Diet Plan For Reactive Hypoglycemia


Diet plan for reactive hypoglycemia includes a specific set of foods and drinks to minimize blood sugar swings and food cravings. For anyone new to the idea of reactive hypoglycemia, a reactive hypoglycemic diet is typically recommended by your doctor after the diagnosis of reactive hypoglycemia is made and if you are being treated for reactive hypoglycemia.

What Is Reactive Hypoglycemia?

Reactive hypoglycemia is low blood sugar that occurs three to four hours after eating a meal. Symptoms of the condition include hunger, weakness, shakiness, lightheadedness, anxiety and confusion, according to the Mayo Clinic. Paying close attention to your diet can help treat reactive hypoglycemia.

Reactive hypoglycemia usually doesn’t require medical treatment. However, any underlying medical condition will need to be treated. Dietary changes often help lessen your symptoms. Try making changes to the timing and composition of your meals, such as:

  • Eating a balanced diet, including lean and nonmeat sources of protein, and high-fiber foods, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding sugary foods and processed simple carbohydrates, such as white bread or white pasta, especially on an empty stomach
  • Eating food when drinking alcohol, if you drink
  • Eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day, about three hours apart during waking hours

The Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet

Hypoglycemia that occurs as a result of adrenal fatigue needs a comprehensive approach to reverse adrenal gland symptoms and prevent further damage.The reactive hypoglycemia diet is just as much about how you eat as it is about what you eat. There are two basic types of reactive hypoglycemia diets. The first focuses on reducing all types of carbohydrates and increasing protein and fats. The second focuses on reducing refined sugars and grains, increasing vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Despite the differences, these reactive hypoglycemia diets have some important similarities. In particular, reducing all sugars, including natural sugars such as molasses and honey along with refined, highly processed carbohydrates such as most breads, cereals, potatoes, and rice. Your body doesn’t know or care whether the glucose it receives is natural or refined, sweet or not sweet. All it knows is what happens when glucose in the bloodstream rises and falls too quickly. While these foods are not considered to be high in sugar, they can be quickly converted into sugar in the body.

Eat frequently – One of the biggest keys to the reactive hypoglycemia diet is ensuring the body constantly has the fuel it needs to do what it needs to do. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are important, but snacks are equally as important. Have a mid-morning snack, a midafternoon snack, and a bedtime snack. Avoid drops in blood sugar by making sure you have good nutrition every 2 to 3 hours. If you still find yourself having symptoms you may need to eat smaller meals and snacks even more often. Listen to your body and eat when you feel like you need to eat, especially when engaged in demanding mental or physical activity. Keep easy snacks on hand so you always have something healthy to eat on the go.

Protein and fat – Be sure to include a bit of protein and healthy fat with every meal and snack. Protein and fat are slower to pass through the digestive tract causing sugar to be released into the bloodstream more slowly. More steady blood sugar decreases the insulin response, which means blood sugar will fall more slowly. Blood sugar dips more slowly there is less need for the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol to prevent blood sugar crashes. Good choices include nuts, meat, beans, and dairy foods for protein, and nuts, olive oil, coconut, yogurt, and avocado for fat.

Glycemic Index – Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index and avoid foods with an index of 60 or higher. This includes all refined sugars, candies, desserts, white bread, soda, fruit drinks, and more. These foods and beverages cause drastic spikes in blood glucose levels which are followed by significant drops. The glycemic index is a valuable tool for anyone following a reactive hypoglycemia diet. Some individuals can tolerate these foods if they are eaten as a small part of a well-balanced meal. Again, listen to your body and if you start noticing symptoms after eating a meal or snack including these foods, eliminate them from your diet. This is what makes the reactive hypoglycemia diet so widely effective; it can be specifically tailored to each individual, depending on the individual’s needs and reactions.

Fiber – Fiber as a part of the plant that cannot be digested. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and soluble fiber does; both types of fiber slow digestion and absorption of glucose, preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes that cause hypoglycemia symptoms.

Complex carbohydrates – Complex carbohydrates are a vital component in the reactive hypoglycemia diet. Complex carbohydrates are simply a chain of sugar molecules connected to one another. They take longer to break down than simple sugars, keeping blood glucose levels more consistent. At the same time, they can be used to provide energy to the cells more efficiently than proteins and fats. Good choices include oatmeal, fruit, barley, quinoa, and whole-grain pasta. It is important to remember, though, never to eat any type of carbohydrates alone. Always combine carbohydrates with some fat and protein to keep blood sugar levels consistent.

Caffeine and alcohol – Eliminating alcohol and caffeine will help increase the effectiveness of your reactive hypoglycemia diet. If you consume either of these in excess, you will want to wean yourself from them slowly, as stopping suddenly can cause very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. If you do continue to consume caffeine or alcohol, be sure not to do so on an empty stomach.

Fruit – While fruits are high in many nutrients, they also tend to be high in sugar. Limit your fruit consumption and pay attention to any symptoms that occur after you eat it. If you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia after eating fruit, you may have to eliminate it, at least for a time.

Reactive Hypoglycemia Lifestyle

Following a reactive hypoglycemia diet is just one part of an overall lifestyle. Coping with hypoglycemia requires some extra effort on your part, but developing a few habits will make it easier. The following tips can be helpful to anyone who wishes to improve their health, whether they follow a reactive hypoglycemia diet or not:

Eat mindfully – Eating mindfully means taking time to chew your food, enjoying your food in a relaxed environment, and not eating until you are overstuffed. In Japan, many people follow a practice they call ‘Hara hachi bun me’, which loosely translates to eat until you are 80% full. It is likely no coincidence that Japan has obesity rates significantly lower than the United States, and much higher rate of centenarians.

Food journal – Keep a record of everything you eat for several days. Be sure to include everything you eat, everything you drink, and medications you take, along with the time. At the same time, keep track of all of your symptoms, and the time they occur. It may help to do this in two columns to make it easier to visualize connections. Within a few days, you may start to see a connection between what you eat and drink and your reactions to them. Armed with this information, you will soon know for certain what foods you can and cannot eat and you’ll know what to avoid.

Plan ahead – Having healthy foods on hand for meals and snacks is one of the most powerful things you can do to help yourself succeed on the reactive hypoglycemia diet. Take some time to plan your shopping trips, make a list, and stick to it. When you get home, take some time to repackage snack foods in small containers so they are easy to grab and you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat.

Breakfast – Be sure to eat breakfast as soon after waking as possible, as this will set the stage for a more successful day. Also, be sure not to skip meals or snacks, as frequent fueling will help keep blood sugar levels consistent.

Relax – Try not to freak out overall the foods you need to avoid. Rather, focus on the foods you CAN eat, and how much better they will make you feel. Also, don’t obsess over your reactive hypoglycemia diet. Obsessing over what you can and cannot eat will add to your stress and make the journey more difficult

Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet Plan

Winter Salad with Quinoa, Avocado, Blood Orange, Pomegranate, Bulgur and Hazelnuts, as an example of food on a reactive hypoglycemia diet plan

Add lots of veggies and whole grains to your reactive hypoglycemia food list.

Image Credit: asab974/iStock/GettyImages

Making changes to your diet can help treat reactive hypoglycemia. To best manage a reactive hypoglycemia diet, you’ll want to eat small, frequent meals high in fiber — going no more than three hours without a meal during waking hours, per the Mayo Clinic.


Follow along with the eating do’s and don’ts below for some sound guidelines to stick to when treating reactive hypoglycemia.

1. Do: Include Whole Grains

Whole grains provide carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates in food turn into sugar and raise blood sugars to provide a quick boost in energy. The fiber in whole grain helps slow the release of the sugar into the bloodstream, and a slower release of sugar helps keep the blood sugar level consistent, per the Jackson-Siegelbaum Gastroenterology Group.

While it may sometimes be difficult to distinguish whole-grain food sources from imposters, you can count on the following foods to be truly whole-grain, per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Whole-wheat crackers

2. Don’t: Eat a Lot of Carbohydrates at Once

While whole grains can help prevent symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia, it’s important to be mindful of your carbohydrate intake. You’ll want to spread out your consumption of these foods throughout the day, per UW Health. Eating a large number of carbs can cause your body to produce excess insulin, which can cause glucose levels to sharply drop.

To regulate the glucose in your bloodstream, eat smaller meals every three to four hours. You should aim for two to four servings of carbs at each meal (30 to 60 grams) and one to two servings (15 to 30 grams) at snack times, according to UW Health.


One carbohydrate serving is equal to 15 grams of total carbohydrates, per the UW Health. The following foods are approximately one carbohydrate serving (or 15 grams of total carbohydrates):

  • 1 small apple
  • 1/2 cup rice or pasta
  • 1 regular slice of bread
  • 1 cup plain, light or Greek yogurt

3. Do: Choose Whole Fruits

Fruit is another great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. People with reactive hypoglycemia should choose whole fruit over its juice because the former contains more fiber.

4. Don’t: Drink Your Fruit

Drinking juice leads to a rapid rise and then fall in blood sugar, according to the Jackson-Siegelbaum Gastroenterology Group. Fruits high in soluble fiber slow down stomach emptying and also slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Fruits high in soluble fiber include:

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Pears

Other healthy fruit choices for reactive hypoglycemia include:

  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Peaches

5. Do: Eat Your Veggies

Vegetables contain only small amounts of carbohydrates while acting as a good source of fiber to help slow digestion. Some healthy vegetable picks for reactive hypoglycemia include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • White and sweet potatoes with skin
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Corn
  • Peas,
  • Legumes
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplant

Legumes (beans) provide double the benefit because they also offer protein, which takes the body longer to digest. This can help prevent the low blood sugar that comes with reactive hypoglycemia.

6. Do: Add Some Dairy

Dairy provides protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and also helps control blood sugar for reactive hypoglycemia. Healthy choices include:

  • Nonfat milk
  • 1 percent milk
  • Nonfat and low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheeses

7. Do: Eat Lean Meats and Non-Animal Proteins

Including a lean meat or non-animal protein with each meal can help you prevent low blood sugar, according to the Jackson-Siegelbaum Gastroenterology Group.

Good lean meat choices for reactive hypoglycemia include:

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Pork chops
  • Beef eye of round
  • Lamb chops
  • Veal

Meat substitutes on a hypoglycemia food list can include:

  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Tofu

8. Do: Choose Healthy Fats

Fat is important for any diet, and the ideal kind for people with hyperglycemia tends to come from the following foods:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil

Fats are digested slowly and can help balance blood sugar, according to UW Health. You’ll want to enjoy fats in small amounts because they are also high in calories and can lead to weight gain.

The Best Snacks for Reactive Hypoglycemia

Peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread, as an example of one of the best snacks for low blood sugar

A peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread is one of the best reactive hypoglycemia snacks, and you can feel free to add banana or apple slices, too.

Image Credit: Brian Macdonald/DigitalVision/GettyImages

The best snacks for low blood sugar are those that include lean protein because our bodies break down this nutrient more slowly than carbohydrates. Skinless poultry, fish, low-fat cheese, eggs, peanut butter and soy-based foods are all smart items to keep on hand, according to UW Health.

Some smart snacking ideas include:

1. Yogurt and Fruit

Yogurt free of added sugar supplies protein and fats. Add fresh fruit for fiber, and you have a snack that will add carbohydrates for energy along with the protein, fat and fiber that slow glucose metabolism.

2. Peanut Butter and Whole-Wheat Bread

Whole wheat has a lower glycemic load than refined grains, which remove the fiber from the grain. Peanut butter contains both protein and fat. Pairing whole grains with protein and fats keeps your blood sugar stable for a longer time.

Skip pre-packaged peanut butter and crackers, and instead stick to a homemade version so you can portion properly.

3. Fruit and Cheese

Fruits that have a low-glycemic load, like apples, pear and oranges, are a good pick for people with reactive hyperglycemia. Adding a piece of cheese to a fruit snack supplies protein and fat, both of which also break down more slowly and keep blood sugars stable.

4. Non-Perishable Snacks

While foods like Greek yogurt, hummus and fresh fruit are good for snacking, it’s important to stash some non-perishable foods in your purse, car or backpack to prevent or treat low blood sugar symptoms. Consider the following for convenient, in-case-of-emergency fuel:

  • Granola bars with protein
  • Trail mix
  • Mixed nuts
  • Nut butters in single-serving pouches

Keeping these foods on hand will serve you well, and help you avoid needing to grab a high-calorie candy bar from the vending machine.

Related Reading

Foods to Avoid When You Have Reactive Hypoglycemia

Fresh homemade donuts with various toppings, as an example of foods to avoid with reactive hypoglycemia

Nix super-sugary foods like doughnuts from your reactive hypoglycemia food list.

Image Credit: sara_winter/iStock/GettyImages

There are certain foods that can worsen symptoms of hyperglycemia. Foods high in sugar can cause a rapid increase in blood glucose, which may lead to an excessive increase of insulin, causing a rapid fall in blood glucose, per UW Health. The following foods tend to be very high in sugar:

  • Pastries, baked goods, cookies, cakes and pies
  • Sodas, juices and sweetened beverages
  • Sweet tea and flavored coffee
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • Candy
  • Jelly and jams
  • Maple syrup, corn syrup and pancake syrup

If you do eat something sweet, try to eat it alongside a meal. Doing so can reduce the effects of the sugar, according to UW Health.

You’ll also want to limit or avoid both caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine’s effects include an increase in adrenaline and can cause the same symptoms as low blood sugar, while alcohol can cause low blood sugar. If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so in small amounts and always consume it with food.

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