Type 2 Diabetes

How to Manage Blood Sugar Spikes After Meals

July 1, 2021

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blood sugar spikes

Written by Lauren Ranley. Reviewed by Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDE

We know it can be frustrating when you make an effort to eat healthier and you still experience blood sugar spikes. Understanding the reason why this happens can help assure you that, despite the occasional high glucose level, you are on the right track for reversing your type 2 diabetes. We have come up with some helpful tips to manage these spikes.

 

Why You May Experience Blood Sugar Spikes After Eating Healthy Food

Why can blood sugar spike after eating a healthy meal that consists of complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables? When you have been following a diet that is high in animal products and refined carbohydrates/sugar it leads to the accumulation of fat in cells, especially ones that are not meant to store fat. This build-up of fat causes insulin resistance meaning insulin loses the ability to do its job, i.e., help glucose enter the cells. With high insulin resistance, the body’s ability to process carbohydrates (complex or refined) is lowered and when you do eat carbohydrates, even healthy ones, your blood sugar levels can spike.

In order for the body to regain the ability to metabolize carbohydrates, it is important to treat the underlying cause. This is where a plant-based diet comes in. Making a slow transition to eliminate animal products and choose better sources of carbohydrates is the best way to reverse the cause of type 2 diabetes or the build-up of fat in cells. As you get started here are some ways to keep your blood sugar in check.

Include Unlimited Amounts of Non-Starchy Vegetables At Every Meal 

Vegetables, particularly non-starchy vegetables, are a great way to add bulk to your meals without causing a huge spike in blood glucose. These types of veggies have fewer carbohydrates than starchy vegetables but are still packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Because these vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they are low in calories and high in nutrients, you can load up your plate with them. The more the better!

Here’s a list of non-starchy veggies:

Artichoke/Artichoke hearts Kohlrabi
Asparagus Leeks
Baby corn Mushrooms
Bamboo shoots Okra
Beans (green, wax, Italian) Onions
Bean sprouts Peapods
Beets Peppers
Bok choy Radishes
Brussels sprouts Rutabaga
Broccoli Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
Cabbage Sprouts
Carrots Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
Cauliflower Sugar snap peas
Celery Swiss chard
Cucumber Tomatoes
Daikon Turnips
Eggplant Water chestnuts
Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
Hearts of palm
Jicama

 

Aim for a 10-20 Minute Walk After Meals

Fun Fact: Did you know that one minute of walking equates to a one-milligram drop in blood sugar level? If you are experiencing a blood sugar spike after eating a meal, go for a walk to help bring your levels down. Physical activity is an essential aspect of managing and treating type 2 diabetes because it increases insulin activity, and the body will need to use more glucose.

Taking a walk after a meal will aid in digestion, help the body remove the glucose from the bloodstream, and improve insulin sensitivity. In order to get the optimal benefit, take a 10-20 minute walk after meals. As you add more exercise to your routine, you’ll also reverse insulin resistance and start noticing fewer blood sugar spikes after meals. 

 

Make Your Meals Rich in Fiber

Increasing fiber intake is a great way to feel full and slow the absorption of glucose, preventing a large spike in blood sugar after a meal. Meat, dairy, and sugar are devoid of fiber, but fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes are excellent sources. Let’s look at fiber in terms of soluble versus insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps keep bowel movements normal. Soluble fiber helps delay glucose from entering the bloodstream because it slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in our digestive system. 

High soluble fiber foods:

Apples Lima beans
Apricots Nectarines
Avocados Oatmeal
Bananas Okra
Black beans Oranges
Blueberries Peanuts
Broccoli Pears
Brussels sprouts Potatoes w/ the skin
Chickpeas Raspberries
Eggplants Summer squash
Figs Sunflower seeds
Flax seeds Strawberries
Green Beans Sweet potatoes
Kidney beans Turnips
Kiwi Walnuts
Lentils Zucchini

If you’re experiencing spikes in your blood glucose levels after meals, remember it’s not necessarily your food’s fault, it’s insulin resistance that’s causing the problem. Focus on tackling insulin resistance and you’ll also tackle the spikes. However, to help mitigate these spikes, fill your meals with high fiber foods and unlimited amounts of starchy veggies and enjoy a 10-20 minute walk after meals.


Lastly, in many cases, you may not even need to check post-meal glucose levels. The American Diabetes Standards of Care recommends checking only once per day for people with pre-or type 2 diabetes who do not administer insulin. Studies show that checking more than once does not improve glucose outcomes and instead may lead to stress and anxiety over your food. We recommend checking your fasting blood glucose in the mornings and tracking those trends over time.

 

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