What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels After Eating?

Your blood sugar, or glucose, level is found in your blood and serves as your main source of energy. During digestion, carbohydrates, which are sugars, starches, and fiber, are changed into glucose. Your body then uses this as energy, or stores whatever isn't used in your cells for later use.

Your blood sugar is influenced by the food you eat, your age, stress, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use. It is also impacted by heart issues or diabetes, a group of conditions where too much glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

The Plate Method for Managing Blood Sugar.

Danie Drankwalter / Verywell

This article explores the range of glucose levels an individual may experience after eating. It will also cover how different types of food impact blood sugar, as well as how to manage glucose levels.

Who Should Monitor Blood Sugar Levels?

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, tracking your blood sugar regularly will help you understand how medication, food, and physical activity affect it. It also allows you to catch rising blood sugar levels early.

This is the most important thing you can do to prevent complications from diabetes. These may include blindness, heart attacks, amputation, and kidney disease, which is a decline in the kidney's functioning. Other complications may include a stroke, which is a medical emergency where blood flow to the brain is blocked. 

Others who may want to track their blood glucose regularly include those:

  • Taking insulin
  • Who are pregnant
  • Having a hard time controlling blood glucose levels
  • With low blood glucose levels
  • Who have ketones, or an energy source made by the liver, and high blood glucose levels, which would indicate you may need more insulin

Recap

Those who have diabetes should regularly check their blood glucose levels to help prevent serious complications. Others may also want to check their blood sugar levels for various reasons.

What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels After Eating? 

It's best to check your blood glucose one to two hours after eating. This can help you understand how your blood sugar reacts to the food you eat. It can also offer insight into whether you're taking the right dose of insulin. If you think your dosage is off, reach out to your doctor.

As a general rule, it's best to keep blood sugar below 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating. However, your target blood sugar range will depend on:

  • How long you've had diabetes
  • Your age
  • Other health conditions, such as heart disease
  • Diabetes complications
  • Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia
Target Postmeal Blood Glucose Levels
Preschool children without diabetes (under 5 years old) <250 mg/dL
School-age children without diabetes (6-11 years old) <225 mg/dL  
Adolescents without diabetes (12-18 years old) <200 mg/dL
Children (0-18) with diabetes, one hour after eating 90 to 130 mg/dL
Children (0-18) with diabetes, two hours after eating​ 90-110 mg/dL
Adults without diabetes who are not pregnant, two hours after eating 90-180 mg/dL
Adults with diabetes who are not pregnant <180 mg/dL
Adults with diabetes taking mealtime insulin <180 mg/dL
Adults with diabetes not taking mealtime insulin <140 mg/dL
Adults with gestational diabetes, one hour after eating <140 mg/dL
Adults with gestational diabetes, two hours after eating <120 mg/dL
Pregnant individuals with preexisting type 1 or type 2 diabetes, one hour after eating <110-140 mg/dL
Pregnant individuals with preexisting type 1 or type 2 diabetes, two hours after eating <100-120 mg/dL

How Do You Measure Blood Glucose Levels?

You can measure your blood glucose levels by pricking your finger and inserting a test strip into a device called a glucometer. You can also use a continuous glucose monitoring device, which uses a sensor inserted under the skin to automatically check your levels every few minutes.

How Does Food Affect Blood Sugar?

When you eat food, your body breaks it down into carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

All parts are necessary for a healthy diet, but carbohydrates, or carbs, are really important when it comes to your blood glucose level. Keep in mind that not all carbs change into blood sugar at the same rate. 

Examples of foods that fit into each carb category include:

  • Starches, or complex carbohydrates: Starchy vegetables, dried beans, and grains
  • Sugars: Fruits, baked goods, beverages, and processed food items like cereals
  • Fiber: Whole wheat products, chickpeas, lentils, berries, pears, and brussels sprouts

The glycemic index, a carb ranking system that uses a scale ranging from zero to 100, helps you find out how foods impact your blood sugar levels. High index foods are quickly processed and can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. Low index foods are more slowly processed. This tends to lead to smaller blood glucose changes. 

Recap

Carbs have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels and are processed at different rates. Using the glycemic index can be helpful in understanding how specific carbs impact your blood sugar levels.

How Do You Manage Blood Sugar? 

There are several ways you can manage your blood sugar and keep your levels as consistent as possible. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals may also help. 

Plate Method

The plate method offers a simple way to plan well-balanced meals. Start with a plate that is about 9 inches across or a salad plate. Now, imagine one line down the center, dividing the plate into two portions. Add another imaginary line across one half so that you have three sections in total. 

Fill the largest section with nonstarchy vegetables to ensure you get a healthy mix of foods that provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

Examples of nonstarchy vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli or cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Green beans or peas
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes 

The goal is to eat the largest portion of non-starchy veggies. So, if you’re not eating a meal that fits perfectly into sectioned portions, like a soup or pizza, try to include smaller portions from the other two categories.

Next, fill one-quarter of your plate with lean and lower-fat proteins. Note that some plant-based proteins like beans and legumes may be high in carbohydrates and raise blood sugar levels.

Examples of lean and lower-fat proteins include:

  • Chicken, turkey, and eggs
  • Fish like salmon, cod, tuna, tilapia, or swordfish
  • Shellfish like shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, or lobster
  • Lean beef cuts such as chuck, round, sirloin, flank, or tenderloin
  • Lean pork cuts such as center loin chop or tenderloin
  • Lean deli meats
  • Cheese and cottage cheese
  • Beans, lentils, hummus, and falafel
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Edamame
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Plant-based meat substitutes

Fill the remaining quarter of your plate with carbs, or food that has the greatest effect on blood sugar. Remember that many foods can fit into the carbohydrate category, including fresh and dried fruits, yogurt, sour cream, milk, and milk substitutes. 

Proper hydration is essential to helping your body remove excess sugar.  While water is best, you can also opt for a low-calorie and low-sugar drink to have with your meal.

Counting Carbohydrates

Another option is counting the number of carbohydrates in grams per meal. How many carbs you should eat depends on many factors. If you aren't sure, be sure to reach out to your doctor. Counting carbs varies slightly depending on whether you take mealtime insulin, which is taken before or after meals to help prevent blood sugar spikes.

If you do not take mealtime insulin, you can keep track of your carbs by adding them up to get a better idea of how your food choices affect your blood sugar.

For those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who take mealtime insulin, you'll calculate the insulin-to-carb ratio (ICR) to manage blood sugar. This requires counting total grams of carbs and matching that to the dose of rapid-acting insulin to lower blood sugar:

  1. Start by finding the total carbs on the nutrition facts label.
  2. Next, figure out your portion size by measuring or weighing your food.
  3. Fiber doesn’t count when it comes to blood sugar, so subtract it from the total carb. This leaves you with the net carb.
  4. Add up all your net carbs per meal and then divide this number by your personal insulin-to-carb ratio.

Everyone’s ICR is different and some people will even have different insulin-to-carb ratios for breakfast compared to other meals. If you do not know your ICR, ask your healthcare provider or dietitian.

Medical Nutrition Therapy

Medical nutrition therapy is a support service. It may include nutritional assessment, counseling, as well as goal setting. It aims to empower individuals to make healthy food choices based on factors like overall health, diet, and activity level. It is offered by registered dietitians over several one-on-one sessions.

Recap

There are several methods for managing blood sugar levels including the plate method, counting carbs, and medical nutritional therapy.

Summary

Individuals who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes may want to track their blood sugar to help prevent serious complications. Others may also want to track their blood sugar for various reasons.

In general, it's best to keep blood sugar below 180 mg/dL one to two hours after having a meal or snack. However, what is considered normal will vary depending on diabetes status, your age, as well as other health conditions.

Carbohydrates play a significant role in blood sugar levels. With that said, there are many ways to manage blood sugar including the plate method, counting carbs, as well as medical nutritional therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Ideal blood sugar levels after eating are discussed in ranges because what is considered normal or healthy will differ from person to person. It’s important to understand what's normal for you by tracking how the food you eat impacts your blood sugar.

Know that you can establish a diet that not only helps you manage your blood sugar but is also geared towards helping you live your best life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should my blood sugar be after a meal?

    In adults without diabetes, post-meal blood sugar levels should be less than 180 mg/dL.

  • What should a child’s blood sugar level be after eating?

    In children, blood sugar can fluctuate more than in adults. Two hours after eating, a normal glucose level in children is less than 160 mg/dL.

  • Is a 200 mg/dL blood sugar reading after a meal normal?

    No. In people without diabetes, blood sugar levels should remain under 200 mg/dL at all times. A random blood sugar reading higher than 200 mg/dL suggests diabetes.

  • What blood sugar level is dangerous?

    Anything over 300 mg/dL is considered dangerous. Reach out to your doctor right away if you get this reading.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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