Learning the Glycemic Effects of a Meal

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Think twice before getting rid of a favorite foodDo you ever worry that you are eliminating too many foods from your diet because they spike your blood glucose? Does the following story sound familiar? You ate some offending food at lunch, and then your post meal blood glucose was elevated.

Well, worry no more! It turns out that there are many possible reasons for hyperglycemia, including the amount of food eaten, exercise patterns, medications taken incorrectly, and much more. So before you decide to avoid a nutritious or favorite food in fear of raising your blood glucose, try testing that food or meal again.

The easiest way to learn the glycemic effect of a meal is by measuring blood glucose in pairs. First, test your blood glucose right before eating, then approximately two hours later. The difference between those two numbers is largely the effect of the meal (though you should remember that medications, exercise, hormones and more are also at play). Ideally, the two-hour rise in blood glucose will be no more than 40-mg/dl. Do not only rely on that post-meal measurement. It’s possible that your pre-meal blood glucose level was already elevated. For example, the pre-meal blood glucose level may be 180 mg/dl and the post-meal number is 200 mg/dl. Without knowing what your blood glucose level was prior to eating, you might believe that the elevation was the result of the most recent meal.

It’s also wise to test the effect of your favorite meals multiple times before making a judgment about the suitability of your food choices. This type of testing empowers people with diabetes to make the most healthful choices.

By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE

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