By Joelle Mintzberg, CNP

It’s almost 3:00pm and you’re starting to feel shaky, irritable, and a little lightheaded. All it takes is one trip to the staff lunchroom because you are just about ready to eat anything in sight.

It’s an awful feeling that can interfere with our daily happenings. Most of us know the feeling and can relate to what is known as the blood sugar crash.

The main issue is that the foods that you rely on for a surge of energy (donuts, cookies, and other high carbohydrate foods) are actually causing you to crash. The good think is that in eliminating these foods, you can begin to balance your blood sugar levels.

Here is how it works.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body’s cells absorb sugar (glucose) from the food we eat. In people with blood sugar management issues, the body may not be producing enough insulin, so some glucose can’t get into the cells. Glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing high blood glucose levels. In many cases, the person may actually be producing more insulin than one might reasonably expect. In this case, the pancreas is actually working overtime to produce more insulin because the body’s cells are resistant to the effects of insulin. Basically the cells, despite the presence of insulin in the bloodstream, don’t let enough of the glucose in the blood into the cells.

In general, a good solution to correct blood sugar fluctuations is to consume more protein throughout the day, less sugar and also manage stress levels. Here are a few more suggestions.

Stay steady. Eat every three to four hours to maintain blood sugar levels, prevent overeating and avoid excessive cravings. Skipping meals, irregular meal times and excessive caloric restriction will only lead to increased risk of binge eating later in the day.

Add fibre. Consuming more fibre is another secret weapon in your arsenal against holiday weight gain. Fibre causes our stomach to stretch and increases the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the digestive tract. Both of these lead to better appetite control and make us less likely to keep munching away. The amount that is required for optimal weight management and bowel health is 25 to 35g.

Start the day off right. Your first meal often sets the pace for the rest of the day. Cereals which are marketed as “healthy choices” may contain vitamins and minerals, but they also contain a ton of hidden sugar. Choose steel cut oatmeal – these have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats or one-minute oats. Top with berries and a few nuts or seeds over the oatmeal. Finally, sprinkle a little cinnamon over your oatmeal. Studies have found that compounds in cinnamon can lower insulin within just 30 days.

Eat balanced meals. Lunch should include a good quality protein and vegetables, and perhaps a small portion of a healthy grain such as quinoa or brown rice. You can plan healthy dinners so that you can take some leftovers for lunch or you can scope out the restaurants and groceries close to your work so you know which places have healthy menu or salad bar choices. It takes some thought and discipline, but healthy options are not too hard to find at most places these days.

Snack smartly. If you tend to have blood sugar swings and drops, snacking is your new best friend! Keep healthy snacks stashed in a desk drawer, in a small cooler pack, in your bag or backpack, or even the glove compartment of your car. If you start to feel hungry, eat a small portion of something healthy to tide you over to the next meal. Here are a few options of snacks to have on hand.

  • A container of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and other nuts and seeds. Avoid oil roasted and salted nuts. A serving size is a small handful
  • An apple or a pear with almond butter or almonds
  • A small bar of 70% dark chocolate; a serving is 1-2 squares
  • Sliced vegetables and hummus
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Healthy trail mix (raw almonds, walnuts, goji berries, shredded dried unsweetened coconut, dark chocolate chips)

Your blood sugar naturally rises and falls as you eat. Ideally you want to keep it within a range that it only rises slightly, in order to avoid a “dip” afterwards where you feel tired, sluggish and in need of something sweet to boost it back up.