Your glucose levels should generally be 140 to 180 mg/dL after eating. But they can rise higher depending on many other factors, including your age and what food or drink you’ve consumed.

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The foods and drinks you consume can make your glucose levels rise quickly or more gradually at time. People with diabetes must juggle those fluctuations along with many other issues, including how much insulin they may need for food and beverages.

But knowing exactly what’s considered “normal” for glucose levels can be tricky, given differing clinical guidance and how so much of diabetes management — and healthcare, overall — is individualized. That means what is a recommended glucose goal or target range for one person, may not be the same for someone else.

This article will provide the latest on clinical guidance when it comes to glucose levels after eating, whether you have diabetes or not and if low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) is something you experience.

Known as post-prandial, your blood sugars after you start eating and drinking are an important measure in your overall health — particularly if you live with any type of diabetes.

Because food raises blood sugar, most guidelines focus on the higher end of a glucose level rather than the full range often seen before anything’s eaten.

After eating
Adults with diabetes
(see guidance)
< 180 mg/dL
(1 or 2 hours)
Adults without diabetes
(see guidance)
<140 mg/dL
Children and adolescents
(see guidance)
no set recommendation,
generally < 180 mg/dL
Pregnant people
(see guidance)
< 120 (2 hours after)
< 140 (1 hour after)

Typically, 2 hours after you finish eating, your blood sugars should return to “normal.” Although, again, depending on what you eat and drink and how much insulin’s dosed, that postprandial effect can vary dramatically.

The post-prandial glucose range may differ for children and teens, as well as for older adults with diabetes who might live with higher glucose levels because of safety concerns such as falling (more common in older adults with diabetes who experience hypoglycemia).

In its annual guidelines, the ADA states “less stringent” glucose goals may be appropriate for those who can’t sense if they have hypoglycemia or are more prone to severe hypo events.

While clinical guidelines offer a consensus, the numbers provided do vary. In more recent years, most diabetes and medical organizations have encouraged personalized, individualized goals that may change based on many factors beyond just the food you eat. Those other factors may include:

  • age
  • type of diabetes
  • the amount of insulin you take
  • how much exercise you get
  • complications or other health conditions you may have
  • other medications you take

Importantly, there’s no “textbook definition” for what your blood sugars should be at any given time.

It’s best to discuss with your doctors and diabetes care team any specific goals or target ranges that you may have, after eating or at other times. This is just one part of the picture in managing your diabetes and health overall, including the mental aspect of tracking your blood sugars.

Remember, blood sugars are just data points. They do not define you, and they don’t indicate whether you’re “good” or “bad” in your diabetes management or healthcare overall.

Your body breaks down everything you eat and drink, absorbing that into your body and converting parts of that into sugar and energy for your body to use.

Foods that have what’s known as a high glycemic index (white bread, sugary and starchy foods) are rapidly digested and can cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. Foods with a lower glycemic index, and those with fats and protein, are digested more slowly and lead to a more gradual rise in your blood sugar levels.

That’s why your blood sugars will jump quickly if you eat candy or drink a cup of orange juice, compared to when you eat a slice of pizza or crackers with peanut butter.

For people with diabetes, their bodies don’t produce or use insulin properly in order to naturally regulate their blood sugar levels. That’s why their glucose levels may be much higher, compared to someone without diabetes whose body naturally makes insulin for the foods and drinks they consume in order to keep glucose levels regulated.

You can read more here about how food affects your blood sugar levels.

Any time you’re worried about your glucose levels is a time to consult with your doctor or healthcare team.

If you’re experiencing high or low blood sugars after eating (or at any other time), you may want to discuss possible changes to your care plan. That may include changing insulin correction amounts for the food you’re consuming, as it may not be accurate. You might also need to adjust your background insulin amounts, if those are leading to out-of-range glucose levels after eating.

Do not make any changes to your medication dosages or diabetes care plan without first talking with your healthcare team.

Your glucose levels should be around 140 to 180 mg/dL after eating, according to the consensus of clinical guidance from diabetes experts and other medical professionals. But blood sugars can rise higher depending on many other factors, including the type of food or drink you’ve consumed.

Children and teenagers may have different post-prandial goals compared to a nonpregnant adult, whereas someone older who deals with hypoglycemia may also have varying targets after eating. You should consult with your diabetes and healthcare team to discuss your preferred post-prandial blood sugars and what may be best for you.