Build Your Plate: Balancing the Blood Sugar Blues

Our latest lesson from Hannah Wright.

Build Your Plate: Balancing the Blood Sugar Blues
Mutton chop (Rosemary & Thyme Creamery), potatoes (Red Clay Farms) and Midway mushrooms.

Want to change the world?

Imagine if everyone had stable levels of blood sugar.

No more skyscraper highs. No more shaky, hangry, hand-me-the-peanut-butter-before-I-LOSE-IT-lows.

Instead of helter-skelter, we could be stable throughout the day. Balanced. Calm, even.

"Steady," said Hannah Wright.

Wright is a local nutritionist and owner of Eat Well Be Well Nutritional Therapy; she offers group courses for women, resources and self-paced online courses – you can enroll now for her upcoming Detoxify and Thrive class – and a consistent social media presence.

Last month, we profiled her, announcing a multi-part series on nutrition and gut health.

Here's chapter one:

Blood Sugar Balance.

(Or, how not to crash around 4.35 every afternoon.)

Hannah Wright, Eat Well Be Well, Chattanooga, Tenn. (contributed photo)

Glucose, or sugar, lives in the blood stream, arriving there from the food we eat. Our cells use glucose to make energy. It is the top energy source for our bodies.

"Carbohydrate foods are your body's main source of glucose," Wright said.

When blood sugar drops or spikes too quickly, it can completely change our experience.

"When glucose goes up and comes down too fast," Wright began, "that can cause a drop in energy and might manifest as feeling anxiety or having a headache or feeling super tired or craving specifically sugary foods."

So much of our world is defined by the stability of our glucose levels.

"Mood, energy level, immune system," Wright said.

When she counsels or teaches classes, she first points to glucose as stress reduction.

Blood sugar snack: Hardboiled eggs and apples.

"Your body keeping blood sugar regulated is its top priority. It gives you energy. When it drops down too fast, your body will release things like adrenaline and cortisol," she said. "And adrenaline and cortisol put you in a fight-of-flight nervous system response."

"That is why I focus on it. It's one of the first things I do for people and one of the easiest ways to manage stress." 


"No matter what your health goals are," she replied, "it will be really difficult to reach them if you are chronically stressed."

Food as a Verb thanks Lupi's, our sustaining partner, for its generous support.

For more than 25 years, Lupi's has served locally-sourced, creatively made and award-winningly delicious pizza pies from five nearby locations.

Here are Wright's top suggestions for balancing blood sugar.

Four Rules of Blood Sugar Balance

  • Eat Breakfast within 1.5 hours of Waking (and coffee is not breakfast).

After sleeping, which your blood sugar interprets as 12 hours of fasting, your body is ready to be nourished. If you don’t eat, blood sugar begins to drop. Always have at least some food before coffee, because coffee on an empty stomach increases stress hormones, irritates the gut and makes your body think blood sugar is dropping when it’s not. It’s very common for people to wake up without an appetite or feeling nauseous. That may be a symptom of stress and blood sugar imbalance. Eating a proper breakfast regularly will lead to you waking up with a healthy appetite.

"Your body keeping blood sugar regulated is its top priority." 

Breakfasts should be large and protein-forward, meaning at least 20 grams of protein. For reference: 1 egg = 6 grams of protein, 1 cup Greek yogurt = 15 grams of protein, 1 slice bacon = 2 grams of protein. (Many traditional breakfast foods are pretty low in protein.)

If you wake up before 5 a.m., a minimal appetite is normal because your circadian rhythm is telling your body it’s still time to sleep, which can suppress your appetite. Wait an hour or two, then eat something small like apple with nut butter, Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, or bone broth and a piece of fruit. A few hours after that, eat a larger breakfast.

But still: food before coffee!

  • Avoid skipping meals.

Similar to skipping breakfast, skipping any meal increases stress hormones and deprives you of nutrients. Each time we skip a meal, we miss an opportunity to nourish our body. Intentional fasting can have health benefits for certain groups of people, but when focusing on healing your gut or living less-stressed, daytime fasting is not your friend.

  • Focus on food order.

One of the simplest hacks for keeping blood sugar balanced, energy high and preventing stress hormone increase?

Eat your food in the right order when it’s practical and convenient for you. Sometimes this might not be possible and that is totally okay.

Veggies first. Protein and fat second. Starchy carbs, grains, and fruit third. Dessert last. Simple as that!

  • Avoid eating naked carbs.

Eating carbs by themselves – or “naked" – is an easy way to spike blood sugar and then have it crash later. Think: fruit, juice, sweetened coffee/tea, bread, crackers, bars, etc. Even “healthy” snacks are ones that can spike blood sugar: bananas, granola bars, fresh-pressed juice, kombucha, etc.

Instead of eating these solo, eat them with protein or fat. This gives you more freedom to enjoy sweets because it helps minimize the negative effects they have on your blood sugar, stress hormones, and gut health. You can still eat your favorite chocolate chip cookie or homemade ice cream, just try to do it the right way: after savory foods and never on an empty stomach.

Sometimes there is a right place for naked carbs—like having a banana during a hike or run. Your personal tolerance for these higher-sugar foods is something you have to figure out by paying attention to how you feel when you eat them.

Hannah Wright, Eat Well Be Well, Chattanooga, Tenn. (contributed photo)

Wright offered some examples for us: a salad and dinner and snack crafted with blood sugar balance in mind. (Most ingredients were purchased at Main St. Farmers' Market from Jones Farms, Sequatchie Cove Farms, Red Clay Farms and Midway Mushrooms.)

  • Arugula, micro kale and feta with olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing.

"A fresh salad with vinegar dressing is my favorite way to start a meal," she said. "Eating fiber-rich foods first helps slow down the release of glucose into your bloodstream."

Arugula, micro kale, feta, apple cider vinegar, olive oil.
  • Mutton chops with potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled and reheated. And sauteed mushrooms with garlic.

"Cooling increases resistant starch which has a less profound effect on blood sugar levels," she said.

  • Two hardboiled eggs with sea salt and pepper. Seasonal fruit. 

For more information on Hannah Wright, visit Eat Well Be Well.

To sign up for her upcoming Detoxify and Thrive group class, click here.

This Sunday, we have a real treat, just in time for Valentine's Day.

These are Symphony of Tea Bonbons. Utterly gorgeous.

You've never had chocolate like this. (Or heard a story like Sunday's.)

Take good care, everyone.

Symphony of Tea Bonbons, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Blood Sugar Meals photography by Julie Ellison.

Symphony of Tea Bonbons photography by Sarah Unger.

All design by Alex DeHart.

All words by David Cook. This story is 100% human generated; no AI chatbot was used in the creation of this content.

Story ideas, questions, feedback? Interested in sponsorship or advertising opportunities? Email us: and

Food as a Verb thanks our sustaining partners for their generous support.

Regional Farmers Markets

  • Main St. Farmers Market, Corner of W. 20th and Chestnut St., near Finley Stadium

Wednesday, 4 - 6pm (Note: the Thanksgiving week market was held on Tuesday.)

  • Brainerd Farmers Market, Grace Episcopal Church, 20 Belvoir Ave,

Saturday, 10am - noon

  • Chattanooga Market, 1820 Carter Street

Sunday, 11am - 4pm

  • Ooltewah Farmers Market, The Ooltewah Nursery

Thursday, 3 - 6pm 

  • Signal Mountain Farmers Market

Pre-order online for Thursday pick-up between 4 - 6pm at Bachman Community Center

  • St. Albans Farmers Market, 7514 Hixson Pike

Saturday, 9.30am - 12.30pm with a free pancake breakfast every third Saturday  

  • Walker County Farmers Market

Wednesday, 2 - 5 pm, Rock Spring Ag. Center 

Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm, downtown Lafayette, Georgia

To include your farmers market, email

Dig in. (It's free)