Managing your blood sugar levels effectively can seem like an impossible feat sometimes. I admit there have been moments when I’d like to take a vacation from my diabetes and just toss my meter and test strips into a drawer for a week. Whether you already have diabetes or are thinking about prevention, here are 5 tips that will help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
1. Eat mostly foods that are low on the Glycemic Index scale. You’ve likely heard of the glycemic index (GI), which is a numerical value that indicates how much and how quickly a food will raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a lower GI, such as legumes, cause a lesser and more gradual rise in blood sugar levels than high GI foods. By combining high GI foods with low GI foods, you can create meals and snacks that do not cause a spike in your blood sugar. To learn more about GI foods, check out the official GI website, maintained by the GI Group at the University of Sydney.
2. Explore the outer limits of your grocery store. The perimeter of the grocery store is where you’ll find the freshest foods. Shopping here can help you stick to a healthy meal plan that is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – all key raw materials for healthy blood sugar regulation. The center aisles are stocked with packaged foods which tend to be more refined, high in sodium, and often contain ingredients that are not found in nature. Some notable exceptions include frozen fruits and veggies, canned beans, canned low-sodium tomatoes, and organic low-sodium broths, all of which are great to keep on hand. Read labels and stick to foods that have short, recognizable ingredients lists.
3. “You got to move it, move it!” Take heed from that catchy song from the movie ‘Madagascar’, and get your body moving every day. Exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently, thus improving your blood sugar levels. Plus, it can contribute to weight loss, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and can help reduce stress. In order to get the most benefit for your blood sugars, the key is to be active every day. And did you know that three 10 minute brisk walks can be just as beneficial for your blood sugar levels as one 30 minute walk?
4. Eat every 4 hours. This one’s more about the “how” rather than the “what.” Fueling our bodies every 3-4 hours helps to keep blood sugar under control in two ways:
- First, a more frequent meal schedule helps to ensure that we don’t ever get too hungry. Preventing ravenous hunger makes it easy to keep portion sizes appropriate. Smaller portion sizes and smaller meals overall equate to a smaller impact on blood sugar.
- Second, smaller frequent meals enable better food choices. By arriving at mealtime less hungry, we are less apt to choose sweets, treats and other refined carbs (typically the first things within arm’s reach). It’s pretty hard to take the time to cook a wholesome meal when we are just too hungry to start!
5. Drink your water. Staying well-hydrated is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your overall health. While water doesn’t replace medication or insulin to lower blood sugar, it does maintain the proper fluid balance in your blood. It also helps your kidneys excrete excess sugar from your body. For most people, drinking six to eight glasses per day will keep all the cells in your body happy so they can function properly.
A nutritionist, registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator will work with you to incorporate these concepts into your life, and together you can create a plan that suits your individual lifestyle needs. Ultimately it’s up to you to take charge and put the plan into place so that you can live your best life.
Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health. She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.