The #1 Eating Rule To Follow if You Have Low Blood Sugar

If you have ever experienced low blood sugar with diabetes, then you already know the importance of constantly monitoring your levels to make sure you get them back to where they need to be. There are ways to balance them, including maintaining specific eating and drinking habits; however, if you are in need of an immediate boost, what can you do to help prevent a more serious issue?

Thankfully, there’s a method to balance your blood sugar if your levels are low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the #1 eating rule you should follow if your glucose needs to be elevated is the 15-15 Rule.

The importance of raising low blood sugar

At times, you may be unaware of the signs that you have low blood sugar. Being more cautious as well as paying attention to the variety of symptoms that may occur can help you know when it’s time to take action.

“Most of the time when people experience low blood sugar, it’s because of one of three things, or a combination of the three,” Amy Goodson MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian on our medical expert board, tells Eat This, Not That!

  1. They have not eaten a meal or snack in a while.
  2. They ate a carbohydrate-heavy meal or sugary a snack.
  3. They ate a meal with little to no protein.

“In all cases, your blood sugar can drop, leaving you feeling lethargic and fatigued. Other symptoms can include headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and even feeling shaky,” Goodson explains.

Aside from these symptoms, low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can also lead to more serious side effects. By being left untreated, you may suffer from problems like blurred vision, slurred speech, numbness, and drowsiness, along with difficulty concentrating and confused thinking. In worse cases, continuing to ignore your low levels may lead to your brain starving from not getting enough glucose. This can potentially lead to seizures and coma.

“The goal is to keep a stable blood sugar throughout the day by eating smaller, frequent meals containing high-fiber carbohydrates and protein,” Goodson says. “This helps blood sugar gradually rise and gradually lower versus having blood sugar spikes and drops.”

Although this is the desired routine to keep your levels at bay, nobody’s perfect. You may skip a meal on a busy day or just make poor eating choices. If this happens and your blood sugar declines to a level between 55-69 mg/dL, that’s where the 15-15 Rule comes into play.6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e

What is the 15-15 Rule for low blood sugar?

The CDC defines the 15-15 Rule as “having 15 grams of carbs and checking your blood sugar after 15 minutes.”

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If you follow this rule once and your levels are still below 70 mg/dL, repeat the method by having another 15 grams of carbs and waiting another 15 minutes. You can do this as many times as needed until you achieve a healthy target range.

“When blood sugar gets too low, you need a ‘shot’ of sugar to help bring it back to the normal range,” Goodson says. “Consuming 15 grams of simple carbohydrates like juice, candy, fruit chews, processed carbohydrate, etc. will digest quickly and can help raise blood sugar. But, it takes a few minutes for that to happen, hint the second 15 in the rule.”

Although a general rule of thumb for getting your blood sugar levels back to normal, there is still more to be done than eating carbs and waiting a certain amount of time on loop until you feel better.

“The challenge is that low blood sugar can make you feel poorly and cause people to eat more sugar or carbohydrate than necessary (the 15 grams), setting themselves up for another blood sugar spike and drop soon after,” Goodson explains. “The goal is to consume the quick-digesting carbohydrate, wait approximately 15 minutes, then consume a more balanced meal or snack of high-fiber carbs and protein once you feel better. Because protein and fiber digest slower, they help stabilize blood sugar after a meal/snack, helping to prevent a blood sugar drop.”

The best foods to raise low blood sugar

When selecting foods to consume for the 15-15 Rule, the trick is to find carbs that match exactly 15 grams. Not more, not less.

“If a person finds themselves with low blood sugar, they can consume15 grams of carbohydrate by drinking 4 oz of juice, eating fruit snacks or hard candy (the equivalent of 15 grams of carbohydrate will vary based on brand), glucose tablets (basically, sugar in tablet form), or approximately one tablespoon of honey,” says Goodson.

— Update: 16-03-2023 — found an additional article The Rule of 15 for Diabetes from the website for the keyword 15 15 rule diabetes.

The rule of 15 is recommended by the American Diabetes Association to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Through this method, a person can safely increase their blood sugar levels when they drop dangerously low. 

The Rule of 15 says: if your blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre), eat a snack that has 15 grams of rapid acting carbohydrates.

After 15 minutes, recheck your blood sugar. Did it increase to a safe level? If so, you’re in the clear. If not, have another 15 grams of carbs and wait another 15 minutes to recheck your blood sugar. 

Repeat these steps until your blood sugar is back in its target range.

How does the Rule of 15 for diabetes work? Here’s everything you need to know. 

The Relationship Between Blood Sugar, Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

Blood sugar, also called glucose or blood glucose, is the primary type of sugar found in the blood. Glucose travels through the bloodstream, fueling the cells and providing the body with energy. 

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The body gets most of its glucose from the carbohydrate-rich foods we eat, such as corn, potatoes, rice, and fruits.

Insulin, a hormone created by the pancreas, works 24/7 to help regulate the amount of glucose in the blood and is responsible for the critical process that turns food into energy. 

When the body does not produce enough insulin naturally, produces too much insulin, or doesn’t use the insulin properly, this leads to a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream, which can lead to diabetes. 

The normal range for blood sugar is around 90 to 110 mg/dL. When blood sugar drops below the normal range and reaches 70 mg/dL, this is called hypoglycemia.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Although anyone can experience hypoglycemia, it’s most common in people who have type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or other medications that control blood sugar. 

Hypoglycemia is a medical emergency. If you’re at risk of hypoglycemia, it’s essential to be aware of the early signs and symptoms of this condition, in order to treat it before it leads to organ damage, brain damage, seizures, and/or other serious complications. 

Know the early signs and symptoms of low blood sugar:

  • Shakiness 
  • Dizziness 
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Skin turns pale
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue or cheek
  • Nightmares and night sweats (if asleep)

If hypoglycemia goes untreated, symptoms may progress to:

  • Extreme confusion 
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Losing consciousness
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Muscle weakness
  • Possible death

It’s possible to have hypoglycemia unawareness, which means a person has low blood sugar but doesn’t notice the symptoms. People with hypoglycemia unawareness are at a greater risk of developing severe symptoms (like confusion, slurred speech, seizures and intense drowsiness) as they don’t recognize the initial warning signs. 

It may be best for a person with hypoglycemia unawareness to wear a continuous glucose monitor that measures blood glucose levels every few minutes to prevent hypoglycemia. 

Using the Rule of 15 to Treat Hypoglycemia

How does the Rule of 15 help to safely treat hypoglycemia? 

When you consume carbohydrates, the body breaks those carbs down, turning them into glucose. This increases the level of glucose in the blood, and therefore, raises blood sugar levels.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia are unpleasant, so a person who experiences them may want to eat a lot in a short amount of time to quickly raise blood sugar and alleviate the symptoms. 

Eating too many carbs too quickly can cause blood sugar levels to spike too high, leading to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). The Rule of 15 safeguards a person against a blood sugar spike, by regulating the amount of carbs consumed (15 grams) and the amount of time to wait  (15 minutes) before rechecking blood sugar and eating another 15g of carbs if necessary.

Here’s what a snack with 15 grams of carbohydrates may be:

  • 4 glucose tablets (chewable tablets made of sugar)
  • 1 tube of glucose gel 
  • ½ cup of fruit juice or regular soda (not diet)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup
  • Hard candies or gumdrops (see nutrition label for how many to consume)
  • 6 jelly beans
  • 5 lifesavers

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If a person with diabetes has severe low blood sugar and is not able to be treated safely with the Rule of 15, glucagon is used. Glucagon is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. In cases of severe hypoglycemia, a person may inject glucagon into the affected person’s bloodstream. 

People who are at risk of severe low blood sugar are at risk of falling unconscious and not being able to inject themselves. It’s important to tell friends, family members and coworkers where the glucagon kit is located and how to use it in case of an emergency. 

What causes low blood sugar?

The are a number of reasons that may explain low blood glucose, including:

  • Having type 1 diabetes
  • Having type 2 diabetes
  • Taking insulin or other diabetic medications
  • Not eating enough, or skipping a meal
  • Getting more physical activity than usual
  • Drinking alcohol

While it’s possible to develop hypoglycemia without diabetes, it is most common in people with diabetes. 

We’ll help you prevent or manage hypoglycemia.

The best treatment method for hypoglycemia is preventative treatment. It’s important to minimize the risk factors associated with hypoglycemia, by living a healthy lifestyle, getting enough physical activity, and eating a protein-rich, balanced diet.

For a person who is at risk of hypoglycemia or has had hypoglycemia before, managing blood sugar levels is essential to preventing serious health problems, such as heart disease.

Whether you’re looking to prevent hypoglycemia or manage hypoglycemia, our experienced doctors at UCF Health are here to help you. 

One of our top-rated endocrinologists in Orlando will create a treatment plan that helps you manage your symptoms and/or prevent various risk factors. 

We understand how scary it can be to live with diabetes or to have experienced blood sugar readings below 70 mg/dL. We are by your side, here to help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and advise you on precautions to prevent further complications.

The UCF Health diabetes program translates evidence-based medical science into a three-prong approach that focuses on medication, healthy diet, and exercise.

All of our doctors are focused on providing a comfortable, convenient patient experience, and offering the highest quality of healthcare services available.

Once you visit one of our healthcare providers, our new patient portal allows you to view lab results, send secure messages to your doctor, view statements and receipts, and manage prescriptions. If you’re managing the healthcare of a family member, you may be granted digital access to their record (with proper permission).

See our COVID-19 updates for patients, so you know your options and know what to expect when you visit us! 

Use our online scheduling tool to schedule an appointment with a leading endocrinologist near you today.


  1. “Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose).” Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) | ADA,,at%20least%2070%20mg%2FdL
  2. “Hypoglycemia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 Mar. 2020,


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