Mary Ellen Phipps

Mary Ellen Phipps

Mary Ellen Phipps, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition, is a diabetes dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) renowned for combining her knowledge of diabetes and culinary expertise into easy-to-follow recipes and articles!

50 Nutrient Dense Foods for Stable Blood Sugar

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nutrient dense foods examples

This post is sponsored by GoodMeasure. All thoughts and ideas are my own.

In this post we’ll explore some nutrient dense foods for stable blood sugars and some of my favorite ways to enjoy those foods. 

The term nutrient density is getting a lot of time in the media lately and rightfully so! So, what are some nutrient dense foods that help promote stable blood sugars?

What does nutrient dense mean?

Before we get started, let’s review the nutrient dense foods definition… We know food is more than just fuel or ingredients you can recognize… Food should actively provide your body with essential nutrients you need, right? So, the nutrient density of a food refers to the contribution of these nutrients and other food components per calorie of that food. The more nutrients a food provides/calorie, the more nutrient dense it is. This may include foods high in vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like carbohydrates, fat, and protein. 

Let’s talk about nutrient density and food

The more nutrients we can get from a calorie of a food, the more nutrient dense it is. But, there’s another term related to this we should review as well: energy density.

Nutrient density vs energy density

While related, nutrient density is not the same thing as energy density. Energy density refers to the amount of calories contributed by a certain quantity of food.

Which nutrient has the greatest energy density?

Nutrient dense foods can also be energy dense. We’ll cover some examples of those types of foods below. Before we get there though, let’s do a quick review of the nutrients that contribute energy:

  • Carbohydrate (1g) – 4 calories
  • Protein (1g) – 4 calories
  • Fat (1g) – 9 calories

What do you think of as nutrient rich foods?

Many people think of fruits, veggies, whole grains and more as examples of nutrient dense foods. And they’re correct! But, we can also include more energy dense foods in our list as well… things like nuts, seeds, avocado, etc. These are examples of foods that are both energy dense and nutrient dense. A nutrient dense food can contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and more!

Best foods to eat to keep blood sugar stable

So, how does this all relate to managing blood sugar levels? If you’re looking to keep blood sugars stable we need to consider which nutrient dense foods are better foods for stable blood sugars. 

“Stable blood sugars” refers to how high your blood sugar goes after you eat, how long it stays high, and whether your blood sugar dips too low before stabilizing again.

Foods that keep blood sugar stable and have little impact on blood sugar

Foods that keep blood sugars balanced include foods that are rich in blood sugar friendly ingredients and/or foods that have little impact on blood sugar. Some examples include:

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

In fact, one of my favorite packaged foods, includes many of these ingredients: Good Measure Bars. They start with nutrient dense foods for ingredients and have little impact on blood sugar. (I’ve tested this fact on myself many times! 🙂

good measure bars

Note: While these foods generally help keep blood sugars stable, not everyone responds the exact same way to food, so it’s important to pay attention your individual response to different foods. 

What are nutrient dense foods examples?

High nutrient density foods include things like fruit, veggies, whole grains, plant based fats, and more. The foods we consume on a daily basis have a direct impact on our health and wellness.The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend including nutrient-dense foods, like the ones I mentioned, into your diet to help support a healthy lifestyle.

Keep reading for 50 of my favorite nutrient dense foods that also help promote stable blood sugars.

nutrient dense foods for stable blood sugars

50 Nutrient Dense Foods for Stable Blood Sugar

Now that we’ve covered what nutrient density is, what energy density is, and what we look for in foods for stable blood sugars, let’s take a look at 50 nutrient dense foods for stable blood sugars. These foods all come from different food groups and thus will impact blood sugars differently depending on the serving size you consume and the food group it comes from. We’ll dive into each group in more detail below. And remember, this is not an exhaustive list and there are tons of other nutrient dense foods you can and should enjoy and still have stable blood sugars. 

50 nutrient dense foods for stable blood sugars
  1. Broccoli
  2. Carrots
  3. Onions
  4. Spinach
  5. Beets
  6. Celery
  7. Brussel sprouts
  8. Cauliflower
  9. Asparagus
  10. Artichokes
  11. Grapes
  12. Apples
  13. Prunes
  14. Blueberries
  15. Strawberries
  16. Blackberries
  17. Raspberries
  18. Tart cherries
  19. Pears
  20. Avocados
  21. Oats
  22. Quinoa
  23. Brown rice
  24. Buckwheat
  25. Farro
  26. Popcorn
  27. Barley
  28. Wheat berries
  29. Almonds and almond butter
  30. Peanuts and peanut butter
  31. Walnuts
  32. Pistachios
  33. Pecans
  34. Pumpkin seeds
  35. Sunflower seeds
  36. Hemp seeds
  37. Chia seeds
  38. Lean beef
  39. Chicken breast
  40. Eggs
  41. Beans
  42. Lentils
  43. Salmon
  44. Tuna
  45. Tilapia
  46. Shrimp
  47. Tofu
  48. Greek yogurt
  49. Cottage cheese
  50. Edamame

Nutrient dense vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and typically have little impact on blood sugar levels. Some of my favorites include:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes

Nutrient dense fruits

While fruit does contain natural sugar, it also contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals. And, there’s ample research to support including fruit in your diet can help promote stable blood sugar levels. The fruits below are great options!

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Prunes
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Tart cherries
  • Pears
  • Avocados
highbush blueberries

Nutrient dense whole grains

Whole grains can impact blood sugars but they can also help keep blood sugars stable over time and throughout your day. Choose whole grains over refined grains, and grains that are higher in fiber and/or protein like the ones listed below. 

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Farro
  • Popcorn
  • Barley
  • Wheat berries

Nutrient dense nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds fall into both the nutrient dense and energy dense categories, AND they also will typically have little impact on blood sugars! Some of my favorites include:

  • Almonds and almond butter
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
pumpkin seeds

Don’t forget to check out Good Measure bars which start with nutrient rich ingredients  like peanuts, almonds, peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, and have little impact on blood sugar!

Nutrient dense proteins

Proteins are one of the best tools we have to help promote stable blood sugars. Ideally, choose options that are low in added sugar and/or saturated fats. 

  • Lean beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Tilapia
  • Shrimp
  • Tofu
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Edamame
nutrient dense eggs

How to pick nutrient dense foods for stable blood sugars

When looking for nutrient dense foods that help support stable blood sugars levels, remember to look for foods rich in fat, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals! The list included in this post is a great start, and there are so many others too!And don’t forget, look for these ingredients in the packaged foods you choose as well! One of my favorite snacks that combines several of these ingredients into one delicious bar is Good Measure bars. They’re delicious and have little impact on blood sugar.

good measure bars three flavors with nutrient dense foods

More to explore...

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Baked Homemade Cinnamon Sugar Donuts (Gluten-Free)

These donuts are warm, sweet, tasty, and made with just the right amount of spice. They’re blood sugar friendly cinnamon sugar donuts that pair perfectly with your favorite coffee or tea!

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