3 Approaches to Balancing Blood Sugar

Six Pack Abs   by Maren Sederquist, MES, CSCS, CPT

Balancing your blood sugar is essential if you're a diabetic, but it also helps if you find yourself low in energy certain times of the day, or if you want to stabilize your appetite to lose weight. Getting in the habit of eating in a balanced fashion and you'll feel better and have more energy!

General eating tips for keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level:

  • Your blood glucose goes up after you eat. If you eat a big lunch one day and a small lunch the next day, your blood glucose levels will change too much.
  • Eat about the same amount of food and carbohydrates each day.
  • Eat your meals and snacks at about the same times each day.
  • Do not skip meals or snacks.
  • Do not overeat at a meal.

They used to say “no sugar”. We now know that simple carbohydrates can be just as bad as sugar, and that a little sugar within a meal can be ok. Artificial sweeteners can replace sugar, but beware of high-calorie, processed foods made with sugar substitutes. Foods that claim to be “sugar-free” or have “no sugar added” may have a lot of carbohydrates. So, read food labels carefully and count carb grams rather than sugar grams.

Blood Glucose Levels

For most people, target blood glucose levels are…

  • Before meals: 90 to 130
  • 1 to 2 hours after the start of a meal: less than 180

3 Approaches to Balancing Blood Sugar

    1. Meal planning is the simplest way to think about it. Think this way when you’re out for a meal. As you get used to eating in a different way and don’t need to count servings or carbohydrates, this is the general way you’ll end up eating for each meal.
    2. Servings of food groups is a more detailed way to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet throughout the day. It’s based on the food groups in the food pyramid.
    3. Counting carbs is a really specific way to make sure you’re not going to push your blood sugar too high after a meal.

How to use carbohydrates to raise a low blood sugar:

For this, there are two helpful guides:

 1.    One gram of carbohydrate raises the blood sugar about 3, 4, or 5 points for people who weigh 200 lbs., 150 lbs., and 100 lbs., respectively.

    • Example of Guide 1: Say you weigh 200 lb. and your blood sugar is 60 mg/dl. You plan to eat a meal in a half hour, but you want to raise your blood sugar to 100 mg/dl to be safe during this time.
    • To get a 40 point rise (from your current reading of 60 mg/dl to your target of 100 mg/dl), you'll need 40 points / 3 points per gram, or 13.3 grams of carbohydrate.

2.    The glycemic index, protein content, and fat content of foods can modify the speed and strength of Guide 1.

    • Example of Guide 2: Say you want to eat 15 grams of carbohydrate to correct a low blood sugar. If you use a fast carb like glucose tablets (glycemic index = 100), relief will be apparent in 10 to 15 minutes. If instead you use a slow carb like kidney beans (glycemic index = 33), relief may not be apparent for 2 or 3 hours, assuming your blood sugar has not dropped further during that time. Obviously, using fast carbs to raise low blood sugars is better.

Next issue... Exercise guidelines for diabetics!

References and Additional Resources:





Healthy Habits for Diabetics

A Good Glycemic Index

Food Exchange List

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