Tips and Tricks for Balancing Blood Sugar

Posted May 12, 2023 | Nutrition & Health Tips

Did you know that our bodies work hard to maintain blood sugar (glucose) levels within a tight range? If blood sugar goes too low, (known as hypoglycemia) fatigue, irritability, brain fog, dizziness, and fainting may occur. On the other hand, the body can also experience hyperglycemia, (elevated blood sugar levels) without showing any noticeable symptoms. Silently elevated blood sugar levels over time put us at risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease- currently the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.{1}

Blood sugar regulation influences body mass, and it’s difficult to maintain a healthy weight or maintain weight loss when we go through extended periods of either low or high blood sugar. Eating a healthy diet is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining balanced blood sugar, but our bodies also have a variety of hormones that strongly influence blood sugar balance. Let’s look at some of these hormones and what they do for us.

Hormones 101


The pancreas secretes insulin when blood sugar rises after a meal. Refined carbohydrates are especially effective when it comes to stimulating insulin. When the body is imbalanced by poor diet, stress, or medical conditions, the cells of the body become resistant to insulin, meaning insulin and glucose stay in the bloodstream rather than being brought into the cells. This is what is referred to as insulin resistance and eventually leads to diabetes and promotes weight gain, especially around the abdomen. 


Glucagon is a buddy hormone to insulin. In times of fasting or low blood sugar, glucagon’s job is to help release stored glucose from the liver, releasing it into the blood stream for cells to use. The relationship between insulin and glucagon demonstrates how our bodies have adapted to maintain blood sugar balance even under times of fasting or high caloric feasting. However, over time if this relationship is abused by extreme episodes of excess or deficient caloric intake, this system starts to break down and becomes faulty. 


We all know of cortisol as the stress hormone. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands, which are two glands that sit above each kidney. When we experience stress, our bodies release cortisol which in turn causes a rise in blood sugar leading to an insulin response. Too much cortisol can also lead to insulin resistance which leads to chronic blood sugar dysregulation and eventually weight gain, especially around the abdomen. 

Strategies for Keeping Blood Sugar in Check

Supporting healthy blood sugar levels and our body’s innate ability to keep these hormones in check is vital. It’s not only important for adults to stay on top of blood sugar, but setting good habits for you and your family early on can also help kids stay on a healthy path heading into adulthood. Stable blood sugar levels support kids’ ability to pay attention, focus, and prevents irritability which will help them perform better in school and feel better in general. Here are some simple ways that you can keep blood sugar steady and create positive lifelong habits for health for you and your family. 

1. Don’t Skip Breakfast

When we wake up in the morning, we’ve been in a fasting state during sleep. Breakfast is important because it jump-starts our metabolism for the rest of the day. Children are better able to focus and stay on task at school if they start the day with some protein. Keep it simple! Try eggs, quinoa, oats with nuts and seeds, or a smoothie with protein powder. These are all easy options that can be ready in a matter of minutes. 

2. Eat plenty of protein, fat, and fiber

Slow fuels help to support healthy blood sugar levels. Eat healthy sources of fat, protein, and fiber at every meal and for snacks. Ideally adults need 35 to 50 grams of fiber daily which is roughly 10 to 20 grams per meal. Fiber is especially beneficial for regulating the body’s insulin response by slowing digestion and the absorption of sugar and carbohydrates. Kids need adequate fiber too!  Recommendations for different age ranges are as follows: 1–3-year-olds need 19g, 4-8-year-olds need 25g, and 9-13-year-olds require approximately 31g of fiber per day. Fiber is found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

3. Do not avoid fat

Healthy fats help with satiety, keeping us from overeating and craving sugar. Choose healthy fats when cooking such as cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, unrefined coconut oil and ghee. Other healthy fats include nuts and seeds, fish, avocado, eggs, olives, full fat dairy in moderation, lean meat, and poultry. Making sure kids have a snack with adequate fat and protein is a great way to keep their blood sugar balanced. Try veggies with hummus, string cheese with cut up vegetables and whole grain crackers, air popped popcorn with a drizzle of olive or avocado oil. 

4. Drink plenty of water

Often when we feel hungry what we really are is dehydrated and in need of water. Avoid empty calories from juice, energy drinks and sodas. A good guideline for adults is to drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. Kids and teens need 6-8 cups of water on average per day plus more if they are exercising. 

5. Choose carbohydrates wisely

Avoid or limit refined carbohydrates, sugars, and overly processed foods such as white bread, rice, pasta, cookies, candy, chips, pastries, soda, energy drinks and foods containing high-fructose corn syrup. Instead, choose complex carbohydrates such as legumes and beans, nuts and seeds, vegetables, whole fruits, and whole grains. 

6. Manage stress

Use stress management techniques to keep stress under control. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise, being social with friends and being part of a community are all great ways to manage stress. Kids get stressed too! Practicing yoga together is fun and a great way to spend time together as a family! Unwind at the end of the day by going for a walk or reading a book together. 

7. Move every day

Light to moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, ideally 60 to 90 minutes is optimal. Exercise stimulates and builds muscles that will improve insulin sensitivity not just during exercise but throughout the day. Interrupt every hour of sitting with five minutes of movement. Limit the amount of time that kids spend on screens. Get them outdoors. Engage the whole family! 

8. Sleep

Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is essential to overall health and is an often-overlooked aspect of maintaining a healthy weight. Optimal hormone balance depends on a good night’s sleep. Aim for 8 hours nightly for adults and 10 hours or more for kids. Practice good sleep hygiene such as turning off screens and devices an hour before bed, sleeping in a dark room, getting natural sun exposure during the day, and maintaining a consistent bedtime. 

For more advice or if you would like additional resources for meal planning and snack options for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, contact the front desk to schedule an appointment with the Vital Kids nutritionist. 

By: Jen Orleow, MS, CN


  1. Briley, J. and Jackson, C. (2016) Food as medicine everyday: Reclaim your health with whole foods. Portland, OR: NCNM Press. 

Picky Eating and Problem Feeders: How Do I Get My Child to Eat a Balanced Diet?

Posted April 24, 2023 | Nutrition & Health Tips

It used to be that children ate the food that was put in front of them. They were expected to eat the same as everyone else at the table, whether they liked it or not. But today more and more parents struggle to get their children to eat, and food negotiations and mealtime stress are commonplace for many families. 

There has been a significant increase in food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances, (think lactose, sucrose, fructose, and histamine). Along with these there has also been a rising number of children and adults diagnosed with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Frequently, food challenges and these diagnoses go hand in hand. 

As a nutritionist I would like to share strategies with you about how you can tackle picky eating at home as well as how to distinguish if your child is truly experiencing picky eating versus problem feeding. 

Picky eating includes the following:

  • Selective eating 
  • Prefers 10-20 different foods
  • Eats all of the food groups
  • Can be bribed or rewarded for eating well
  • Will add new foods to their diet
  • More open to eating problem foods if hungry

Extreme picky or problem feeding may include:

  • Eats less than 10 different foods
  • Extremely rigid eating habits (food arranged a specific way, no foods touching etc.)
  • Refusal to eat 
  • Missing entire food groups
  • Gagging, vomiting, refusal to sit at the table, crying, anxiety around food
  • Extreme sensitivity to taste and texture of food
  • Will stop eating foods previously accepted in the diet
  • Bribes and rewards do not work

What to do?

The truth is that most picky eaters eventually come around and will expand their horizons and try new foods. Additionally, they usually have just enough variety in their diet to get the nutrition that they need to continue to grow properly. 

Problem feeding on the other hand is a more complicated situation. Problem feeders often aren’t getting enough calories or diversity in their diet and need extra care and attention to ensure that they can get back on track. If you feel your child is experiencing a more complex feeding issue such as problem feeding, it’s important to share your concerns with their provider. They may benefit from working with a specialist. In addition to working with a nutritionist or therapist, here are a few approaches that you can try at home:

  • Offer new foods alongside preferred foods to reduce anxiety. 
  • Present new foods in small quantities or bites so you don’t overwhelm your child. 
  • Allow children to use their fingers to eat food if they prefer or struggle with utensils.
  • Let kids explore new foods by touching, smelling, and licking them if they refuse to eat them. 
  • Change the texture of the food offered. For example, shredded vs. sliced carrots.
  • Offer various temperatures of foods.
  • Explore food outside of mealtime by gardening, food play, visiting the grocery store and cooking together. 
  • Involve kids in meal planning and preparation.
  • Discourage grazing outside of mealtimes.
  • Schedule 3 regular mealtimes and 2 snacks. 
  • Make mealtime and food introduction a positive and happy experience. 
  • Model the eating behavior you would like your child to emulate. 

Problem feeding and picky eating are common problems that many families face. Not every approach will be successful, but with patience and persistence, children can expand their dietary preferences. For additional guidance and resources on children and nutrition, check out the Ellyn Satter Institute at; Eat and feed with joy (

Picky Eating and Problem Feeders – by Jen Orleow, MS, CN

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