How you start your day can have lasting effects on your blood sugar. Creating a few simple, healthy habits in the morning will start your blood sugar off on the right foot, and keep it going all day.
While we often think of diet as the first culprit for high blood sugar, that’s not always the case. There are many lifestyle influences on our blood sugar and these take place from the moment we wake up, to our bedtime, and throughout the night.
Habits around other lifestyle factors like exercise, stress, hydration, and sleep all play crucial roles in reducing blood sugar as well. Let’s take a look at the best morning habits for better blood sugar levels, according to dietitians and diabetes experts.
Sometimes, we have to go back to the basics, and nothing is more basic than staying hydrated. Drinking enough water helps reduce blood sugar by diluting the amount of sugar in our bloodstream. In fact, high blood sugar and dehydration go hand-in-hand.
Justine Chan, MHSc, RD, CDE explains, “Drinking water can prevent sugar in your blood from becoming concentrated, which can lower blood sugar. When you drink more water, you can also manage cravings and reduce your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.”
It may sound counterintuitive at first, but eating something can actually help stabilize your blood sugar. Some people notice that the longer they go without eating, the more their blood sugar continues to rise. This process is known as gluconeogenesis, or the process of creating blood sugar that is stored in the liver to keep energy levels up without food.
Registered dietitian Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN explains, “Going without food for long periods of time acts as a stressor to your body, causing blood sugar to rise. When we wake up in the morning, our blood sugars may be elevated, and a balanced breakfast can help stabilize them or bring them down.”
By eating breakfast, you can keep blood sugar levels balanced and have a greater effect on stabilizing them throughout the day. Kourtney Johnson, RD, LD adds her recommendation, “In addition, adding fiber and protein sources to a carb source decreases the likelihood of blood sugar spiking after the meal, as digestion is slowed with the additional nutrition.”
Starting your day with a high-protein meal has been shown to stabilize blood sugar and may decrease highs and lows over the course of the day. One of the theories for this is because protein takes a long time to digest, and blood sugar does not rise right away.
A high-protein breakfast creates a slow steady drip of energy that has a lasting effect all day. Michelle Caravella, MS, RDN explains, “Pairing a protein-rich food with your breakfast, like eggs with whole grain toast, helps the body reduce the spike in blood sugar after the meal.”
Mara McStay, MS, RDN gives examples of protein-filled breakfast ideas. “Eggs, Greek yogurt, or a smoothie with protein powder are all great protein-rich options.”
Go For a Walk After Breakfast
Activity, especially first thing in the morning, engages our muscles and starts bringing blood sugar down. Our muscles use glucose for energy, and when we exercise, we are taking blood sugar out of the bloodstream and putting it to use.
Naturally, this lowers our blood sugar and starts our day off on the right foot. Studies show that even as little as a 2 minute walk after a meal can decrease blood sugar significantly. It doesn’t have to be strenuous to count!
Brittany Crump, MPH, RD, LD, CDCES tells us, “A walk after breakfast moves blood sugar from the bloodstream into your cells where it is used for energy, thus lowering your blood sugar. As a bonus, physical activity may help keep blood sugar stable for the rest of the day.”
Be Caffeine Conscious
Did you know that coffee alone can raise blood sugar due to its caffeine content? Caffeine spikes the stress hormones that help create the alert, awake feeling that we associate with our morning brew. However, it also activates a cascade of events that spike blood sugar.
Even if you take your coffee with no sugar, you still may experience this effect. To mitigate how caffeine affects your blood sugar, be sure to hydrate, eat a balanced breakfast, and do not exceed the daily caffeine limit of 400 mg.
Registered dietitian and diabetes educator Julie Cunningham gives us her expert take, “Although drinking both regular and decaf coffee can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, many of my clients who already live with diabetes find that caffeine increases their blood sugar levels, especially if it’s combined with carbohydrate-rich foods, such as breakfast pastries or cereal and milk.”
If black coffee isn’t your jam, we’ve got you covered with the 4 Best Coffee Creamers for High Blood Sugar.
Have a Mindful Moment
It’s not just what we eat that raises our blood sugar, but also how we manage our stress. Starting your day with a mindful moment like meditation, journaling, going for a walk, or breathing exercises may start your day off on the right foot and help you manage stress better throughout the day.
Lower stress levels are positively correlated with lower blood sugar. Instead of checking your email first thing in the morning, consider a relaxing activity that can calm your mind and prep you for your day.
Veronica Rouse, RD, known as The Heart Dietitian, explains how mindful eating may benefit your blood sugars. “Mindful eating changes your eating behaviors and reduces stress at meal times, which can help you manage your blood sugar. Slowing down and paying more attention to what you eat has been shown to help people eat smaller portions and higher quality, more balanced meals, which can support blood sugar management.”
For better blood sugar management in the morning and throughout the day, follow these simple, healthy tips whenever you can.