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5 Ways to Control Blood Sugar That Don’t Involve Food


Managing your blood sugar can impact your health in so many ways, affecting your mood, energy, and even your cravings. It’s especially true for people with diabetes, but it’s important for all of us.

If you want to control blood sugar, it’s time to look beyond your fork. We all know diet can help, but there are other ways to significantly improve your blood sugar management. You’ll be surprised just how different you can feel with these five blood sugar hacks that have nothing to do with food. 

Related: What’s the difference between simple and complex carbs?

Why it’s important to control blood sugar

When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into your bloodstream, where it travels throughout your body to fuel your brain and cells. 

A blood sugar spike happens when you eat a lot of carbs at once, or when you eat them without other nutrients on your plate. Sometimes, like before a workout when your cells want energy quickly, this is fine. But most of the time, a big spike is followed by a bigger dip, causing a blood sugar rollercoaster that worsens your energy, cravings, and overall health. 

The goal of blood sugar management is to slow the rollercoaster so you have more stable energy for longer. Diet can help, and lifestyle changes can make a big impact, too. Here are non-food ways to hack your blood sugar.

1. Walk after meals

One of the easiest lifestyle habits to improve blood sugars is to get moving after you eat. A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis in Sports Medicine found that light-intensity walking can significantly improve blood glucose levels after meals. 

“Going for a walk after a meal can help to lower blood sugar levels,” says registered dietitian Alyssa Pacheco. “Just a five- to ten-minute walk can really keep blood sugar levels more balanced.”

Pick one meal a day that usually leaves you feeling sluggish, and add in a short walk right after. If walking outside isn’t possible, take a few laps of the stairs or try standing instead. Anything you do that breaks the routine of sitting after meals can help. 

Related: 5 Super Fun Ways You Can Get Some Exercise Without Even Realizing It

2. Manage your stress

You might be surprised to learn that stress can raise your blood sugar. When you’re on edge — whether from a nagging boss or pressures at home — your brain signals your hormones to get more glucose into your bloodstream. 

Managing your stress levels is not just important for your mental health; it can support your physical health, too. “High amounts of stress can negatively impact blood sugars, so it’s important to manage stress as best as possible,” says registered dietitian Jamie Nadeau

Nadeau suggests developing a consistent stress management routine. Whether you try deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or other practices, learning to manage and reduce stress will benefit more than just your mind. 

Related: 8 Ways to Destress So You Can Live A Longer Life

3. Get good sleep 

Getting a solid night’s sleep might feel like a luxury, but it’s also a helpful habit to control blood sugar. 

“Getting at least seven hours of sleep each night is one of the most powerful things you can do for your blood sugar for two reasons,” says functional medicine dietitian Kaytee Hadley. “Your body will be better equipped to keep your glucose within a healthy range throughout the day. Plus, you’re less likely to overeat, because getting enough sleep keeps your hunger hormones in check.”

Sleep is so important for your blood sugars and your health, but getting it can be a challenge. Try to establish a routine with consistent sleep and wake times, which can help you get better quality sleep. 

Related: Is There A Link Between Sleep and Blood Sugar? Experts Weigh In

4. Learn your body’s cues

So many of us feel detached from our body’s innate cues of hunger and fullness because we’ve spent years ignoring them in the name of fast weight loss. This can make eating optimally feel hard, and might be worsening your blood sugar, too.

That’s because ignoring hunger — intentionally or not — tends to intensify it. Think about how you feel at the end of a busy workday when fueling wasn’t a priority: you’re likely to experience insatiable hunger, and cravings for foods that aren’t so nutritious. And when you eat indulgent food in bigger portions, your blood sugar suffers. 

The key is learning and actually responding to your body’s cues of hunger and fullness. If these signals feel less than familiar, take note when they make an appearance. Hunger signals might be as subtle as thinking about food or feeling more irritable. Learning exactly how your body is trying to communicate with you is key.

Related: End Overeating with the Hunger and Fullness Scale

5. Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is important for your digestion and metabolism, and to control blood sugar. When your body is dehydrated, the concentration of glucose in your blood goes up. Inadequate fluid intake can also impair the hormones responsible for blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes, according to a 2017 study in Nutrition Research

The good news is that staying hydrated is easier than you think. Serve each meal with a glass of water or caffeine-free tea; add flavor with sliced lemon or cucumber, if needed. You can also get a significant amount of water through food, which is yet another reason to eat more fruits and vegetables. 

Related: 8 Easy Hacks to Hydrate More

You asked: What is best for blood sugar control?

Of course, a combination of lifestyle habits and diet is the best way to support your health and blood sugar long term. 

Here are some simple ways to support more stable blood sugars with food:

  • Choose whole grains over refined grains
  • Include a serving of beans once a day (if you tolerate them)
  • Aim to eat every 3 to 4 hours
  • Eat protein and healthy fats at every meal
  • Double your serving of vegetables at dinner
  • Eat your protein and vegetables before carbs

And remember, a healthy lifestyle can include your favorite indulgent foods. You’ll be a lot more consistent with blood sugar balancing if your lifestyle feels sustainable, so let yourself have treats on occasion. 

Read next: 9 Dietitian-Approved Frozen Breakfasts for Diabetics


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