Surprising Foods that Increase your Blood Sugar

It’s very possible that some of the healthy foods you’re eating may be having a bigger effect on your blood sugar than you realize. But what are these foods?

In a the video and post below, we highlight eight seemingly healthy foods that can make blood sugars rise too quickly. We can say with confidence that some of the picks on our list WILL surprise you!

But no worries.  If you love some of these foods (like we do), we also share some simple tweaks you can make so you can still eat and enjoy them without consequences.

8 Surprising Foods That May Spike your Blood Sugar–and some simple tweaks you can make so you can still eat and enjoy them (well most of them anyway)!

1. Oatmeal:

We often include oats in our programs, but if you don’t eat them the right way, they can absolutely have a blood sugar spiking effect. This surprises many of our clients, as oats are a nice source of fiber and contain B vitamins, some magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals

BUT, heavily processed “instant” varieties of oats tend to break down more quickly in the body, and flavored varieties often contain added sweeteners, leading to a sharp rise in blood sugar .

Even rolled oats, which are less processed than quick cooking oats, or steel cut oats, which are the least processed, can raise your blood sugar if you eat too much and it’s not balanced with fat or protein.  

If you love your oats, our suggestion is to go ideally for the steel cut variety or our second choice of rolled oats, but keep portions to no more than 2-4 TBS per serving. Make it a team player (rather than the headliner) with other balancing foods that contain protein and fat from things like ground flax, almond butter, chia, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, or  walnuts. A TBS of protein powder can also be added to up the protein for even more blood sugar balance and to keep you full. 

If you tend to eat instant oatmeal due to the convenience, try instead making a large batch ahead of time using rolled or steel cut  and just heat up the leftovers. We also love swapping oatmeal for a warm chia pudding. 

2. Cereal:

This might be obvious, but it’s important to watch out for those brands that look or sound healthy. Don’t be fooled by phrases like “whole grain” cereals. Most of these are heavily processed and will likely raise blood sugar.

  • For example, Kelloggs Smart Start Cereal has 18 grams of added sugar from 5 different sugar sources, which is equivalent to 4 tsp of sugar. The claim “original antioxidants” makes no sense!
  • Cheerios and the claim “Low fat, low cholesterol”–If you think instant oats are processed, these are even more so. This cereal lacks protein and fat. And if you add skim milk, thinking you are doing the right thing, you’ll raise sugars even more. 

There are a few decent cereals out there like Three Wishes or Love Grown that have no added sugar in the plain versions and use healthier sugar alternatives like monk fruit or erythritol for their flavored varieties. Even here you still want to round out the meal with some fiber and protein from nuts or seeds. Berries will also up the nutrition and give more nutrients and fiber too.

Another idea is to make your own granola  or buy some at the store (we have tried the grain free granola from Trader Joes mixed with unsweetened plant based milk and found it to be satisfying). 


Grapes/Bananas/Dried Fruit/Canned

First off, we love our fruit. However, many fruits are high in sugar and can produce blood sugar spikes (although whole fruit is always better than juice). For example, grapes have 15g–20g of sugar per cup, and many people find they raise glucose levels sharply. 

Other higher sugar fruits include bananas, mango, cherries.

Beware of canned fruit that is often soaking in syrup that is super sweet. 

Dried fruit does have some health benefits such as minerals like iron and phytonutrients (and did you know prunes are good for your bones?). However, to dry fruit, the water is removed which leaves them a more concentrated sugar.

What can you do?  When possible, go for the lowest sugar fruits. Berries have the least amount of sugar. We also like apples, pears, nectarines peaches, and melons which have more than berries, but are still on the lower side.

However, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and eliminate all the higher sugar fruits! Just because a fruit is a bit higher in sugar, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it. Opt for smaller portions, and pair them with fat or protein like a handful of nuts. 

We are not a fan of canned fruit. Go with frozen if you don’t have the fresh version.

As far as dried fruit, we suggest cutting it out or at least limiting it for now if you have blood sugar or weight issues. If you are going to have some, make sure to limit it to 1-2 TBS or a couple of pieces, and that you aren’t eating one that has added sugar to it.

4. Smoothies from Juice Store/Acai Bowl:

The issue with smoothies and Acai bowls is that most juice places add a lot of sugar to make them taste good. For example, Jamba Juice’s acai primo has 65 grams of sugar! This comes from a combo of fruits, some of which are higher in sugar, as well as added honey. We have nothing against fruit or honey, but the overall amounts are just too high.

Make it better by making your own – use frozen berries, maybe a small amount of frozen banana or mango, and add a scoop of clean protein powder that has some stevia or monk fruit. This will give you your protein too to keep you satiated and help with keeping blood sugars balanced. Another tip would be to toss in some ground flax and a few walnuts to round out the smoothie with a little more fiber and fat.

5. Sushi:

It’s not the raw fish we are concerned about when it comes to blood sugar. Sticky white rice is typically what comes with sushi, which is refined, high in starch and quickly turns into sugar in the bloodstream. Also, sometimes sugar is added to the sushi rice. Additionally, some of the sauces in the rolls can contain hidden sugar.

While we’re mentioning it, yes, brown rice is better, but it can also spike blood sugar. 

Alternative:  Order sashimi with no rice, and don’t drown it in soy sauce (ask for it on the side?). Or, try cauliflower rice sushi, which is starting to appear at restaurants and is easy to make if you are eating at home. 

When eating rice in general, stick to no more than ½ cup and combine with a protein and lots of non starchy veggies.

6. Whole Grain Bread (watch for wraps too):

Whole grain bread sounds so healthy and if you listen to the tv commercials it sounds  important. But, many of the whole grain breads out there have not only unhealthy ingredients but also contain sugar. In addition, even though whole grains have nutrients such as fiber, they can still raise your blood sugar.

Even healthy bread such as Dave’s Killer bread. We like this brand better than many others because there are real food ingredients. However, some of their bread can contain 5g sugar per slice.

There are better choices with less sugar (only 1 gram) such as the Dave’s Killer bread powerseed version: .

We also like Ezekiel bread or other sprouted grain breads which tend to have zero added sugar–make sure to check the label to be sure.

You can also look into bread alternatives like chickpea or almond flour wraps, or cauli/broccoli thins from Outer Aisle. 

7. Milk and Yogurt:

As a leftover From the low fat craze of the 90s, it’s still popular to have low fat or skim milk, but most don’t realize how much this can raise blood sugar. What happens with skim milk is, the fat is taken out, but the milk sugar is still there, now without the fat to slow down the sugar spike. We see women all the time eating a low fat cold cereal paired with skim milk which can make blood sugars soar. 

The effect of different dairy sources on glucose levels does seem to vary according to the food’s protein and fat composition. Here is some guidance for different types of dairy. 

  • Good choices would be yogurt, kefir, cheese, and other fermented dairy products, but look for unsweetened versions. Avoid fat free.
  • Lean toward cheeses high in protein like parmesan and Swiss
  • Reduce milk, especially skim milk 
  • Note that some research studies have found a connection between blood sugar issues and dairy intake in some women so if you are a big yogurt and cheese eater, it might be worth cutting back a bit, we’ll keep you posted as more research comes out about this

8. Artificial Sweeteners:

We see this so often – women want to lower their sugar intake so instead of sugar they use artificial sweeteners.  However, research has shown that consuming artificial sweeteners, such as those found in diet sodas and sugar free yogurts can actually cause glucose intolerance and increase blood sugar levels. Research shows that artificial sweeteners can greatly affect our gut microbiome. There are links between bacteria composition in our gut and insulin resistance and diabetes. 

In one study, mice fed saccharin, sucralose or aspartame for 11 weeks showed changes to the bacteria in their gut and elevated blood sugar.

So stick with something natural such as raw honey, real maple syrup, or molasses, but just have much less. Our rule is no more than 1 tsp per serving. Or switch to a natural sweetener that won’t affect your blood sugar such as stevia , monk fruit, or yacon syrup, which is extracted from the roots of the yacon plant, in South America.

In summary, keeping a watch on these blood sugar spiking foods will do wonders for your weight, your mood and overall health.

We help women over 50 balance their blood sugar, lose weight and feel great in our Simply Nourished Transformational program. It’s not another diet that will leave you feeling deprived and wondering what to do next, but a holistic habit and lifestyle changing program. We open up a few spots each month into this transformational program. Reach out to us to see if we currently have space and if it is a good fit for you.

stephanie goodman and jane schwartz


Jane and Stephanie, creators of The Simply Nourished Solution™, are nutritionists who help women over 50 go from overweight, frustrated, and inflamed to lighter and healthier so they can be more active, feel good in their bodies, and live the second half of life with energy and confidence. Their 3-pronged approach, which can fit into any lifestyle, encompasses not only wholesome energizing foods but powerful habit and mindset shifts.


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