Nutrition Bars and Shakes: Good for Diabetes?

By GabbyPA Latest Reply 2012-06-25 20:50:22 -0500
Started 2012-06-11 08:56:42 -0500

The convenience of these grab-and-go options is undeniable, but are they wise choices?

By Everyday Health :

More and more nutrition bars, nutrition shakes, and other convenience foods labeled for people with diabetes are turning up in grocery store aisles. Some of these quick and easy foods even claim they’ll help you to be more successful in managing your type 2 diabetes.

But just because they may be marketed for those with diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean these nutrition bars and nutrition shakes are good for you or worth their cost.

You have to know what ingredients to look for, says registered dietitian Nora Saul, RD, a certified diabetes educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Before you go out and buy a jumbo-sized pack, read the label to learn what's inside those nutrition bars and nutrition shakes.

Finding the Better Nutrition Bars and Shakes

Ingredients do vary between products. Some of the nutrition bars and nutrition shakes made for people with diabetes may contain specific ingredients that can make them a good choice.

"There are certain bars that have resistant starch or uncooked cornstarch in them," says Saul. The presence of these starches can help prevent overnight low blood sugars as well as very high blood sugar levels because of how the body breaks them down. "Resistant starch and uncooked starch are digested very slowly," notes Saul. That means that they raise blood glucose levels very slowly, preventing a big spike.

Other nutrition bars and shakes may have valuable vitamins and nutrients and be perfectly fine for people with diabetes, says Saul. But while they are acceptable choices, "there's nothing magical about them," she explains, and they don't provide an easy fix for type 2 diabetes management.

How to Use Nutrition Shakes and Bars

If you like the taste, can afford the price, and enjoy the convenience of a safe and healthy snack, there's no reason why you can't keep a supply of nutrition bars and shakes on hand for times you need to eat in a pinch. But they aren't a good option when your blood sugar is dropping and you need to bring it back up, since they're designed to do so slowly.

Also remember not to overdo it on these prepackaged foods and don't use them as an easy way out if you want to avoid planning a healthy meal. "They're fine for a snack," says Saul, but she suggests that there are many other foods that are less expensive and also make a great snack, starting with fresh fruits and vegetables — all delicious, easy, and healthy choices.

If you do want to buy some of these nutrition shakes and bars especially designed for people with diabetes, Saul offers important buying guidelines:

Look for nutrition bars and nutrition shakes that contain protein and fiber.
Choose nutrition bars that are low in fat, with no more than 5 to 7 grams, and make sure those are mostly monounsaturated fats.
Check their vitamin and mineral content — some bars contain essential nutrients like folate and calcium, which is a bonus.

It may be a good idea to check your blood sugar about two hours after eating one of these bars or drinking a shake to get an idea of the effect it has on you.

Saul's main advice regarding these convenience foods is that they shouldn't be a staple of the diabetic diet, and you shouldn't plan on regularly having a nutrition bar or nutrition shake in place of a well-balanced meal. "They shouldn't replace healthy meals," she cautions. "If somebody skips breakfast sometimes, having one of these bars is fine," but she adds, keep in mind that the foods don't really teach you how to eat.

47 replies

MoeGig 2012-06-23 21:46:06 -0500 Report

Have been Type 1 since 1965 and have hardly ever eaten these products. Regular low carb foods is just as convenient. Hard boiled eggs, microwave sausage, salads,…etc. Diabetics just have to get use to eating protein and fat in all forms.

gadgetgirl007 2012-06-23 21:04:05 -0500 Report

I am a fan of an EAS box 8 oz chocolate fudge protein drink. It has only 100 calories, 17 grams of protein & no sugar, only sugar alcohols. I pair it with an apple or veggies. With the sugar alcohol I need to limit them to only a few a week. I find them handy in emergencies, I forgot to eat, about to see my trainer soon or need a quick snack. They are expensive, but once I got hooked, limiting consumption is the best I can do.

Chris2617 2012-06-24 19:21:34 -0500 Report

Thanks for that. I am always looking for something like this and so many of the so called "Diabetic" protein drinks have too many carbs and sugars and not worth it.

gadgetgirl007 2012-06-24 21:18:05 -0500 Report

EAS Advantage, 11 fluid oz., only 4 g of carbohydrates, 17 grams of protein.. Can be expensive tho. anywhere from $4.24 - $9.99. that is for 4 11 oz cardboard box drinks. The $9.99 came from Fresh & Easy a couple of weeks ago, it's back down to $5.99 I obviously didn't buy any so expensive, kind of flipped out & thought they had lost their minds. Got a 4 PK from Wal-Mart today fo $4.78 or so. I had the oz too low. Woo hoo, 3 more oz. LOL

old biker
old biker 2012-06-13 20:10:48 -0500 Report

because US food labeling laws encourage products to be called sugar free if they do not contain common table sugar (sucrose) the mere substitution of another type of sugar has allowed the packager to legally mislead the consumer..Most sugar free products will not promote tooth decay, but most certainly raise your BGL..Just another case of consumer beware

troublemaker27 2012-06-12 15:37:54 -0500 Report

well what about those energy drinks?
like red bull and monster?
i need to know if there good for diabetics.
let me know please

GabbyPA 2012-06-13 08:06:13 -0500 Report

Read the labels. There is usually a lot of sugar in those. I would stick to some B vitamins instead of drinking energy drinks.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-12 15:56:51 -0500 Report

They make low sugar versions of some. Tried a sip of one once that my niece said tasted so good. It was nasty tasting to me. Don't know how a full serving size would be on the BG, because could barely swallow a sip.

troublemaker27 2012-06-12 16:23:09 -0500 Report

well i got what i needed it.
how are you graylin bee?
what a clever name.
what's your real name?
mine's is tori ann steele it's nice to meet you
and thanks

Anonymous 2012-06-13 02:15:59 -0500 Report

Just a gentle note, most people don't want to use their real name here for obvious reasons, don't take it personal.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-12 16:31:51 -0500 Report

I am sorry I cannot reveal my mild mannered real life name. It is to protect my Diabetes fighter super hero identity known as Graylin Bee.
I am doing pretty good except a badly bruised toe from tangling with O2 tubing a day ago.

troublemaker27 2012-06-13 10:58:43 -0500 Report

well it's nice to meet you
so what is that you do?
well i go to McClasksey adult day program monday through friday.
i go on trips,play on the computer,volunteer.
and go on dates with my boyfriend dean he's keen and sweet he don't have
diabetes llike i do.
do you have a boyfriend?
just curious.
well i'm going to farmer's market with my friends see ya

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-14 06:24:31 -0500 Report

I work as a care giver at an assisted living residence that also has an Alzheimer's Memory Care Unit. When not at work I play on the computer, run around in places with flowers photographing bees, other interesting bugs, flowers, or anything else that catches my eye, and read books about Alzheimer's. My hubby used to be my boy friend until I gave him a promotion. He does not have diabetes, but his mother did, she also had Alzheimer's.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-14 06:38:10 -0500 Report

Laughing so loud I just may wake the residents. And yes it did, James. Those clear snakey things are out to get me. More than once while in the hospital I woke up with one trying to strangle me. The worst was the night it was in cahoots with the sheets and the no slip sockies. It had me be the throat, they had my feet trapped in the bed, and my bladder wanted me somewhere else fast. Good thing the call button refused to join in with them and had stayed within reach. The laughing RN rescued me.

Took me several attempts to get this message into the correct spot, James.
First my smart phone posted to the wrong message around 1 AM yesterday after I read your post. Then 28 hours or so later my laptop did the same. I am begining to sense another conspiracy.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-14 15:00:46 -0500 Report

Sigh, not really just finally getting into the wireless realm. Back in the day pay telephones used to steal my dimes.

gadgetgirl007 2012-06-23 20:55:50 -0500 Report

Just because You're/I'm not paranoid & don't believe the world is out to get you/me, doesn't mean that the world isn't out to get you/me. LOL

Sunflower71 2012-06-12 12:12:37 -0500 Report

I am right there with you; I have to have a meal but if I am on the go or traveling I find that a bar is a good choice and doesn't adjust my count to much.

red flower lady
red flower lady 2012-06-12 00:40:03 -0500 Report

Like anything else, you have to do your research and then the trial and error for your situation(BG). You shouldn't use them all the time.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-11 17:19:44 -0500 Report

Luna Bars and Kind Bars are my go to for at work meals usually. I do get a few other brands when they are on sale to try out. There is a brand that has a chocolate crunch that does provide a nice crunch when I gotta have a crunch. Don't remember it's name though, just know what it's wrapper looks like.
They are easy to haul around and I can grab a bite if it gets hectic and I don't have time to sit down to eat slow. So far my BG has been good on them. I do have a bag of Almonds handy at all times as well. Seem my midnight bar keeps me going until 4:30, then a handful of almonds keeps me going during the mad hour between 5 and 6 of handing out meds all over the two buildings.

troublemaker27 2012-06-14 10:54:46 -0500 Report

hey graylin how are you?
i'm not m yself today my friend can't go to the park for a picnic with me today.
we had to change plans first the library then to starbucks.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-14 13:10:29 -0500 Report

Pretty good today. Sorry you missed out on a picnic. We had to postpone one planned for last Tuesday evening.

troublemaker27 2012-06-14 15:06:05 -0500 Report

hey graylin how are you?
i went to the library and found some travel books to read.
and then i had a grande iced coffee at starbucks.
it was a good day i'm going to have a meeting tomorrow at mcclaskey adult
day program.
wish me luck it's also my anniversary i been at mcclaskey seven years.
see you-tori

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-06-16 18:14:31 -0500 Report

Travl books are fun t read. I like maps. I try to find places I could visit within a certain amount of miles from where I am at or could be at. Then do a little armchair research about them.
Happy anniversary.

troublemaker27 2012-06-18 10:48:13 -0500 Report

hiya graylin bee how are you?
how was your weekend?
mine's was good just rest and stay at home.
i was remembering my dad on father's day.
were you thinking of your dad?
i miss him.
hiis name was jay.
well today i'm going to panera bread with my friends it's
a cafe where you can get anything like coffee or tea.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-06-11 12:18:55 -0500 Report

I have not tried them but have read the labels. Most I find contain ingredients I have never heard of. Others I have found high in calories or carbs so I would rather not use them at all.

old biker
old biker 2012-06-14 06:14:04 -0500 Report

Hi Joyce..I have a list of 23 ingredients most I never heard of and they are all just another form of sugar

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-06-14 12:29:43 -0500 Report

Just because something is suppose to be good for you once you read the label you find it can be bad for you.

granniesophie 2012-06-11 11:30:29 -0500 Report

Used to use the Glucerna shakes, but they make me really nauseaus. Don't need anything else that does that, so I stopped using them! I have no idea what's in them, lots of synthtic stuff, but I rely more on real food now, and get nauseaus that way, instead!!

Caroltoo 2012-06-11 11:51:55 -0500 Report

After reading labels, I tend now to revert to cheese, fruit, almonds, thinly sliced turkey or beef (fresh from Safeway, but NOT packaged or canned), or add vanilla whey powder to a cup of coffee. My purse always has a baggie or two of something edible in it and a thermos of iced cold filtered water resides in my car's console. never leave home without them.

Controlled 2012-06-11 13:51:01 -0500 Report

It's interesting to me that of the few people who responded; few claimed to use these bars or drinks yet that industry probably has a few hundred million dollars in annual sales. It appears that if you can find the right product, and if you can reasonably metabolize them, they may be a reasonable occasional tool for controlling BG.

Regarding meat from a grocery store, even if it's at the deli counter; it is packaged. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what is being said, but I doubt that meat shipped to the deli counter is any better or different than meat in other areas of the market. AT my local deli, the meat is sliced and placed in packages for the rest of the store.

Different things work for different people. I do agree that "real" food is best but I can only believe that a bar that meets the dietary guidelines that are discussed here could be helpful for a lot of people.

Nick1962 2012-06-11 16:24:56 -0500 Report

Of the few I've tried that actually fit in my diet, they've tasted horrible, and there's no way I'd use it as a meal replacement (I'd rather have the meal).
I have used them as "emergency" food simply because they were the only thing available. The millions in sales come from folks who think they're "dieting" by eating them, most of which have no clue what they need nutritionally.

GabbyPA 2012-06-13 08:01:17 -0500 Report

I agree, most of them are really gross to be honest. My husband likes a certain protein bar that tastes like powdered cardboard to me. YUCK. Atkins are the only ones that I actually like, but they are too expensive. So I eat my meal instead.

Nick1962 2012-06-13 11:45:13 -0500 Report

If i find myself in that spot, i usually reach for a bag of almonds or such. About the same protein, less carbs.

Gambling 2012-06-11 12:00:56 -0500 Report

recently I have to travel to take mom to some clinical trials.I usually pack some tubeaware containers with some jello,almonds/cashews,cheese , a bunch of crackers even a small container of peanut butter and of coarse some water bottles!

GabbyPA 2012-06-11 09:00:18 -0500 Report

I know a few members who have had good success with the Atkins bars. Some who enjoy the Extend bars. My mom uses the Glucerna bars. I really have not gotten into eating the replacement bars, but do use them for snacks on occasions. I just find that I am not satisfied with a shake or bar for a whole meal. My brain needs the chew and satisfaction of a meal. But that is just me.

DeanaG 2012-06-11 12:59:02 -0500 Report

I also use the Glucerna bars and shakes for snacks or if super busy for a quick breakfast or lunch, but that is not very often.
I do drink sugar free Muscle Milk with my breakfast after my workout.

arsmithsr 2012-06-11 14:21:08 -0500 Report

I do use some of the Atkins stuff it tastes fine it is kind of expensive though. It does not spike my blood sugar like Glucerna does. I haven't talked to anyone who has actually measured thier blood sugar who has found the claims about Glucerna to be well founded. IE it does at leat with the people I have tlaked to spike BS. I use the Atkins shales for breakfast and I do like the peanut butter cups for snacks. These and the no sugar added Ice cream are the only sweets I eat for the most part.

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