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Why the order you eat your food makes a big difference

Updated: Jun 18

Keeping your blood sugar levels steady is the key to many aspects of health, from improved energy to weight management. That means eating the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats for your body and your health goals. But did you know, the order you eat your food can play a big part in blood sugar balance and - consequently - how energised you’ll feel and whether or not you’ll lose weight?

By understanding the importance of food order, you can make informed choices for a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Extended family enjoying an alfresco meal together

How your body uses food

Your body doesn’t recognise chicken, broccoli, potatoes or olive oil. It only recognises the individual components - like protein, carbohydrates and fat. All the food you eat will be made up of these macronutrients. For any conversation about blood sugar levels, there are some important things to grasp. The following is a simplification but - I think - a helpful one.

Carbohydrates - one way or another - all get converted to sugar, whether you’re talking broccoli, watermelon, a jacket potato or a bag of sweets.

Some carbohydrates break down very quickly in your bloodstream and they release their sugars very quickly, causing a blood sugar spike. This is what you want to avoid. Refined foods (think packaged snack foods) and anything sweet, bread, and pasta normally fall into this category.

Other carbohydrates break down much more slowly, so the energy is released more steadily into your bloodstream - like wholegrains and vegetables.

The key difference between the two is FIBRE.

Refined foods tend to have much of the fibre removed.

The best source of fibre is fruit and veg.

Because fruit contains (natural) sugars as well as fibre, vegetables steal the top spot for the best food you can eat to balance your blood sugar levels.

A good meal also contains protein, which might be animal protein like meat or eggs, or veggie sources such as tofu, lentils, beans or chickpeas. Protein also slows the starchier carbs like potatoes and rice from hitting your bloodstream quickly, and it does the same for sugary treats.

Now let’s look at what happens when you eat a meal. Take a meal of steak, broccoli and fries…

The fries are starchy carbs. They contain a little fibre but not much, and they contain quite a lot of natural sugars. If you eat these first, your blood sugars will spike.

However, if you start your meals with veggies, the story is very different.  The broccoli - or even a salad starter - contains more fibre and the fibre forms a mesh, which slows down the speed other foods can be processed so any sugars, natural or otherwise, enter the bloodstream much more slowly.

That same meal of steak, broccoli and fries could cause your blood sugar to spike or keep it nice and steady depending on how you eat it: fries, steak, broccoli = potential spike. Broccoli, steak, and fries = balanced.

Not all meals contain the different elements conveniently separated. Lasagne, for example, in which the meat is mixed in with any veggies and pasta. However, with meals like these, you could have a salad starter or serve a generous side salad and eat this first.

The impact of balancing blood sugar levels on your health

Blood sugar balance is a core principle of all my nutrition plans because it is fundamental to good health. When your blood sugar levels are balanced, this is what you can look forward to:

●      Improved energy levels throughout the day

●      Enhanced mental focus and concentration

●      Better mood and reduced irritability

●      Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes

●      Fewer cravings

●      Lower cardiovascular disease risk

●      Better hormonal balance and metabolism

●      Healthy skin

●      Enhanced immune system function and reduces susceptibility to infections

●      Better sleep quality and overall well-being.

Take-away tips for your food order:

When it makes sense to do so, eat your meal like this: veggies/ salad first, then protein, then starches. And, by the way, it’s always best to have pudding rather than a sweet snack. Why? Thanks to the fibre you have just eaten.

Since fibre slows down the speed at which sugars enter your bloodstream, adding more veggies to your meals is always a good thing. It doesn’t have to be as a side, you could grate more veggies into a bolognese/ ragu or pasta sauce.

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