You’re having a hot or cold sweat, losing your concentration, and you feel shaky. Maybe you’re a little nauseated or even faint.
Most of us know the feeling. Most of us have been there at one time or another, especially women. The blood sugar crash, or what my colleague at The UltraWellness Center, Dr. Mark Hyman, calls “The Food Emergency,” is super common.
It’s an awful feeling that can interfere with work, productivity, and even our safety if it happens while we’re driving!
As a young mom, keeping up with a breastfeeding baby and toddlers, then again later as a medical resident working insanely long hours, I often skipped meals, or at least skimped on them, only to find myself at the bottom of the blood sugar barrel. And what happens when you land there? You’re body goes into survival mode – literally – and you will eat ANYTHING in front of you.
Since most Americans live in a sea of quick carbohydrate and sugar “fixes,” we grab what is quick and right in front of us. Most often that is bread, chips, a cookie or brownie, a soda, juice, a candy bar, or some other quick acting sugary food.
And hey, in a pinch, it really does feel life saving.
But in the long run, this is not a fix at all. In fact, the cycles of low and high blood sugar, and the reliance on sweets and carbs to rescue us from our blood sugar crashes are a key cause of our national diabetes and obesity epidemics. And did you know that Alzheimer's disease is now considered a form of diabetes? YIKES!
Over time I learned how to keep my blood sugar steady, completely prevent blood sugar crashes, and always have access to good quality foods.
Here are my 4 key tips so you can do the same!
1. Eat a quality breakfast.
What you eat for breakfast sets the barometer for your day’s blood sugar. Eat a sweet breakfast and you’re practically bound for a blood sugar train wreck. But eat a high quality protein and you can hum along at a steady pace! Good choices include: eggs, a protein shake, or oatmeal. If you opt for oatmeal or another grain, make sure to add some nuts and good quality fat such as coconut oil or almond butter for more sustainable energy.
2. Plan your meals ahead of time.
If you work outside of the home, you need to not only have a good breakfast, but also plan your lunches ahead of time so that you can eat an optimally healthy meal. I loosely scope out my week of meals and snacks on Sunday, and make a run to the grocery store to stock up before the week begins.
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 forethought and discipline, but healthy options are not too hard to find at most places these days.
If you tend to have blood sugar swings and drops, grazing 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.
Grazing on healthy foods will keep you blood sugar steady, and will actually help you control your weight much more effectively than skipping meals or snacks only to binge when your blood sugar crashes!
4. Keep an emergency food stash on hand.
I always travel with a small emergency food stash, even if it's just to work. In my bag (which is on the larger size, but not over-sized) I keep:
- A small bag of raw almonds. (For a treat, I like dry roasted unsalted almonds.) Walnuts, cashews, and other nuts or a nuts and seed combination are also great choices. Avoid oil roasted and salted nuts. A serving size is a small handful.
- For variety and flavor you can mix the nuts and seeds with some crumbled toasted nori or dulse – both are super nutritious and tasty seaweeds.
- An apple or an organic orange.
- A small container of almond butter to eat on a sliced apple.
- A small bar of 70% dark chocolate; a serving is 1-2 squares.
Other excellent snack choices include a small container of sliced vegetables and hummus, a hard-boiled egg, and healthy trail mix (i.e., raw almonds, walnuts, goji berries, shredded dried unsweetened coconut, dark chocolate chips).
Do you have healthy, high quality snack faves? Please share them in the comments below! Love to hear from you!