Natural Ways to Prevent Mealtime Sugar Spikes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on August 25, 2022

If you have diabetes, you may find it harder to manage your blood sugar (glucose) around mealtime.

When you're done with a meal or snack, your blood sugar will be higher and may stay higher, even a couple of hours after your meal. You may feel dizzy or have a hard time thinking or focusing, or feel really tired, or thirsty. You may have a headache, too.

Extremely high blood sugar can even make you pass out. Blood sugar that stays high for a long time can also put you at risk for long-term issues like heart or kidney disease, and nerve damage.

Yes, the right medication and diet can help make sure your blood sugar stays under control. (If you’re having a hard time managing your medication, talk to your doctor right away.) But that’s not the only thing you can do.

Start with a good breakfast. If you skip the day's first meal, your blood sugar is more likely to be too high after lunch and dinner. But don’t just reach for a muffin. One study found that people who ate a 500-calorie breakfast with at least 35% protein had lower post-meal blood sugar throughout the day than those who ate a breakfast lower in protein and higher in carbs.

That’s because protein helps slow your digestion. That makes your blood sugar rise more slowly after meals. And eating fewer carbohydrates means your body makes less blood sugar.

Eat a healthy dinner. Blood sugar is usually hardest to control later in the day. That’s why many experts say you should choose a dinner or after-dinner snack low in carbohydrates, especially the processed kind. Fat and protein don’t cause blood sugar to rise the same way carbs do. If you’re not sure how to balance your meals, ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian who specializes in diabetes.

Plan when you eat. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, having meals and snacks too close together may not give your blood sugar level time to drop naturally after you eat. Make sure your meals are 4 to 5 hours apart. If you need a snack, do it 2 to 3 hours after your last meal.

Go for a walk after you eat. Research shows that a 15-minute stroll after dinner can help bring blood sugar down. Even better? It can help keep it down for up to 3 hours. When you exercise, your body pumps more sugar to your muscles.

Get enough shut-eye. Skimping on sleep, even for one night, makes your body use insulin less efficiently. That can make your blood sugar higher than it should be. 

See your dentist regularly. If you have gum disease (also known as gingivitis), your blood sugar level may be higher than if your gums were healthy. Inflamed or infected gums can cause your body’s defense system to go on overdrive. That makes it harder for your body to keep its insulin and blood sugar in check.

Drink plenty of water. When you’re dehydrated, your glucose may be higher than it would normally be.

Watch your stress level. When you’re really under pressure, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (also known as the “fight or flight” hormone). Those can make your body less sensitive to insulin and cause other changes that make your blood sugar go up. While you can’t avoid all stress, finding ways to relax is good for your blood sugar and your overall health.

Show Sources


Marc Jaffe, MD, endocrinologist, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, San Francisco.

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital: “Learning to Control After-Meal High Blood Sugars.”

Mayo Clinic: “Hyperglycemia in Diabetes,” “Diabetes Management.”

Cleveland Clinic: “High Blood Sugar is Toxic to Your Nerves -- Here’s How to Avoid It.”

Duke Diet & Fitness Center, Duke University: “5 Things that Spike Your Blood Sugar.”

Diabetes Care: “Fasting Until Noon Triggers Increased Postprandial Hyperglycemia and Impaired Insulin Response After Lunch and Dinner in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Clinical Trial.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “A High-Protein Breakfast Induces Greater Insulin and Glucose-Dependent Insulinotropic Peptide Responses to a Subsequent Lunch Meal in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes.”

CDC: “10 Surprising Things That Can Spike Your Blood Sugar.”

Diabetologia: “High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomised clinical trial.”

Kaiser Permanente: “Living Well With Diabetes: How Food Affects Blood Sugar.”

Diabetes Care: “Three 15-min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance.”

Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA): “Gum Disease Can Raise Your Blood Sugar Level.”

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