Aug 31, 2021
Published on: Verywell Fit
3 min read
steak and salad

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At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. If you have diabetes or reactive hypoglycemia you’re more likely to experience hypoglycemia than the average person.

Diabetes is a condition that causes fluctuations in insulin levels, which can cause your blood sugar to be too high or too low. Meanwhile, reactive hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar will drop after meals. Sometimes the reason for this is unexplained, other times it might be related to a hormonal issue.

The hypoglycemia diet is designed to help you maintain your blood sugar so that you don't experience those fluctuations. According to the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation (HSF), the main foods on this diet are vegetables, lean meat, non-meat protein, nuts, dairy, and whole grains.

Meanwhile, the hypoglycemia diet eliminates tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, white flour, simple carbs, diet soda, and most sugars.1 Generally, healthcare professionals support this diet because it is safe and nutritious. There are no risks and it doesn't exclude any important vitamins or nutrients.

What Experts Say

“Generally, this diet is recommended for individuals that may use insulin or other blood sugar-lowering medications to manage diabetes. It is also recommended for people that experience ‘reactive hypoglycemia’—a drop in blood sugar within 4 hours after eating. The purpose of the diet is to reduce or eliminate dips in blood sugar levels by properly timing food intake and supplementing sugary, processed foods with more balanced, nutrient-dense choices.” — Ethan Balk, PhD, RD

What Can You Eat?

The main focus of a hypoglycemia diet is to switch to a more balanced nutritional intake while also keeping your blood sugar in check. According to HSF, you should eat lean meat, non-meat proteins, and foods high in soluble fiber. Meanwhile, you want to limit or avoid simple carbohydrates and processed sugary foods.1

This means limiting things like pasta, bread, candy, fruit juice, and snack cakes. However, the HSF stresses that each person is different and the best hypoglycemic diet is one that is tailored to meet your specific needs.1

What You Need to Know

The first rule of thumb when following the hypoglycemia diet is to make sure you always eat breakfast. Your blood sugar levels drop immensely overnight, and it’s essential to replenish them as soon as you wake up.1

You also should try to eat smaller meals more often in a day. Try eating a small portion of food every 3 to 4 hours instead of having three big meals per day. If you exercise frequently or engage in a strenuous activity you may need to eat more to keep your blood sugar stabilized.2

HSF recommends staying away from processed sugars and simple carbohydrates. You should also avoid white flour, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol altogether. You also may want to avoid over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine, if possible.

Also, try removing processed sugars from your diet and replacing your white pasta and bread with whole wheat or whole-grain versions. Whole grains provide carbs but also fiber, which helps with the digestion of sugars.3

Regardless of whether you have diabetes or reactive hypoglycemia, following this diet often is part of a treatment plan and may require some lifestyle changes. Work with a healthcare provider to fine-tune this diet to your specific needs. Over time, you will learn how best to avoid foods and patterns that trigger your symptoms.

What to Eat What Not to Eat
Vegetables Alcohol
Lean Meat, Non-Meat Protein Caffeine
Whole Grains Refined/Processed Sugars
Olive Oil, Avocado Oil White Flour
Nutritious Fats Like Avocado Simple Carbohydrates
Dairy Products Fruit Juices
Fish and Shellfish Large Servings of Fruits
Nuts and Seeds Candy or Other Treats

Sample Shopping List

The hypoglycemia diet involves eating a lot of vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and non-meat proteins. Below is a list of things you may want to shop for when on this diet.

Keep in mind this is in no way an exhaustive list. You may find other things that you prefer. So always revise your shopping list to fit your personal dietary needs and preferences best.

  • Oils (Olive, Avocado, Coconut)
  • Whole Grains (Whole Grain Pasta, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Oatmeal)
  • Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries)
  • Vegetables (Broccoli, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Peppers, Brussel Sprouts)
  • Leafy Greens (Kale, Arugula, Spinach, Romaine, Swiss Chard, Mustard Greens)
  • Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Tilapia)
  • Lean Proteins (Chicken, Turkey, Lean Red Meat, Tofu)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts/Seeds (Almonds, Pistachios, Walnuts, Sunflower Seeds)
  • Dairy and Non-Dairy Products (Almond Milk, Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, String Cheese)

Sample Meal Plan

You should eat a small meal every 3 or 4 hours, 4 to 6 times per day. Below are some examples of meals that fit into this meal plan. However, there are many foods out there that align with the hypoglycemia diet. Get creative and try different combinations.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with Chopped Pecans, Blueberries, Almond Milk or Low-Fat Milk,
  • Mid-Morning Snack: Hard-Boiled Egg, Cucumber and Zucchini Slices
  • Lunch: Grilled Salmon, Mixed Greens with Avocado
  • Afternoon Snack: Peanut Butter and Apple Slices
  • Dinner: Grilled Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, Brown Rice

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Yogurt with Strawberries, Hard-Boiled Egg, Whole Grain Toast
  • Mid-Morning Snack: String Cheese and Almonds
  • Lunch: Shredded Chicken, Romaine, Shredded Cheese, Veggies of Choice Wrapped in Whole Wheat Tortilla
  • Afternoon Snack: Hummus, Brown Rice Crackers, Carrots and Peppers
  • Dinner: Flat Iron Steak, Grilled Asparagus, Quinoa

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Shredded Cheese, Mushrooms, and Peppers, Soy Milk
  • Mid-Morning Snack: Low-Fat Cottage Cheese, Raspberries, Blackberries
  • Lunch: Turkey on Whole Grain Bread With Tomatoes and Romaine
  • Afternoon Snack: Canned Tuna With Whole Grain Crackers
  • Dinner: Italian Chicken Chili With Cashews with Spinach and Arugula Salad

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Promotes Nutritious Choices Requires Planning
Offers Smaller Meals Creates Higher Grocery Costs
Helps Stabilize Blood Sugar Takes Time to Plan and Prep
Prevents Overeating Requires Scheduling Meals

The hypoglycemia diet promotes more nutritious choices by limiting sugar, processed foods, and simple carbs. This approach helps keep your blood sugar levels stabilized.

When you eat carbs or sugar, your body breaks it down and takes in the digestible sugars. Simple carbs generally have structures composed of only one or two sugars, and therefore are very quickly digested. This leads to a rise in blood sugar, which will then cause an insulin spike.4

Insulin spikes are harmful to people who have trouble regulating their blood sugar because sometimes the overproduction of insulin can later result in hypoglycemia. This diet focuses on preventing insulin spikes by avoiding simple carbs and most sugars.

On the downside, a hypoglycemia diet may increase your grocery bill and impact your budget. Processed and packaged foods are inexpensive, and replacing these items with more whole food options will impact your budget. A lot of this has to do with the fact that countries often focus on producing these items, which in the long run makes them more affordable and easily accessible.5

These "starchy staples" as researchers call them can lead people to neglect long-term health goals. What's more, other more nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are not grown on such a large scale, which causes them to remain at a higher price to consumers.5

Overall, the hypoglycemia diet focuses on eating 4 to 6 times a day, which is beneficial even if you don't have hypoglycemia. Not only is it easier on your digestive system but it also can prevent you from overeating.6

Conversely, when your blood sugar is low, you will feel more hungry, sometimes even ravenous. Therefore, keeping your blood sugar stable will prevent random cravings and will help you avoid overeating.

The downside to this is that you must also sacrifice time in your day to plan, prepare, and eat your meals. This could be difficult if you have a full schedule or your workplace doesn’t allow multiple breaks.

Is the Hypoglycemia Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

This diet does not restrict any nutrient intake recommended by the USDA. That said, you should limit sugar and carbohydrate intake but not take it away completely. Instead, replace simple carbs with complex carbs.

Health Benefits

While this diet is very individualized, it does promote good health. Overall, the hypoglycemia diet is all about being aware of your body and metabolism’s needs and working to fuel your body on a consistent schedule so that your blood sugar levels remain stable. Here are some ways that the hypoglycemia diet may benefit your health.

Promotes Better Nutrition

While on this diet, you are avoiding things like caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and sugar. This promotes more nutritious eating, especially because you focus on vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and non-meat proteins instead.

Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels

The primary goal of this meal plan is to prevent insulin spikes. As a result, it's best to limit foods like sugars and simple carbohydrates. Instead, focus on keeping your blood sugar levels at a safe and consistent level. This is done by eating good, wholesome foods more frequently throughout the day.

Helps Promote Better Digestion

The biggest tip given by dieticians is to make sure you’re eating enough fiber while on this diet. Fiber promotes better digestion. Also, the more frequent, smaller meals you eat will help you digest small bits at a time—rather than overloading your system with several large meals.

May Help Prevent Overeating

According to medical professionals, low blood sugar makes you feel hungry. But, if you are keeping your blood sugar steady, you will feel hungry less often. This may lead to less of an appetite and could help prevent overeating.

Health Risks

The hypoglycemia diet does not contain any health risks. However, you should be careful to always listen to your body and eliminate foods that you do not digest well or that impact your blood sugar.

It's also important to remember that you should avoid eliminating carbohydrates completely unless a healthcare provider recommends doing so. Not only do these foods provide fiber and vitamins, but they also help your body maintain its energy.

The hypoglycemia diet focuses on nutritious foods with the goal of helping you keep your blood sugar stabilized. It does not have any health risks, nor does it exclude any recommended nutrition by the USDA.

A Word From Verywell

This diet may require a lifestyle change for those that decide to use it. You should always listen to your body’s individual needs and follow the diet that best reflects your body and metabolism. While individualized, the hypoglycemia diet focuses on nutrition and stabilized blood sugar levels. This is helpful to those with diabetes or reactive hypoglycemia, but it is also beneficial to the average person.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you, and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. So while we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts to make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a significant role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.