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Life with Diabetes - A Rollercoaster of I am Proud of

Managing Glucose at Work

By Mark Green, Diabetes Specialist Dietitian

Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional about your diabetes management. Individual symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary.



Managing your glucose levels at work can make an already tricky task in managing your diabetes, even harder. From not being able to carb count, to doing some unexpected physical activity, or feeling stressed about that report looming over your head, it can be really difficult.

To try to help with this, Diabetes Specialist Dietitian Mark Green has put together his top tips for managing diabetes at work.

1. It’s OK to not be perfect

Your overall glucose control is based on your average time in target. Therefore, one meal of the day where things might not be perfect is OK. Accept that it is a difficult situation and just do your best. Meanwhile, double down on the other time periods of the day to improve your overall time in range.
For example, remaining in target glucose range overnight instantly improves your average glucose results by approximately a third. Entirely whilst you sleep.

2.             Use apps or reference amounts

Most people with diabetes will have flirted with using some form of carb counting app. ‘Carbs and cals’ can be worth its weight in gold to help where the carbohydrate information is not readily available, because it is pictorial. All you need to do is identify the carb foods on your plate, compare your portion against the nearest portion in the app and voila, you have a good estimate of the carb content.

Alternatively, keep note of reference amounts of carbohydrates at home ready for going to work. You can then use these reference amounts based on the portions you are given at work. For example, one palmful of rice at home will have the same carbohydrate content as a palmful of rice at work. A wrap will be the same whether at home or at work. You can then just count up these reference amounts for the carb information.

3.              Remember the basics

It’s easy to get caught up trying to scrutinise every single gram of carbohydrate. Secret carbs like in sauces can make it difficult.

However, try not to over analyse it. Even the most carbohydrate-abundant sauces will pale in comparison to the big hitters like rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, and dessert. For example, a portion of sweet and sour sauce (125g) provides about 15-20g of carbohydrate. Compared to a portion of rice (75g dry weight) which is about 50g. Therefore, you can see a slight miscalculation for the sauce hopefully won’t make a huge difference.

Keep in mind, it’s always best to underestimate than to overestimate your dose to avoid hypos.

4.              Use pre-packed items or prepare at home

An easy win is to opt for pre-packaged items. A sandwich and a cereal bar will tell you exactly how many carbohydrates are in each product. If you’d prefer not to rely on convenience foods, you can also bring in your own lunch where you have more ability to count the carbohydrates.

5.             Delayed absorption

Many work-based meals can be high in fat and protein. These two nutrients can delay the absorption of food and thus leave you with a glucose spike hours after eating.

Insulin pumps are ideal for combating this as you can extend your bolus to deliver insulin over a longer time period. However, if you don’t use a pump, splitting your mealtime dose between the start and the end of the meal, or injecting slightly later is also an option.

6.            You can always correct later

Even if you miscalculate your dose and your glucose levels spike, remember you can always correct your glucose levels later.

7.            Snacks

If you want a snack but prefer to minimise the amount of insulin you have to administer for food, especially if having to inject, try carb-free snacks. There are lots of carb-free options that do not require insulin. Nuts, carb-free bars, vegetable sticks, packs of meat or cheese all keep hunger at bay but require no insulin.

8.            Carbs for physical activity

If you become unexpectedly physically busy at work, it can leave you prone to hypos. Sometimes if your glucose levels are already high, this can be a welcome reduction. However, if you are running in the single glucose figures, eating between 20-60g carbohydrate per hour (5-20 jelly babies), depending on how busy you are, can help prevent hypos.

9.            Ask

The simplest option is often just to ask for the nutritional information. Nowadays many food establishments have their nutritional information readily available and so it can never hurt to ask.

10.          Enjoy what you eat

The most important thing is to enjoy food. As long as you do your best to moderate portions and check your glucose levels, why not grab a slice of pizza with colleagues, or have a slice of cake to celebrate someone’s birthday? Remember, you’re in control.

There you have it, my top tips for managing your glucose levels at work.

If you’re interested in learning more about managing your diabetes while working, catch up on the FreeStyle Connect Work-Life-Diabetes event recording for inspirational stories and other practical tips.

Mark Green is an accredited dietitian working as a diabetes specialist at University Hospital Southampton and a personal trainer. He shares his time between inpatient care, education, clinics, community care and service development, working with patient groups including Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, MODY and gestational diabetes. Mark also has a blog Diabetes Diet Guy – where he writes about lifestyle changes and insulin dose adjustments to further support people living with diabetes.

Life with Diabetes - A Rollercoaster of I am Proud of

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