer another chewy alternative. They come in a bottle similar to the gummies, making them another great bedside option for quick absorption. 

Glucose is a sugar and doesn’t have an expiration date. The tablets may harden with time but still raise your blood sugar effectively. The CDC recommends taking three to four tablets; however, always read packaging instructions for various brands. 

Pro Tip: If you run out of your emergency stash to treat lows, a tablespoon of honey, syrup, or jelly will also work to increase blood sugar levels. Fruit, raisins, or a tablespoon of sugar in a glass of water will also do the trick. 

4. Glucose Gels

Glucose gels come in small tubes and various flavors (citrus, punch, grape, tropical fruit, raspberry, and orange). And, similar to fruit chews, can be conveniently stored in pockets. Glucose Oral Gels deliver 15 grams of pure glucose (dextrose) for rapid response to hypoglycemia. They have a two-year shelf life and contain no artificial dyes or coloring.

Pro Tip: Beside your bedside, keep low-carb snacks stashed everywhere: in your car, your gym locker, all purses and backpacks, and on every floor of your house, especially if you live alone. Also, keep some in your pockets whenever you go on a jog, take a hike—or even a quick walk around the block.

5. Juice Boxes

Remember that movie theater situation from earlier? A handy dandy juice box is the perfect solution. Juice boxes typically sit around 20 grams of carbs, and their liquid form delivers possibly the quickest amount of sugar to your body. They are easy to fit into purses, cup holders, or inside backpacks, and without the crinkling sound from wrappers, they are quiet to drink and perfect for those hushed movie theater moments.

Though they tend to be slightly more expensive than other options, their convenience and quick carb delivery certainly make up for it. These are also optimal because they provide the flexibility of acting as a sweet treat or a healthy alternative.

Pro Tip: As juice boxes come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, make sure to read labels as more sugar-free varieties keep popping up.

6. Pretzels

Want to pretend you’re flying first class? Or, well, at least economy? Snack-sized pretzels also offer ample carbs while providing a salty choice, unlike the previous options.

7. Chocolate Bars

Have more of a sweet tooth but prefer something with a chocolate kick? You’re in luck. Your good ol’ fashioned chocolate bar also carries around the right amount of carbs to correct a low glucose alert without shooting your glucose to the moon an hour later (as long as you can restrict yourself to only one bar!). And if you can’t, that’s okay, too. Just make sure to bolus! 

8. Protein Bars

Pro(tein) Tip: Opting for a protein bar can also be a good idea when raising your blood glucose. Often healthier than pretzels or chocolate bars, protein bars deliver the same amount of carbohydrates while helping you increase your protein consumption. This may be extra critical to people with diabetes who weight lift or body build, as protein bars allow you to kill two birds with one stone by raising your blood sugar and protein intake in one sitting.

Interesting Fact: Foods higher in fat, such as chocolate, peanut butter and ice cream, take longer to absorb in the bloodstream. 

9. Your Favorite Soda or Juice (or at least some of it)

Sodas tend to be a slippery slope for people with diabetes. Drinking one may actually feel like breaking the law. As non-diet options are often to be avoided, this choice is by no means a first choice, but in a pinch, just like juice and sodas, high in sugar, it quickly and effectively increases blood glucose. Whether you ran out of your favorite fruit snacks or left your juice boxes on the counter at home, drinking a soda is a quick way to recover from very low lows.

Another nice thing about sodas is that they are easily accessible across grocery stores, gas stations, vending machines, and concession stands. That said, ensure you look closely at the label for the necessary amount to bring your blood glucose back up and avoid chasing a high. This is typically a half cup (4 ounces).  

A Quick Review 

So there you have it! A comprehensive list of low-carb snack options, each with its own pros and cons. Make sure to take care of your body in those critical moments. Plus, when warranted, there’s nothing like eating those sinful carbs! Individuals with diabetes have daily troubles many will never experience, but that doesn’t mean preparing for those daunting “what-ifs” can’t be enjoyable, too. So why not savor treating your lows with your favorite treats!

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