Healthy Eating for Better Blood Sugar

Is this a normal day?

Eat breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit, milk, & a bit of sugar. Grab coffee & go!
Mid-morning: Kind of hungry, grab a granola bar or yogurt.
Lunchtime: Pick up a sub sandwich, grab a bag of chips + an apple
Mid-afternoon hits: Out of energy, falling asleep at desk, go hunt down some chocolate and/or more caffeine.

If this sounds like a typical day for you, I have good news: You don’t have to be a tired every afternoon and you don’t have to be a slave to sugar and caffeine. By adjusting your nutrition and making a few changes you can get your blood sugar heading back to normal.

Signs/Symptoms of Blood Sugar Dysregulation

While the afternoon fatigue is pretty normal, here are few other symptoms you might be experiencing if your blood sugar is not behaving like it should:

  • Fatigue/Lack of Energy
  • Poor Sleep (can’t fall asleep, or wake up in the early morning)
  • Weight Gain
  • Crave Sugar/Sweets
  • Hangry (irritable, headaches, light headed if meals are skipped)
  • Need Coffee to Function
  • Constant Need to Snack
  • Eating Gives a Boost of Energy

You may see yourself in some or all of those! I used to experience a bunch of those up until about 4-5 years ago when I started eating Paleo and changed the types of foods I was eating. It was pretty amazing how some simple changes helped my body respond better and gave me more energy plus less need for snacks and less cravings for sugar.

Nutrition Tips for Better Blood Sugar

Add Protein & Fat

Most people lack the amount of protein they need in their daily diet. A good guideline is to get 25-30% of your daily calories from protein. This works out to about 100 g on average for a 1500 calorie diet. Aim to eat 4-6 oz at each meal for a great start.

Fats are also very important both to your body and for blood sugar as well. Fats are crucial for building cell membranes and as fuel for our body & heart. But the other great thing about fats is that they take longer to digest. This means you feel full for longer, which helps you not need that snack between meals and it slows the digestion of all you ate.

Reduce/Remove Processed & Refined Carbs

Processed & refined carbohydrates work against us in so many ways, but especially with blood sugar. They create a lot of glucose that needs to be dealt with (raising blood sugar & triggering lots of insulin). This leads to a blood sugar spike, then drop…and that’s when we get those sugar cravings & energy dips.

Now I’m not saying you need to cut out all carbs, but instead aim to get a large portion of your carbs from non-starchy veggies. Then get remaining carbs from healthy starchy veggies and fruits. Aim for less than 15% of your calories from these starchy carbs. More on this in the next 2 tips…

Eat Your Veggies!

Veggies are so important! I think most people realize that. They are an amazing source of nutrients for the body. That said, we still don’t really get the amount of veggies we need daily. You should aim to fill half of your plate with non-starchy veggies at each meal. This will get you the nutrients you need, plus fill you up with healthy things instead of lots of starchy carbs from breads, pastas, and snack foods.

Reduce Starchy Carbs (and make the ones you eat healthy)

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is heavily based on starchy carbs. While I do love a great fresh baked bread roll, eating bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes in big portions at every meal is not exactly a recipe for success when it comes to blood sugar. If you want to get your blood sugar back on track to fix your symptoms from above, there needs to be a shift in your starchy carbs. Does this mean you never eat them? No! My first suggestion is to simply reduce the quantity. This may mean having a small portion at each meal, or picking 1 meal per day to just get your carbs from those non-starchy veggies. Meanwhile, keep loading up on those veggies and your healthy protein & fat! Also, when you do eat your starchy carbs, I encourage you to pick starchy veggies like winter squash, sweet potato, white potato, and parsnips. Or by adding in fruit.

Snack Less (or Snack Smart)

When you first start changing up your diet to get your blood sugar on track, snacking will probably still be necessary. That’s ok! Your body is making changes and it needs to heal and adjust to the new eating. The goal eventually will be that you can eliminate snacking. But for now, choose snacks that are lower in carbs overall, and that always include protein and fats. Some of my favs: apples/carrots/celery with nut butter, nuts with cheese, beef jerky, plantain chips with guacamole, or veggies and homemade (full fat) ranch dip.

Eat Whole Fruits

If you want fruit, stick with the WHOLE fruit. Avoid juices in general as these lack the fiber in the whole fruit, which slows down the hit of glucose to the blood stream. This makes your blood sugar go up pretty quick. Fruit is meant to eat whole! Additionally, you may find especially at the start, that you want to include some kind of fat with your fruit. This will help prevent surges of insulin from the fructose in the fruit.

Revamp Breakfast

This one was a game changer for me! When I switched from my high carb oatmeal or cereal breakfasts to a lower carb, high protein/fat breakfast, I saw amazing improvement in my blood sugar and related symptoms. Now I eat things like bacon & eggs with sauteed greens and I’m full until lunchtime with no blood sugar crashes, cravings, or need for snacks! I challenge you to eat your typical breakfast one day and then record how you feel throughout the morning and when you get hungry/cravings. Then the next day, eat a lower carb, higher fat/protein breakfast as I describe and take the same notes. Then compare. I bet you’ll be surprised at the difference in how you feel!

Eat Less Sugar (of course!)

Yep, it’s just that simple. But of course, easier said than done! Some good goals: Work to replace any afternoon sweet treats with the snacks I mentioned above or some fruit. You can do the same in the evening with any sweet snack you have, or for more of a baby step, enjoy a small sweet treat that is homemade with whole foods. Avoid processed/packaged sweets made with refined flours & sugars. (p.s. You can find some great pinned recipes on my Pinterest board. I have lots of Paleo Sweets pinned!)

Read Food Labels

Read your food labels: Hidden sugars are everywhere – as are NOT hidden sugars that we just ignore. I love that most labels have now switched to saying “including ____ g added sugars”. This is helpful in finding those hidden sugars in food. Stick primarily with foods that don’t have added sugars.

Remove Food Stressors

As you read this, you may or may not already be aware that there are some foods you eat that just don’t agree with you. This may be gluten, dairy, beans, corn, or grains in general. You may see the results of this in bloating, gas, constipation/diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, autoimmune conditions, skin rashes, acne, etc. If you know a food is stressing your system, it may be time to take it out for a bit to allow some healing. When we eat a food and see these symptoms, it causes stress to the body just like external stress. This stress can increase cortisol, affect adrenal function, and cause issues throughout the body.

Baby Steps

Obviously that is a lot of tips! And there’s no need to implement them all at once. You may be doing some of these already. Others may seem daunting. That’s totally normal! I did not make all of these changes at once. I did this over many months as I learned what worked for me.

When I work with clients, I always like to have them ADD in things before they worry about removing something. So choose one of the tips above that has you add in something. Do that for a bit and then look at the next tip that you can work into your life.

I’d love to hear how you are implementing some of these tips and the results you’ve seen. Feel free to comment below or send me a message with your thoughts or questions.

If you feel overwhelmed or feel like you need more guidance to work with your specific needs, I’d love to work with you 1:1 to help you get healthy and reach your goals. You can set up a 1:1 Consultation with me or go here to get a FREE Nutritional Assessment.

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