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How to Keep Blood Sugar in Check While You Eat

Protein with colorful vegetables

Eating a few bites of protein and veggies before eating carbohydrates can go a long way in keeping glucose levels stable. Let’s review why food order matters and how it helps manage blood sugar levels.

Why protein first?

It’s normal for blood sugar to rise a little after eating. But when you have type 2 diabetes, you want to ensure glucose levels don’t spike too high. This can make you feel tired and cranky and can contribute to serious long-term health complications like heart disease. For more about post-meal spikes check out our blog on postprandial spikes.
Research suggests that eating a few bites of protein and fibrous vegetables before eating carbohydrate-rich foods, like rice or potatoes, during a meal can help manage blood sugar spikes. Why? It has to do with digestion. When the body digests food it breaks it down into macronutrients – carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Different macronutrients digest at different speeds.
For instance, if you drink juice the pure sugar can digest quickly and become blood glucose in a matter of minutes. By contrast, proteins like fish or chicken take longer for the body to break down. When you eat these slow-digesting proteins first, it helps carbohydrates break down slowly as well. The result – lower post-meal blood sugar leading to better moods, more energy, and better health outcomes.

Protein First – How to

Wait 10 minutes.

A protein first approach doesn’t mean you have to wait an hour between eating sides. Focus on enjoying protein and veggies for the first ten minutes of your meal and then incorporate a serving of your favorite carbohydrate-rich side. For example, eat steak and salad first and then start on your baked potato.

Experiment and Learn

The best way to understand what’s spiking your glucose levels is to watch, experiment and learn. Since your continuous glucose monitoring, or CGM, tracks your glucose levels every five minutes it’s easy to see what works for your body. A good checkpoint is looking at how your levels have changed 1 – 2 hours after eating. If you are staying in range, your experiment was likely a success!

Bonus: Sugar Balancing Tips

Balance snacks and meals.

When you eat, always look to mix protein, healthy fat and fiber with any carbs. For example, if you typically have a serving of fruit in the afternoon, try adding some peanuts or roasted almonds first. Love spaghetti and meatballs? Eat a few meatballs on a side salad before enjoying a serving of fiber-rich noodles and watch what happens to glucose levels.

Choose fiber-rich sides.

Even with a protein-first approach, focus on choosing a fiber-rich side and avoid processed foods. You can even supercharge the nutrients in your food by choosing grain-free options like spiraled zucchini, seasoned veggies; and fiber-rich starches like sweet potatoes or beets.