If you live with type 1 diabetes (T1D), you’re likely accustomed to treating the shaky, sweaty, fuzzy-brained symptoms associated with hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). While you may be effectively treating low blood glucose with candy and glucose tabs, you may also be wondering about other effective alternatives. 

As a dietitian and a person living with T1D, I know the ins and outs of treating low blood glucose all too well. And know, in the moment, treating hypoglycemia is high priority — regardless of what it’s with.  

It’s a given that some people may want to lean away from candy consumption, particularly if they’re having recurrent lows. While quick-acting sugars certainly have their place in managing low blood glucose, there are other options to choose from. This is especially true if you catch your glucose dropping early on your continuous glucose monitor (CGM). More natural items such as dried fruit, apple sauce, or honey may do the trick for you. Let’s take a closer look. 


Why do I crave candy when my blood glucose is low? 

When glucose levels begin to drop, your body releases adrenaline (a “fight-or-flight” hormone) that can cause some of the common symptoms of hypoglycemia, while other symptoms are associated with low levels of glucose in the brain.

Among the variety of symptoms, there is often a distinct craving for sugar, which is a normal response to low blood glucose. Because of these physical cues, most people become acutely aware of the need for fast-acting carbs to bring glucose levels back where they belong.


How many carbs do I need to eat when my glucose is low? 

It depends. When your blood glucose is low (usually between 55 and 70 mg/dl), it’s recommended to follow the “15-15 rule.” 

  • Eat or drink 15 grams of rapid-acting carbohydrates  
  • Wait 15 minutes   
  • Test your blood glucose
    **Repeat these steps until your glucose is 70 mg/dl or higher 


Can whole foods raise my glucose as quickly as candy? 

Yes, you can raise your blood glucose quickly without using candy. Try having a small juice box, a handful of raisins, or a tablespoon of honey. They are all great options.  

Many people prefer candy to treat lows and that is OK. It is often what is readily available and what your brain wants. But, if you’re looking for something different to raise glucose levels, there are more natural choices.  

When looking for carbohydrate options, it’s important to keep in mind that foods with higher amounts of fiber and/or fat can affect how quickly carbs are absorbed. Because of this, certain choices can cause a potential delay in the rise of your glucose. 


Why choose healthier snacks for treating hypoglycemia? 

Consuming too much candy and added sugars can impact gut health and increase the risk for other health conditions, such as heart disease, liver problems, and dental cavities. 

Besides treating lows with more “natural” sources, consider talking with your diabetes care team if you’re having more lows than usual. They can make necessary adjustment suggestions to your diabetes care plan and help avoid lows in the first place. 


What are go-to healthier choices for correcting lows? 

If you are looking for more natural and effective ways to treat lows, we have you covered. The following choices can help to increase the number of vitamins and minerals you’re consuming while minimizing added sugars.  

Again, when you have hypoglycemia, the main priority is treating it as quickly as possible with what you have on hand. When you have low blood glucose, it’s not a time to dissect the nutritional components in your treatment. 


Let’s look at 10 sources of rapid-acting carbohydrates low in fiber and fat:

Raisins and other dried fruits are relatively low in fiber and high in sugar. These qualities make raisins a good option for treating low glucose.  

  • Serving: 2 tablespoons 
  • Carbohydrates: 14 grams 


Honey contains the simple sugars glucose and fructose which can raise blood glucose quickly. Keeping small honey packets or honey sticks with you is a dietitian’s favorite as they’re compact, easy to carry, and work fast.  

  • Serving: 1 tablespoon 
  • Carbohydrates: 17 grams 


100% apple juice is mild in flavor when compared to other fruit juices and has very little fiber. 

  • Serving: 4 fluid ounces 
  • Carbohydrates: 15 grams 


100% grape juice is another option that’s slightly higher in carbs per serving. It’s especially helpful when more than 15 grams of carbohydrate is needed to effectively treat a low.

  • Serving: 4 fluid ounces 
  • Carbohydrates: 20 grams


Skim milk is a good choice for mild lows because of its lack of fat along with galactose (milk sugar). Sweetened soy and almond milk can also be used for mild lows. 

  • Serving: 8 fluid ounces 
  • Carbohydrates: 13 grams  


 Applesauce pouches make a great portable low treatment for kids and adults. 

  • Serving: 1 applesauce pouch 
  • Carbohydrates: 12- 14 grams 


Dates are a delicious fresh fruit option for hypoglycemia.  

  • Serving: 1 large, pitted date 
  • Carbohydrates: 18 grams 


Ripe bananas have more sugar than green bananas, which makes them better for raising blood glucose. 

  • Serving: 1 small ripe banana 
  • Carbohydrates: about 19 grams 


Pineapple is another higher-sugar fruit that can be used to treat low blood glucose. Plus, unsweetened, canned pineapple is great to stock in the pantry. 

  • Serving: ¾ cup 
  • Carbohydrates: 16 grams 


Maple syrup is a natural, liquid form of rapid-acting carbohydrates. While it’s hard to travel with, maple syrup is a good option to have at home. 

  • Serving: 1 tablespoon 
  • Carbohydrates: 13 grams  


When you have hypoglycemia, it needs treatment right away with a rapid-acting carbohydrate that is readily available  even if it is candy or soda. But, if you’re looking for more natural or healthy foods to treat your lows with, there are plenty of options. Grab some items from the suggested list to have on hand; rapid-acting carbohydrates with low amounts of fiber and fat will always be your best choice.