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How to Control Blood Sugar Spikes After Meals

When you eat a meal with carbs, your blood sugar rises as food breaks down into glucose and is absorbed into your bloodstream. Some carbs will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, while others are more gradual. Stabilize your glucose with these tips.

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We’re not quiet about the connection between health and blood sugar levels. Chronically high blood sugar can make it difficult to maintain a healthy body weight, bump up inflammation in the body, and increase the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease<sup>1, 2</sup>.

What you eat directly influences blood sugar. Meals high in sugar and carbohydrates can cause our blood sugar to rise, but there are ways to stabilize your response. What we do during and after we eat can be an effective way to manage elevated glucose.

A screenshot of the Signos app that shows a mitigated glucose spike
An example of what lowering a glucose spike looks like in the Signos app.

Easy ways to lower your glucose levels after meals

Making a few simple tweaks to your eating habits and post-meal routine, can help keep your blood sugar balanced to avoid glucose spikes and crashes.

1. Drink plenty of water.

One of the easiest ways to lower your blood sugar is to stay hydrated. Studies show a close link between drinking water and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes<sup>3</sup>. A small study also found that when people with type 2 diabetes drank water before meals, their fasting blood sugar levels improved<sup>4</sup>.

Illustration of woman drinking water

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Carry a water bottle around or set reminders on your phone to help you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Habit stacking, or using a habit you already do (like taking periodic breaks to stretch or walk around) to remind you to also take a few sips of water works well too.</p>

2. Avoid sugary drinks.

Sugary drinks like soda and juice can cause blood sugar to spike quickly because they are pure carbohydrates (plus they are just not that great for you in general). If you’re looking to lower your blood sugar after meals, it’s best to avoid these types of drinks altogether.

Illustration of soda and juice

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: If you don't love plain water, try adding lemon, lime, or even cucumbers to make it fun. Unsweetened herbal tea is a great option too.</p>

3. Exercise.

Exercise helps to regulate blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity<sup>5</sup>. Insulin sensitivity means your body is more efficient at using glucose.

Illustration of woman on bike

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Taking a brisk walk or going for a bike ride after meals can help to keep your blood sugar from spiking. Even ten minutes can make a difference.</p>

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4. Add vinegar to your meals.

Some studies show that taking vinegar before or during a meal can decrease the post-meal glucose response<sup>6</sup>. Adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar to your meals can help to keep your blood sugar stable.

Illustration of a bottle of apple cider vinegar

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: If the idea of drinking vinegar doesn't sit well, start your meal with a salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar (just make sure to check the labels and as some are higher in sugar, like aged balsamic). Also read:  Does apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?</p>

5. Eat more protein and fiber.

Protein and fiber help slow down glucose absorption, and prevent big spikes and crashes<sup>7</sup>. You can also consider eating these foods before your carbs at meals to minimize how fast or high your blood sugar rises.

Illustration of a bottle of hard boiled egg and black beans

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Think eggs, fish, poultry for protein and plenty of produce, whole grains, and legumes for fiber.</p>

6. Avoid meals high in refined carbs.

Refined carbs like white flour, white rice, or white sugar are processed to remove most of the fiber and other nutrients. While all carbs will elevate your blood sugar somewhat, refined carbs will lead to quick spikes, especially if your meal is low in other nutrients like protein, fiber, or healthy fats<sup>8</sup>.

Illustration of a bottle of white sugar and white flour

<p class="pro-tip">Tip: Try swapping refined carbs for some of the fiber-rich choices mentioned above, and if you have a higher-carb meal like pasta or rice, make sure to pair it with protein and fiber.</p>

7. Monitor your blood sugar regularly with a CGM.

The best way to know exactly how your blood sugar responds to the food you eat is to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with an app like Signos.

<p class="pro-tip">Learn how Signos works</p>

Signos uses a CGM and an AI-powered app to track your blood sugar and lifestyle habits to make recommendations about your diet and routine to optimize blood sugar. The goal is to help keep your glucose levels stable.

Illustration of man walking, looking at his phone, and wearing a CGM on his arm

<p class="pro-tip">Signos helps people understand what foods spike their blood sugar so they can optimize their eating habits and maintain stable glucose levels. We all respond differently to food, so while oatmeal may spike your blood sugar, it may not have the same effect on your friend. Using a CGM makes it simple to see what's happening in your body. </p>

But if you're not a Signos member yet, here are a few simple strategies that can help promote stable blood sugar throughout the day.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/how-long-lower-blood-sugar-spike">how long it takes for a blood sugar spike to go down</a>.</p>

Ways to promote stable blood sugar

  1. Be mindful of the types of foods you are eating. Avoiding sugary snacks and opting for complex carbs like whole grains can help to keep your blood sugar from spiking. 

Including protein at every meal can also help to regulate your blood sugar. Foods like lean meats, eggs, and beans are all great sources of protein and low on the glycemic index (which means they don't spike your blood sugar) that can help to keep your blood sugar levels in check. If you're a Signos member, you can easily see what foods cause spikes.

  1. Exercise after meals. Movement can help mitigate glucose spikes to help you stay within a healthy glucose range. Even a short walk after a meal can help to stabilize post-meal blood sugar levels.
  1. Prioritize non-exercise activity thermogenesis—aka NEAT. NEAT is all the movement you do during the day that isn't considered planned exercise; like fidgeting, taking the stairs, or standing at work. Studies show NEAT promotes stable blood sugar⁹. Learn more about NEAT here.

Lowering blood sugar after meals doesn’t have to be complicated. By following these simple tips, you can help keep your blood sugar stable to support metabolic health.

What keeps your blood sugar levels under control after meals?

Try these tips to see what helps you avoid post-meal glucose spikes. If you’re a Signos member, we invite you to share your results and tips in the Signos Members Facebook group.

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References

  1. Hardy, O. T., Czech, M. P., & Corvera, S. (2012). What causes the insulin resistance underlying obesity? Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity, 19(2), 81–87. https://doi.org/10.1097/med.0b013e3283514e13 
  2. Clement, C. C., Nanaware, P. P., Yamazaki, T., Negroni, M. P., Ramesh, K., Morozova, K., Thangaswamy, S., Graves, A., Kim, H. J., Li, T. W., Vigano’, M., Soni, R. K., Gadina, M., Tse, H. Y., Galluzzi, L., Roche, P. A., Denzin, L. K., Stern, L. J., & Santambrogio, L. (2021). Pleiotropic consequences of metabolic stress for the major histocompatibility complex class II molecule antigen processing and presentation machinery. Immunity, 54(4), 721–736.e10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2021.02.019
  3. Janbozorgi, N., Allipour, R., Djafarian, K., Shab-Bidar, S., Badeli, M., & Safabakhsh, M. (2021). Water intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Diabetes & metabolic syndrome, 15(4), 102156. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2021.05.029 
  4. Sedaghat, G., Montazerifar, F., Keykhaie, M. A., Karajibani, M., Shourestani, S., & Dashipour, A. (2021). Effect of pre-meal water intake on the serum levels of Copeptin, glycemic control, lipid profile and anthropometric indices in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of diabetes and metabolic disorders, 20(1), 171–177. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40200-020-00724-9 
  5. Bird, S. R., & Hawley, J. A. (2017). Update on the effects of physical activity on insulin sensitivity in humans. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 2(1), e000143. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2016-000143 
  6. Mitrou, P., Petsiou, E., Papakonstantinou, E., Maratou, E., Lambadiari, V., Dimitriadis, P., Spanoudi, F., Raptis, S. A., & Dimitriadis, G. (2015). Vinegar Consumption Increases Insulin-Stimulated Glucose Uptake by the Forearm Muscle in Humans with Type 2 Diabetes. Journal of diabetes research, 2015, 175204. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/175204 
  7. Mary C Gannon, Frank Q Nuttall, Asad Saeed, Kelly Jordan, Heidi Hoover, An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 4, October 2003, Pages 734–741, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.4.734 
  8. O'Keefe, J. H., Gheewala, N. M., & O'Keefe, J. O. (2008). Dietary strategies for improving post-prandial glucose, lipids, inflammation, and cardiovascular health. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51(3), 249–255. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2007.10.016 
  9. Hamasaki, H., Yanai, H., Mishima, S., Mineyama, T., Yamamoto-Honda, R., Kakei, M., Ezaki, O., & Noda, M. (2013). Correlations of non-exercise activity thermogenesis to metabolic parameters in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetology & metabolic syndrome, 5(1), 26. https://doi.org/10.1186/1758-5996-5-26

About the Author

Caitlin Beale is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer with a master’s degree in nutrition. She has a background in acute care, integrative wellness, and clinical nutrition.
View Author Bio

Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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