Altering Meal Times

Knowing how to plan meals is an important part of managing all types of diabetes. Eating meals and snacks at the same time every day helps control blood sugar levels. Sometimes, it is not always possible to do this. Schedules change, special occasions arise or travel plans may make it necessary to change meal times. By using the tips below, you can control your diabetes even when meal times vary.

What if your dinner will be later than usual? Usually, you can eat a meal 1 hour before or after your normal mealtime without any effect on your blood sugar levels. If your dinner will be two or more hours later, eat your evening snack close to your usual dinner time. Then, eat your dinner at your usual snack time. This will help avoid low blood sugars at dinner. It will also keep you from getting too hungry.

What to do at a brunch? For brunch, it is still best to eat a small "snack-type" meal (fruit and a slice of toast with margarine) at your normal breakfast time. This small meal will keep you from eating too much at the brunch. If you do take insulin or diabetes pills, take your dosage at the normal time. Your doctor can advise you in this matter. After the brunch, eat your afternoon snack at its normal time.

What can you do about holidays? Often, the holiday meal is served at noon. Eat your normal breakfast. Have the bigger meal for lunch and a lighter "lunch-sized" meal (sandwich and fruit) for dinner. If you have a bigger lunch, an afternoon snack may not be needed. If the holiday meal is in the middle of the afternoon, eat your breakfast at the normal time. Also, have a late morning snack. An evening snack may or may not be needed.

What happens when you have delays at restaurants? If you take insulin or other diabetes pills and your restaurant meal is delayed for one hour or more, eat a small portion of carbohydrate (about 15 grams or 1 slice of bread, 6 crackers or 4 oz. of juice) while you are waiting. This will prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low.

What happens when there are delays while traveling? No matter how well you plan your trip, delays can happen. The wise traveler always keeps healthy foods within easy reach. These snacks can be used when travel is delayed or when driving or flying for long periods.

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Important things to remember Everyone with diabetes should have a meal plan. A dietitian or diabetes educator can help you with a meal plan:

  • Adjust meals and snacks so you get a normal amount of food throughout the day.
  • Plan ahead. If you know a meal is going to be late, take a snack with you. This will help keep you from getting too hungry.
  • Be sure to check your blood sugar levels closely when your normal meal times are changed. Always return to your normal meal pattern as soon as you can.

How can your doctor help you? If you do not have a meal plan or do not know how to adjust meals for special occasions, your doctor, dietitian or diabetes educator will be able to help. Your doctor can also explain how insulin and any other diabetes pills might affect your need to eat at certain times of the day to avoid low blood sugar levels.