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Strike Blood Sugar Spikes After Meals

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Strike Blood Sugar Spikes After Meals

When you have diabetes, it’s essential to keep your blood sugar (glucose) in check. That includes minimizing glucose spikes after meals. If your blood sugar creeps up too high several times a day, it cannot only increase your hemoglobin A1c (three-month average blood sugar), but damage the lining of your blood vessel walls, putting you at greater risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. 

It’s important to test your blood sugars not only before meals, but a few hours after as well. This strategy is called “paired testing,” and can provide immediate feedback on how different foods and physical activity affect you. 

The general goal set by the American College of Endocrinology for blood glucose is less than 140 mg/dl two hours after meals. However, you should discuss your specific target with your physician and certified diabetes educator (CDE). 

Below, our Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services team provides strategies to take control of your blood sugar levels before hazardous spikes strike.

Fill Up On Fiber

The benefits of fiber go beyond healthy digestion and lowering bad “LDL” cholesterol. Fiber-rich foods from certain carbohydrates can also help blunt your blood sugar after meals. That’s because fiber takes longer to digest in the gut, promoting a slower release of glucose in the blood stream. 

All carbohydrates convert to glucose, so eating them in moderate amounts is important. Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist and CDE to find out how much is right for you. 

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found over the course of three months, people with type 2 diabetes who ate one cup of legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils) daily had significantly better blood sugar levels than those who ate more whole-wheat products. Eating legumes can help keep blood sugars from rising, likely due to higher fiber and protein profiles. Be sure to include heart-healthy whole grains in your eating plan as well.

Good sources of fiber include: 

  • Whole grains
  • Beans 
  • Fruit

 Tips to try:

  • Enjoy a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast (add a few nuts and fresh or frozen berries)
  • Add beans to your salad or pack them into a Mediterranean turkey wrap for lunch
  • Microwave a small sweet potato or pouch of brown rice/quinoa blend (Seeds of Change®) as a quick side dish with your dinner
  • Snack on ¼ cup dry roasted chickpeas (The Good Bean®)

Eat Fewer Carbs at Breakfast

Blood sugars tend to run higher after breakfast due to insulin resistance driven by stress hormones while you sleep. Insulin resistance makes managing blood sugars a challenge. As a key hormone that regulates your glucose levels by metabolizing carbohydrates, insulin plays an important role after you eat. 

A study in the Journal of Nutrition found eating a high-protein, low-carbohydrate meal at breakfast (35 percent of calories from protein and 45 percent from carbs) helped keep glucose from rising afterwards. 

You can substitute some of the carbs you would normally eat with additional protein. Aim for 20-35 grams of protein combined with a high-fiber carb source and some healthy fat (nuts, seeds, olive oil) for the best nutrient mix.

Tips to try:

  • Veggie omelet made with one whole egg, two egg whites and 1 oz. low-fat cheese = 20 g protein (sauté in a small amount of olive oil and mix in your choice of vegetables; serve with two slices of whole-grain toast such as Dave’s Killer Bread®)
  • Three small protein pancakes, such as Kodiak® Cakes “Protein Packed Pancake Mix,” made with nonfat milk and 1 egg = 21 g protein (serve with ½ cup mixed berries) 
  • Six oz. plain nonfat Greek yogurt topped with 1 Tbsp. chia seeds = 20 g protein (add ½ cup sliced strawberries)
  •  ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 2 Tbsp. almonds = 20 g protein (top with banana slices)

Get Moving After Meals

Physical activity helps your muscles better absorb insulin and work more efficiently. Being active after a meal also helps your body digest food more slowly, resulting in a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream. 

A study published in Diabetologia found patients with type 2 diabetes who took a daily 10-minute walk after each meal had 12 percent overall lower blood sugar levels than those who walked daily for 30 minutes all at once. 

You don’t need to run a mile or go for a 30-minute workout in one fell swoop to get positive results. 

Start by building a 10-minute, post-dinner walk into your schedule several times a week. Compare your blood sugars afterward to the days you don’t walk. It can be motivating and reinforcing to see better outcomes when you stay on course. 

To schedule a one-on-one consultation with a registered dietitian nutritionist or for more information on Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.