If your blood sugar sometimes runs a little high—and most definitely if you have prediabetes or diabetes—you’ll get lots of advice about what to eat but rarely what to eat first in a meal. But the order of what you eat can make a big difference in your blood sugar response.

In a small pilot study of overweight people with type 2 diabetes, on days when they ate carbs at lunch first (ciabatta bread, orange juice), followed 15 minutes later by the foods rich in protein plus some fat (grilled chicken breast, salad with low-fat dressing, steamed broccoli with butter), their blood sugar levels were more than one-third higher 60 minutes later—compared to days on which they reversed the order and ate the protein-rich dish first. Insulin levels were higher, too.

It makes the common practice of munching from the bread basket before your main dish arrives particularly suspect! Instead, whether you’re at home or eating out, try starting your meal with something that’s high in protein, with some good fats, and perhaps even fiber-rich veggies—for example, veggies and hummus, peanut butter and celery or chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce—before you eat any carb-rich food. What you eat still matters, of course, but eating foods in the right order might help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking after a meal. It also helps if you’re a little hungry before you eat.