What meat will raise blood sugar?
75 Foods That Don’t Spike Glucose
Blood sugar-friendly foods don’t have to be—or should be—boring. Instead of meticulously using the glycemic index, enjoy these foods to help regulate your blood sugar levels today!
Searching for foods that don’t spike glucose? If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or are just trying to regulate blood sugar levels, finding snacks and meals full of foods that won’t raise blood sugar is key. These diabetes-friendly foods can be the building blocks of healthy, satisfying meals. Ahead, find a full list of foods that do not raise blood sugar.
How Does Food Impact Blood Sugar?
To understand how food can impact blood glucose (AKA blood sugars), it’s important to first know the three main macronutrients in food. Macronutrients are the nutrients your body uses in the largest amounts, and they contain different amounts of micronutrients—like vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (beneficial plant compounds). Mastering Macronutrients The three main macronutrients in food are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each type of macronutrient can affect blood sugar in a different way. For example, foods containing carbohydrates have a higher impact on blood sugar since carbs generally have a higher glucose level. Carbohydrates have a unique effect on blood sugar. Within 15-30 minutes after ingestion, the carbohydrates you consumed as part of your meal or snack can raise your blood sugar. If you are diabetic, testing your blood sugar levels regularly allows you to adjust insulin (a key hormone in balancing blood sugar) administration to your meals. The order in which you eat your food can also impact your levels of blood sugar. In a recent study, researchers found that eating vegetables or protein before carbohydrates may lower glucose levels significantly. Since complications of diabetes can lead to disease and even death, this understanding is helping doctors and dietitians to improve diet recommendations. Avoiding a spike in blood sugar involves being aware of how much glucose a certain food contains. You can usually assess this by looking at the number of carbohydrates and added sugars in a food. Comparing the number of carbohydrates to the amount of blood sugar-balancing nutrients—like healthy fats, protein, fiber—can help you decide if a specific food is right for you. Understanding Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load The glycemic index (GI) is another way to measure the effect food has on blood sugars. Foods that are higher on the scale are digested and absorbed more quickly, causing swift changes in blood sugar. GI uses a scale from 0 to 100 to assess the effect food will have on blood sugar levels. Foods are ranked according to where they fall on the scale: • Low GI: 1-55 • Medium GI: 56-69 • High GI: 70+ Since GI values generally come from a research setting where foods are compared to an equal amount of sugar, scientists further refined the process of predicting changes in blood glucose by developing glycemic load (GL). Glycemic load takes into account the average portion size consumed during a meal. Unlike the GI, GL operates on a smaller scale—specifically 1 to 60—with the following ranges: • Low GL: 1-10 • Medium GL: 11-19 • High GL: 20+ To illustrate GI versus GL, it is helpful to take a look at blueberries. The GI for blueberries is 53, which may be perceived as bordering the medium range. However, when you take a look at the GL for blueberries, ¼ cup comes in at 2.4—which is definitively low. When we use the measures of GI and GL for blueberries, we can see that this small but delicious fruit can make a sweet substitution for sugar without raising blood sugars. For example, you could add blueberries to oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies in the morning to help keep blood sugars balanced—without sacrificing taste! You don’t have to use GI or GL when making food decisions. However, understanding where certain foods fall on the scales can help you make more informed food decisions.
List of Foods That Do Not Raise Blood Sugar
The following lists of low GI and low GL foods can help reduce your risk of diabetes (or help you regulate your blood sugars if you already have diabetes). Remember, mixing and matching these foods for balanced meals, as opposed to obsessing over or only eating one type of food, can ensure you get all the nutrients you need. While the composition of these foods is blood sugar-friendly, keep in mind that portion sizes still matter. Fruits Fruits are often demonized for containing higher amounts of natural sugars. However, fruits contain plenty of other vitamins and minerals to make eating them worth your while. Some fruity foods that can help balance blood sugar include: 1. Apples
16. Strawberries Vegetables Like fruits, vegetables are packed with a plethora of nutrients. As mentioned above, vegetables can help balance your blood sugar, especially when you consume them at the beginning of your meal. The following foods are great ideas to incorporate to your next snack or meal: 17. Asparagus
18. Bell Peppers
25. Leafy greens—like arugula, lettuce, spinach, kale
30. Tomatoes Beans & Legumes The legume food group, which often includes beans and peas, contains many nutritious foods that can bulk up your meal. These foods generally contain higher levels of protein to help balance blood glucose. Enjoy the following legumes and related foods, including: 31. Butter beans
32. Chickpeas and hummus
33. Green beans
35. Navy beans
36. Pinto beans
37. Snow peas Healthy Fats Foods naturally containing healthy fats can help you feel full without raising your blood sugar. Some popular picks include: 38. Almonds
45. Pumpkin seeds
46. Olives and olive oil
47. Sunflower seeds
48. Walnuts Whole Grains & Quality Carbohydrates Regular refined grains can dramatically increase blood sugar levels. Whole grains, on the other hand, take longer to digest. This means the body extracts its carbohydrates over a longer amount of time, making it an ideal option for balancing blood sugars. While whole grains still contribute to carb counts, they are also considered a good source of fiber and protein. This means that while they still affect blood sugar, they won’t cause a blood sugar spike as you would see with a slice of regular white bread. Experiment with the following low-glycemic grains: 49. Barley
50. Black wild rice
52. Cooked quinoa
53. Oat flour
54. Rolled oats
56. Sprouted grains
57. Wheat tortilla
58. Whole wheat pasta Dairy One ingredient to be wary of in dairy is added sugar. Many flavored products—like chocolate milk and yogurt—often contain added sugar and outweigh the potential health benefits for you. Each brand differs, so it’s important to look at the label before deciding which item is right for you. Overall, however, dairy can add protein and needed nutrients—such as calcium and vitamin D—to your diet. Fermented forms of dairy can contribute to probiotics, which may have additional benefits for people with diabetes. Lower glycemic dairy does include: 59. Cheddar cheese
60. Cottage cheese
61. Feta cheese
62. Goat milk
64. Low-fat custard
65. Skim milk and cheese
66. Whole milk
67. Yogurt Lean Protein Lean proteins, like their name implies, offer the body protein. However, they can also counteract the effects of carbohydrates by helping to keep blood sugar levels in check. With lower levels of saturated fats, lean proteins are also healthier for your heart. Try adding the following forms of low-glycemic, lean protein to your weekly menu: 68. Chicken
70. Ground beef
71. Ground pork
73. Soy products
A Final Word on Foods That Won’t Raise Blood Sugar
While portion sizes still come into play, eating plenty of the low-glycemic foods listed above can work wonders for your blood sugar. Plus, these foods also provide plenty of vitamins and minerals along with blood sugar-balancing nutrients like fiber. Creating a colorful and healthy plate contributes to overall wellness, and can also help protect you against developing—or worsening—diabetes.
What foods don’t spike insulin? Insulin generally spikes after blood sugar spikes, to help counteract the effects of glucose entering the bloodstream at an alarming rate. Foods with a low glycemic index and low glycemic load can help balance blood sugars. While this article contains an extensive list, having it medically reviewed by your dietitian or doctor can help you pick particular foods that pair well with managing insulin intake. What foods do not raise blood sugar? Most types of lean protein and healthy fats have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load. This means these foods are ideal for managing blood sugar since they barely affect blood sugar at all. Combining higher carbohydrate foods with these items can help balance blood sugar.
Ellis E. Carbohydrates — Part of a Healthful Diabetes Diet. Eat Right. Published November 2020. Ellis E. What Is Glycemic Index. Eat Right. Published November 2019. Mayo Clinic Staff. Low-glycemic index diet: What’s behind the claims? Mayo Clinic. Published November 2022. McLaughlin D. How Food Affects Blood Sugar. Diabetes Foundation. Published December 2020. Weill Cornell Medicine. Food Order Has Significant Impact on Glucose and Insulin Levels. Well Cornell Medicine. Published June 2015.
Written by Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Updated on March 03, 2023.
Best Diabetes-Friendly Cookout Foods
Cookouts are a summer staple for good times and good food with family and friends. But for people living with diabetes, it’s important to recognize which of your favorite cookout dishes are truly diabetic-friendly. While you may wonder whether the options fall outside your diabetes nutrition guidelines, all it takes is a little preparation to maintain healthy glucose levels.
If you are hosting, you have more flexibility to include diabetic meal ideas. And if close friends or family are hosting, you can ask them to provide a few modifications — just throw a couple of chicken breasts on the grill along with the burgers or include trays of raw fruits and vegetables. When you’re a guest and can’t control the menu, it simply takes a little planning ahead.
What to Limit or Avoid
When it comes to diabetes nutrition, you already know that certain foods are no-nos, such as cookies, cakes, pies and even large servings of meat.
Keep an eye on side items, too, which can be loaded with sugar and fat. One simple rule is to watch out for yellow and white foods. That covers cakes, cookies, white potatoes, fried foods and chips. Other foods to limit or avoid include:
- Potato salad with heavy mayonnaise dressing.
- Marinades, dips and sauces.
- Salads with thick, heavy dressings.
- Meats high in saturated fats, like burgers and hot dogs.
- Refined white bread, like that in buns.
You don’t have to completely avoid these foods, but to keep glucose levels in check, you should only eat them in moderation.
What to Eat
Now, let’s focus on the good stuff. Try making these diabetic meal ideas as alternatives to popular cookout options that you can serve or take with you:
- Kebabs: Chunks of steak, chicken or fish work well. Skewer them with one chunk for every two or three vegetable chunks. Coat with olive oil, season with your favorite spices and then grill. This keeps your meat portions under control and ensures you have lots of veggies.
- Lighter sides: Follow traditional recipes, but swap out fat-free yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise. Try a cider vinegar coleslaw for a diabetes-friendly side option.
- Hummus, guacamole and salsa: These sides are a better alternative to dips, sauces and marinades.
- Quinoa salad: As opposed to traditional pasta salad, try a quinoa salad like this one from Diabetes Food Hub.
You can also enjoy traditional cookout foods without bringing your own or risking offending your hosts. Keep moderation in mind for the following:
- Barbecue: It’s hard to turn down smoked barbecue, and you don’t have to. Opt for a serving approximately the size of your palm (typically 3-4 ounces) and keep the sauce limited to a tablespoon or two.
- Lean meat: Chicken breast, turkey breast or fish are smart meat options.
- Burger: You can have a burger, but consider forgoing the bun. Top with lettuce, tomato and onion, and skip the condiments to avoid unnecessary sugars.
- Bean salad: Beans are a good option. While baked beans tend to be higher in sugar, a light bean salad is a great choice.
- Corn on the cob.
- Watermelon and other raw fruits and vegetables.
- Beverage: Opt for water, sparkling water or unsweetened tea. Skip the soda and limit alcohol to stay hydrated.
When trying to control portions, imagine a line dividing your plate into quarters. Two quarters should be full of fruits and vegetables, one with a small serving of meat and one with a serving size of carbs.
How to Cheat & Still Maintain Healthy Glucose Levels
No need to stare longingly at the dessert table. You can cheat, just balance your other food choices. For example, skip the hamburger bun and have a small slice of pie. Love potato salad? Have a small serving, but skip the coleslaw right beside it.
Remember to socialize away from the food table. Cookouts are prime time for grazing, and that can spike your blood sugar before you realize it.
Follow these tips, and more from Diabetes Self-Management, to stay happy and healthy as you navigate the season’s can’t-miss cookout events.
Like this article
Diabetes Meal Planning
Counting carbs and the plate method are two common tools that can help you plan meals.
A meal plan is your guide for when, what, and how much to eat to get the nutrition you need while keeping your blood sugar levels in your target range. A good meal plan will consider your goals, tastes, and lifestyle, as well as any medicines you’re taking.
A good meal plan will also:
- Include more nonstarchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans.
- Include fewer added sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, and pasta with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving.
- Focus on whole foods instead of highly processed foods as much as possible.
Carbohydrates in the food you eat raise your blood sugar levels. How fast carbs raise your blood sugar depends on what the food is and what you eat with it. For example, drinking fruit juice raises blood sugar faster than eating whole fruit. Eating carbs with foods that have protein, fat, or fiber slows down how quickly your blood sugar rises.
For more information, see Carb Counting.
You’ll want to plan for regular, balanced meals to avoid high or low blood sugar levels. Eating about the same amount of carbs at each meal can be helpful. Counting carbs and using the plate method are two common tools that can make planning meals easier too.
Keeping track of how many carbs you eat and setting a limit for each meal can help keep your blood sugar levels in your target range. Work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to find out how many carbs you can eat each day and at each meal, and then refer to this list of common foods that contain carbs and serving sizes. For more information, see Carb Counting.
The Plate Method
It’s easy to eat more food than you need without realizing it. The plate method is a simple, visual way to make sure you get enough nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein while limiting the amount of higher-carb foods you eat that have the highest impact on your blood sugar.
Start with a 9-inch dinner plate (about the length of a business envelope):
- Fill half with nonstarchy vegetables, such as salad, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots.
- Fill one quarter with a lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, or eggs.
- Fill one quarter with carb foods. Foods that are higher in carbs include grains, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and peas), rice, pasta, beans, fruit, and yogurt. A cup of milk also counts as a carb food.
Then choose water or a low-calorie drink such as unsweetened iced tea to go with your meal.
Portion Distortion Quiz
Did you know? Food portions are much larger now than they were 20 years ago. Test your knowledge of portion distortion here .
About Portion Size
Portion size and serving size aren’t always the same. A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat at one time, while a serving is a specific amount of food, such as one slice of bread or 8 ounces (1 cup) of milk.
These days, portions at restaurants are quite a bit larger than they were several years ago. One entrée can equal 3 or 4 servings! Studies show that people tend to eat more when they’re served more food, so getting portions under control is really important for managing weight and blood sugar.
If you’re eating out, have half of your meal wrapped up to go so you can enjoy it later. At home, measure out snacks; don’t eat straight from the bag or box. At dinnertime, reduce the temptation to go back for seconds by keeping the serving bowls out of reach. And with this “handy” guide, you’ll always have a way to estimate portion size at your fingertips:
- 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry
Palm of hand (no fingers)
- 1 ounce of meat or cheese
Thumb (tip to base)
- 1 cup or 1 medium fruit
- 1–2 ounces of nuts or pretzels
- 1 tablespoon
Thumb tip (tip to 1 st joint)
- 1 teaspoon
Fingertip (tip to 1 st joint)
Planning meals that fit your health needs, tastes, budget, and schedule can be complicated. Ask your doctor to refer you to diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services, where you’ll work with a diabetes educator to create a healthy meal plan just for you. You can also visit the Find a Diabetes Education Program in Your Area locator for DSMES services near you.
- Video: Healthy Eating
- More About Meal Planning
- Weekly Meal Planner [PDF – 30 KB]
- Diabetes Food Hub – Recipes for Healthy Living (ADA)
- Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families [PDF – 9 MB]
- Rethink Your Drink
- Recipes for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle