Eat to Your Meter

Eating to your meter involves testing before and after a meal to understand its effect on your blood glucose
Eating to your meter involves testing before and after a meal to understand its effect on your blood glucose

Eat to your meter is a phrase used to describe the use of systematic blood glucose testing to inform the dietary choice of appropriate foods and quantities of foods for good diabetes control.

Using the ‘eat to your meter’ system is of particular use to people with type 2 diabetes.

If you are on insulin, the principles of eating to your meter can be applied but you must take care not to increase your risk of hypos.

How to eat to your meter

To get started, you will need:

Take the following steps:

  • Test your blood glucose before a meal and record the result
  • Have your meal and record what you ate
  • Test your blood glucose levels 2 hours after having started your meal and record the result
  • Test your blood glucose levels 4 hours after having started your meal and record the result

Also note down any other factor that may affect your blood glucose levels, this could include any activity carried out earlier in the day or after eating or any periods of stress or illness.

Making sense of the results

The aims of eating to your meter is in identifying the foods or meals that lead to a larger rise in your blood sugar levels after eating and the foods and meals that lead to a smaller rise after eating.

This helps you to tailor your diet towards the foods that help you to meet the guideline blood glucose targets.

If a meal causes a large rise in blood glucose levels at the 2 hour mark, you may wish or need to either remove this meal from your regular diet or look to reduce the size of the portion you had of it.

Note that it is the rise in your sugar levels you are looking for. To find the rise, take your result 2 hours after eating and subtract from this your before meal reading.

Similarly, it is also worth looking at difference between the result 4 hours after eating and your before meal reading when deciding whether a meal is suitable for you.

An example of eating to your meter

It helps to run through an example to see how eating to your meter can be applied.

In the example below, we look at two meals in which we take readings before the meal (A), 2 hour after eating (B) and 4 hours after eating (C).

Meal Before
meal result
(A)
2 hours
after eating
(B)
2 hour
rise
(B-A)
4 hours after eating
(C)
4 hour
rise
(C-A)
2 egg sandwiches (white bread) 5.0 11.0 6.0 7.0 2.0
Pork chop and swede mash 7.0 11.0 4.0 8.0 1.0

To assess the best meal for blood glucose levels, we need to look at the columns marked ‘2 hour rise’ and ‘4 hour rise’.

In this example, the pork chops and swede mash show the best results as it produces a smaller rise at both the 2 hour and 4 hour mark.

So, in this example, we may want to consider either having egg sandwiches less regularly in our diet or to test again to see if having egg sandwiches with whole grain bread produces better blood sugar readings.

Note this is just an example and you may find that you have different results to those above. The best way to see how your own body responds is to try it out for yourself.

Prepare for surprises

Be prepared to get some surprising results. It’s not uncommon for people with diabetes to get results that don’t match their expectations.

Take porridge as an example, some people find their sugar levels respond very well to porridge whereas other members find it can lead to too sharp a rise in blood glucose levels. Whilst porridge is widely regarded as being a healthy breakfast, it’s well worth testing to see whether your body copes well with it.

Note also, when testing foods or meals, it’s often worth re-testing foods at least to build up a fair picture of how it affects your sugar levels as irregular results can sometimes occur for different reasons.

Benefits of eating to your meter

There are a number of benefits to support eating to your meter:

Allows you to tailor your diet your own individual needs

We’re all individuals and how different foods affect different people can vary substantially. Eating to your meter helps you to test how much different foods and meals affect your own sugar levels.

Effective at reducing high blood glucose levels after meals

As after meal periods can account for around a third of the day, improving your after meal blood glucose results can have a significant effect on lowering your HbA1c.

Reduce unpleasant symptoms of high sugar levels

It stands to reason that by reducing your sugar levels after meals, this will help to reduce the effect of symptoms linked to high sugar levels such as tiredness, hunger, brain fog and increased need to urinate.

Build confidence in your control

As you begin to build a greater understanding of how different foods affect your blood glucose levels and your sugar levels start to improve as a result, this will not only help you feel better but build your confidence in your diabetes control.

Disadvantages of eating to your meter

Testing blood glucose levels is an essential part of eating to your meter so you will need to get used to taking blood tests. Blood glucose testing is not always pain free but it has become easier as technology has improved and most people get used to and comfortable with testing once the first few tests have been done.

In addition, cost can be an issue. If you get blood glucose test strips supplied this may not be an issue. If your doctor is not happy to prescribe test strips or only happy to prescribe limited amounts, you may need to personally buy some of your test strips.

Help at hand

If you have type 2 diabetes and need to buy your own test strips, Diabetes.co.uk can help you out. The Type 2 Testing programme provides test strips at a reduced cost along with education and support to help you get the most out of blood glucose testing.

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