Yes, you should be thinking about your blood sugar! 

Making sure your blood sugar is balanced may not be at the top of mind if you do not have diabetes; however, I assure you that bringing attention to your blood sugar can make a world of difference in your health. Unfortunately, many people suffer from imbalanced blood sugar and do not even know it because they are unaware of its symptoms. The good news is that once you read this post, you will better understand how your blood sugar impacts virtually everything in your body, the signs and symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar, how the body controls blood sugar, how to eat for blood sugar balance, and lifestyle tips to help keep blood sugar levels steady. 

Understanding blood sugar balance

Simply put, your blood sugar levels refer to the amount of sugar in your blood at a given time. Your diet, lifestyle, hormones, and even genetics impact your blood sugar levels. Ideally, we want our blood sugar to stay within a specific range, not getting too high or dropping too low. Our blood sugar is vital as it acts as the primary fuel source for our cells and, therefore, organ function. In turn, our blood sugar impacts our energy, mood, hormones, weight, heart, eyes, kidneys, and more! 

Blood sugar balance is a complex topic; however, it is important to understand the basic mechanisms. Glucose (sugar) is released into your blood when you eat food. Upon the presence of glucose in the blood, your body releases insulin (a hormone that effectively carries glucose from the blood into the cells to utilize energy). This process is critical because it keeps blood glucose from getting too high, becoming dangerous, and negatively affecting body systems like your kidneys, eyes, heart, and nerves. Instead, it shuttles this glucose into the cells for energy. 

However, insulin can only do so much. For example, when we eat meals that are primarily carbohydrates, the body has trouble managing this huge rush of glucose into the bloodstream. This results in a spike in blood sugar followed by a considerable dip in blood sugar when insulin catches up – effectively sending our blood sugar on a roller-coaster. This directly impacts our energy levels, which is why many of us feel energized when eating but then crash a couple of hours after (hello, mid-afternoon slump!). To help your body avoid this phenomenon, it is essential to eat for blood sugar balance which we dive deep into later! 

Another concept to be aware of is insulin sensitivity. This refers to how well insulin responds to high blood sugar levels. Ideally, we want insulin to be very sensitive, meaning it can react quickly to high sugar levels in the blood to swiftly shuttle sugar (glucose) into cells without dangerously spiking blood sugar levels. However, if blood sugar levels are chronically dysregulated, likely due to a diet high in carbohydrates (more on this later!), insulin slowly becomes less responsive and therefore less effective resulting in consistently elevated blood sugar causing unfavorable health outcomes. 

In contrast, when blood sugar levels are low (like during times of fasting, after a night’s sleep, or just not eating enough or frequently enough), a hormone called glucagon is released. Glucagon helps release stored glucose molecules (aka glycogen) from different places in the body like the liver and muscle and into the blood to help boost blood sugar levels to more optimal levels. 

Signs and Symptoms of Imbalanced blood sugar

Now that you have an understanding of how the body regulates blood sugar, you may be better able to grasp why the symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar occur. 

Common symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar:

  • Irritability or being “hangry”
  • Food cravings (specifically for carbohydrates or sweet foods)
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Blurred Vision 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches 
  • Fatigue (especially after meals)
  • Hard time losing weight
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Headaches
  • Increased Thirst 
  • Frequent Urination

Note that some of these symptoms in the extreme, like fainting, blurred vision, unquenchable thirst, and excessive urination, can be symptoms of diabetes, so reaching out to a health professional is highly encouraged. 

Eating for blood sugar balance

The most effective and important thing one can do to help keep their blood sugar levels in check is to understand how to eat for blood sugar balance. The key here is to pair carbohydrates with protein, fat, and fiber! 

Here’s why – Protein, fat, and fiber help slow the release of carbohydrates (sugar) into the bloodstream, helping mitigate a spike in blood glucose (and keep you full!). Conversely, eating carbohydrates alone will result in a much larger spiker in blood glucose. This is where recognizing what foods are carbohydrate-rich vs. foods balanced with healthy fats, protein, and fiber is key in understanding how to pair these foods effectively. 

The best way to put this eating pattern into perspective is to describe it on a plate. We recommend your plate be filled with around ½ non-starchy veggies (think: dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, zucchini, cucumber, etc.), ¼ starchy veggies or complex carbs (potatoes, beets, carrots, butternut squash, brown rice, beans or legumes), and the remaining ¼ protein (think: fish, chicken, turkey, beef, tofu, etc.). 

To add another layer of complexity, foods often contain a mixture of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber. So understanding how to read ingredient labels and recognize foods that have a good amount of fiber is helpful. 

Our favorite foods for blood sugar balance tend to contain adequate amounts of healthy fat, fiber, protein, or all of the above!

  • Eggs (a good source of fat and protein!)
  • Wild-caught salmon, organic chicken thighs, grass-fed ground beef (good source of fat and protein)
  • Avocado (contains healthy fat and fiber)
  • Raspberries, Blackberries, and Kiwi (although carbohydrates, they contain adequate amounts of fiber)
  • Flax seeds and Chia seeds (a nice blend of protein, healthy fat, and fiber)
  • Walnuts, almonds, and nut nutters (contain healthy fats and a bit of fiber)
  • Cruciferous veggies – Brussels, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, etc. (good source of fiber)
  • Root Veggies (contains fiber to slow the release of carbohydrates)
  • Oats (good source of fiber, just be aware of portion size and avoid adding sweetener. Plus, add a source of protein like collagen, fat like nut butter, and fiber-like chia seeds!)
  • Beans and Legumes (good source of fiber, but make sure to pair with healthy fat and protein)

Eating in this pattern may feel overwhelming and, at times, impossible. While you do not have to be perfect, remember that even pairing a fat and carbohydrate or fiber-rich food with carbohydrate alone can make a significant difference. 

Top tips to balance blood sugar

While diet is essential for blood sugar balance, other behaviors surrounding dietary habits and lifestyle factors such as sleep, movement, and stress management are also effective ways to help keep blood sugar balanced. 

Dietary Behaviors: 

  • Eat carbohydrates with protein, fat, and fiber!
  • Eat regularly (don’t skip meals)
  • Skip drinks with added sugar
  • ​​Store rice, pasta, and potatoes in the fridge for 12-24 hours before eating (it becomes resistant starch changes the way carbohydrates are metabolized and slows the release of glucose into the blood) 
  • Focus on portion control with carbohydrates
  • Read food labels! (added sugars are hidden everywhere!)
  • Try eating in this order: veggies/fiber, healthy fat, and protein first, carbohydrates last
  • Try 1 tbsp of vinegar diluted in water before meals (helps the bodies response to sugar)


When you move your body, your muscles rely on glucose for energy resulting in glucose being shuttled from your blood into your muscles or even glycogen (the storage form of glucose) to be broken down into glucose to be used by the muscles. This is why engaging in exercise pre, or post-meal can be beneficial in helping to mitigate blood sugar spikes. For example, we recommend going on a walk for fifteen to twenty minutes or even a few rounds of jumping jacks or air squats before or after a meal to reap its blood sugar balancing benefits. Additionally, long-term exercise may prevent insulin resistance (cells become more responsive to insulin – yay!).

Get quality sleep 

If you are getting inadequate sleep, then you are likely to have an increased appetite and cravings (thanks to imbalanced hormones ghrelin and cortisol) the next day. Did you know that a sleep-deprived person eats around 300 calories more per day? Oh, not to mention decision making is affected, resulting in one grabbing the bag of chips rather than the apple. Additionally, being sleep deprived negatively impacts insulin sensitivity which means your body will struggle more than usual to keep blood sugar in check. Plus, when one is sleep-deprived, they are less likely to exercise, making matters even worse. Click here to read more about how to improve your sleep

Reduce stress

Lastly, but certainly not the least important, is stress. Cortisol is one of the major hormones associated with stress. Science aside, when you are stressed, you are more likely to reach for comfort foods that are higher in sugar and lower in protein, fat, and fiber. Plus, you may decide to put off that workout, and your sleep will likely be negatively affected. Click here to read about tips to reduce stress

The Bottom Line

Many people’s blood sugar levels are imbalanced without them even knowing it, and it negatively affects their mood, energy, weight, and so on. This is why tuning into your body and eating for blood sugar balance is key. If you take away anything from this post, remember to pair carbohydrates with protein, fat, and fiber! Aside from diet, getting quality sleep, engaging in daily movement, and incorporating practices to reduce stress can be beneficial in keeping blood sugar levels at bay. 

Need help balancing your blood sugar? Click here to here

Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN