Do you ever get that “2 o’clock feeling when all you really want is a candy bar? What about a mid-morning headache along with fatigue, confusion, and brain fog?
You might be riding the blood sugar roller coaster, which is when your blood sugar goes from low to high frequently throughout the day. Most of us opt for a quick fix and that usually involves eating sugar. But brushing these symptoms off can cause insulin resistance over time and lead to health problems in the future including diabetes and heart disease.
So what causes blood sugar fluctuation? While there are a few reasons why it could occur (stress, lack of sleep, etc.), the simple answer is carbohydrate (carb) consumption. Carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can raise blood sugar significantly, whereas protein and fat act as carbohydrate buffers, helping to keep blood sugar stable throughout the day. Because carbohydrates make up a major portion of the standard American diet, many may be unaware that their blood sugar could be troublesome. There are a few different things you can do to control it, but it’s important to get your diet in check first. Start with the simple tips listed below.
1. Balance your meals with fat and protein. These two macronutrients have a minimal effect on your blood sugar levels. Not only will they help you feel full and stay full, they slow the digestion of carbs, keeping your blood sugar from spiking rapidly. Here is an example of a meal that includes a good balance of protein, fat, and carbs: a serving of chicken (protein) sautéed in coconut oil (fat) with broccoli and carrots (carbs) on the side, along with a small serving of berries (carbs) for dessert.
2. Eat 3 meals a day, and a few snacks if you need them. Another option is eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day which is fine too. The key is consistency. Eating in a consistent manner will help keep your blood sugars steady, as opposed to not eating for several hours and then compensating with a large meal (this will cause your blood sugar to drop low and then spike once you eat). It’s also important to keep the amount of carbs close to the same at each meal. Not only will consistency prevent blood sugar spikes, it will also prevent cravings for sugary foods…which is how the spikes happen in the first place!
3. Cut out the sugary beverages. Drinks like soda, Kool-Aid, fruit punch, juice, etc. have little to no nutritional benefit. Liquids tend to be the worst blood sugar offenders since they lack components that slow digestion like fat and fiber. Instead, stay hydrated with plain old water. If that’s too boring for you, spice it up with herbs and fruits or try flavored sparkling water.
4. Get most of your carbs from fruits and veggies instead of grains like pastas and breads. Fruits and veggies are the most nutritious source of carbohydrate that you will find! Focus on non-starchy veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower. Enjoy starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes a few times a week and 1-2 servings of fruit per day. If you choose to eat grains, make it the side to your meal rather than the main dish. One substitution to try: spaghetti squash instead of pasta.
Bottom Line: Whether or not you have diabetes it’s important to keep these pointers in mind. A well-balanced diet, sans the junk food, is a good manner of disease prevention for everyone. Know that it’s not a matter of cutting carbohydrates out entirely, but rather getting them from healthy sources and keeping your intake consistent. For further assistance with blood sugar balance and meal planning, make an appointment with the dietitian at Open Cities Health Center today by calling (651) 290-9242.