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“How will this food impact my blood sugar?”
If you’ve living with diabetes, you’ve likely asked yourself this question more than once.
It’s widely known that carbohydrates elevate blood sugar, but how much a specific food raises blood sugar can vary from one body to the next. It’s important to learn how different foods affect you.
One way to learn more about how foods impact your blood sugar is through a strategy called “paired testing.”
Think of paired testing as a type of experiment: A paired test is a method of checking your blood sugar before and after you eat to learn how your blood sugar changes in response to specific foods or meals.
How to Do Paired Testing for Blood Sugar
Paired testing for blood sugar is a simple experiment that you can try today. All you need is a glucose meter and a health data logging app like One Drop.
- Select a food or meal.
- Check your blood sugar before eating.
- Log the blood sugar in the One Drop app and label it as “pre-meal.”
- Eat the food or meal.
- Log what you ate and the portion size in the One Drop app.
- Check your blood sugar about two hours after your first bite of food.
- Log the blood sugar in the app and label it as “post-meal.”
- Analyze your results by subtracting your pre-meal reading from your post-meal reading. Example: Pre-meal blood sugar: 120; Post-meal blood sugar: 150; 150-120 = 30
- Repeat this process for a particular food or meal two to three times to confirm your results.
What Do Your Paired Testing Results Mean?
Individuals living without diabetes or with prediabetes may naturally have more stable blood sugar, while those living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may see greater blood sugar fluctuations.
Some people aim for a 30 point rise while others consider a 60 point rise reasonable. A meal that causes a rise greater than your target may prompt you to consider making changes to the meal. Work with your One Drop clinical health coach or healthcare provider to help determine your optimal pre- to post-meal blood sugar change.
Take Action on Your Paired Testing Results
If you find your blood sugar is rising more than you’d like after a particular meal or snack, here are a few things you could try:
- Eat a smaller amount of the food
- Limit the food to special occasions or an occasional treat
- Try adding protein, fat, or fiber to simple carbs to slow digestion and reduce risk of a blood spike spike followed by a crash
- Add physical activity after eating the food
- If you take a mealtime insulin, talk to your coach or healthcare provider about your dosing. Your insulin-to-carb ratio or correction factor may need adjusting.
Tips for Successful Paired Testing
For most foods, check either two or three hours after eating. Stick with the same timeframe, so you can compare readings of different foods.
Add extra checks for slow-digesting foods.
Meals containing protein, fat, or fiber may cause a more gradual or delayed rise in blood sugar. Try checking three, four, or even five hours after eating to understand their full effect.
Don’t spoil the sample.
Wash your hands before checking blood sugar. If there’s any food residue on your hands, it could give a falsely elevated reading.
For the most accurate data, test a food two or more times. You may find the time of day, stress levels, or other factors impact your results.
More Ways to Use Paired Testing for Blood Sugar
Food isn’t the only factor that causes blood sugar to go up or down. You can also test before and after other activities to see how they impact your blood sugar.
For example, you could test before and after:
- Physical activity, or exercise of any kind
- A stressful event
- A relaxing activity, like meditation or a massage
Remember: Your blood sugar meter is a tool you can use to investigate patterns in your own life and body. The more you know about your blood sugar, the better you will be able to manage it.
The Bottom Line
After learning about how to do paired testing to discover how different foods and situations affect your blood sugar, is there anything you’re curious to test out?
Your One Drop coach will be very interested to hear what you learn about yourself! Reach out any time to talk about the patterns, trends, or insights you discover.
Remember: when in doubt, test it out!
This article has been clinically reviewed by Alexa Stelzer, RDN, LD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.