Although there isn’t a cure for diabetes, following a healthy diet can help you better manage your blood sugar levels and feel amazing!
Learn more about high blood sugar and its causes and long-term effects. Plus, check out the best foods to help you control and lower your blood sugar, whether or not you live with diabetes.
What is high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)? Why is it bad for me?
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) refers to too much glucose in the blood. It commonly occurs in people living with diabetes or prediabetes.
Hyperglycemia is defined based on blood glucose levels:1
- >125 mg/dL after fasting for at least eight hours
- >180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating
Over the short term, the unpleasant symptoms of high blood sugar may include vomiting, increased hunger and/or thirst, blurry vision, weakness, confusion and a rapid heartbeat.2
If left untreated over time, hyperglycemia can damage your blood vessels, which may then increase your risk for heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and non-healing ulcers.2 Consistently high blood sugar can be measured through a hemoglobin A1c test that checks average blood sugar levels over the last three months.
Causes of high blood sugar
It’s natural for your blood sugar to fluctuate throughout the day. But, if you’re seeing high blood sugar readings regularly, some potential causes may include:1
- Eating too many carbs (from foods or beverages)
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep
- Active infection, illness, trauma, or surgery
- Dawn phenomenon (abnormally high early-morning blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes)
- Your body isn’t using insulin properly
- Incorrect or inadequate doses of diabetic medications
- Not enough exercise
- Pancreatic or endocrine issues
- Skipping or forgetting to take any diabetic medications
- Taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids
The good news is that many of these factors, such as healthy eating, regular physical activity and stress management, are within your control!
How to lower your blood sugar
Unlike tips and tricks for raising blood sugar when it falls dangerously low, there are few methods to instantly lower your blood sugar.
In cases that don’t require medical attention, you may want to drink some water and wait for your blood glucose levels to drop.
To better manage your blood sugars over the long term, consider the following tips:
- Learn how to count carbs. Although tedious at first, learning how many carbs are in different foods can help you better manage your blood sugar. Consider working with a registered dietitian to understand how many carbs to eat for each meal and snack.
- Follow a dietitian-approved menu. If you hate counting and measuring food but want to keep blood glucose steady, you may want to consider a meal plan suited for diabetes, such as Jenny Craig’s Type 2 diabetes weight loss plan.
- Lose weight. In a prospective cohort study, individuals with at least a 10% weight loss had a higher likelihood of remission from diabetes.3
- Be smart with portion sizes. When it comes to carbs, quantity matters! Try eating the same foods in smart portions throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity helps keep blood sugars stable.
If you’re on diabetes medications, consult your endocrinologist to ensure that you’re on the correct medications at appropriate doses for your body. You may want to keep a blood sugar log to share with your diabetes treatment team.
11 foods that help control blood sugar
Eating a healthy diet while living with diabetes or prediabetes can be challenging.
Fortunately, these healthy foods can help you better control blood sugar, taste great and fit into the Diabetes Plate Method outlined by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).4 These are healthy options for people who don’t have diabetes, too!
As a rule of thumb, most individuals need 30-75 grams of carbs at meals and 15-30 grams of carbs at snacks. Learn more about managing Type 2 diabetes with diabetes and Jenny Craig.
1. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
This healthy snack is high in protein, low in fat and low in carbs, which means that it can help you stay full and keep your blood sugar well-controlled.
With only 7 grams of carbs (based on a 6-ounce serving), you have wiggle room to add some fresh berries and nuts without going over your carb limits!5
Photo by Niclas Illg on Unsplash
2. Whole eggs
Remember when eggs got a bad rap because of their cholesterol content? Now, it seems that cholesterol from eggs doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels as other foods do.6 (If you’re wondering, eggs are healthy!)
One literature review suggests that no single food item contributes to markers of diabetes and that individuals with Type 2 diabetes may eat up to seven eggs per week when paired with an overall healthy lifestyle.7
The ADA recommends whole eggs as part of a healthy diet for diabetes.8 One whole egg only contains 0.5 grams of carbs, so you can feel confident about eating eggs while keeping blood sugar low.
Did you know that avocados are fruits, not veggies? This superfood is rich in vitamins (A, C, K, E, B5, B6), folate, potassium and fiber.9
Additionally, most of the calories from avocados come from heart-healthy fats (15 grams) and some from carbs (9 grams), making them the perfect snack or ingredient for blood sugar management.
If your goals include weight loss, just be mindful of your portion size as avocados are calorie-dense. A healthy serving size for weight loss is approximately two tablespoons or 1/8 an avocado.
4. Protein-Packed Bars
If you’re hungry in-between meals and you’re looking for a healthy snack that is weight loss-friendly, Jenny Craig offers a variety of great-tasting bars that are protein-packed and contain 5 grams of fiber. Choose from Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Fudge Brownie or our Sweet and Salty Peanut Bar.
If you don’t have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, try Jenny Craig’s revolutionary Recharge Bar, specifically designed to help keep your blood sugar levels stable and help increase fat burn on Rapid Results Max, so you can eat it while fasting.
Made with simple ingredients like nuts and a touch of honey, it’s a great-tasting bar that will give you the energy you need! Unlike sugar-laden bars found at the grocery store, its macronutrient composition will help you avoid an unwanted sugar crash shortly after eating it.
5. Leafy greens
The ADA Plate Method recommends filling half of your plate with non-starchy veggies.4 Leafy greens such as arugula, spinach and kale have very few carbs, so you’ll be able to eat more of these foods without seeing that blood sugar spike.
Plus, leafy greens are rich in folate, vitamins (A, C, E, K), and antioxidants that may support your health.10
Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash
6. Olives & olive oil
Olives are low in calories and high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Each serving of 10 olives contains 10 grams of carbs, making it a perfect low-carb snack!11
Olive oil seems to have similar health benefits as olives. One literature review suggests that consuming olive oil may help reduce the risk for death, heart disease, and stroke.12 Try drizzling olive oil on your favorite dishes.
7. Whole grains
Choosing these grains over simple carbs like white bread or white rice may help keep your blood sugars low. Be sure to eat grains in smart portions!
Edamame, or immature soybeans, typically come in steamed or dry-roasted varieties. This East Asian dish contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids and fiber to help keep you full.
One study in mice also suggests that the nutrients in edamame may support better blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity.15 Further human studies are needed to fully understand this link.
9. Fatty fish
Fatty fish contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can’t make on their own.16 One randomized controlled trial also suggests that these healthy fats may also help increase insulin sensitivity in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.17
10. Most fresh and frozen fruits
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to avoid eating fruits when living with diabetes or prediabetes.
Most fruits contain naturally occurring sugar and can fit within a healthy diet as long as you monitor what other foods you eat with that fruit. For a delicious, filling snack, aim for fruit with some nut butter or reduced-fat string cheese.
However, try to avoid fruit juice, jams and jellies, which are typically loaded with added sugar and may cause blood sugar spikes.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
11. Plant-based proteins
Beans, lentils, tempeh, and tofu are fantastic sources of fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals to help you meet your daily nutrient needs and vary up your meals beyond meat and fish.
One easy way to incorporate more plant-based proteins in your diet is through meatless Mondays or mixing them with your grains!
The bottom line
Many individuals with diabetes or prediabetes experience high blood sugar. High blood sugar can be dangerous if it’s not actively managed over time.
By making some small lifestyle changes and incorporating healthy foods into your diet, you can regulate your blood sugar and take control of your diabetes!
Jenny Craig’s Type 2 diabetes weight loss program provides balanced, nutritious meals crafted with high-quality ingredients to support your weight loss and diabetes management journey. Learn more about our Type 2 diabetes plan.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Certified Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.