There are few things that you can’t do as long as you are willing to apply yourself. —Greg LeMond
Diabetes affects almost 26 million people in the United States, and it stands to reason that many of those people work. Being gainfully employed can be rewarding and, very often, with benefits such as health insurance, a necessity. However, the workplace can add to the challenges of managing diabetes, in a number of ways. Take the time to think about what your diabetes care needs are and how they affect or fit into your workday, and make sure to plan for you and your diabetes on the job.
Ideally, you will carry your blood glucose meter with you to work. This allows you to carry out your usual monitoring routine, as well as spot-check your blood glucose level if the need arises. Be sure to note the temperature range at which your meter is guaranteed to work: Most meters will work at temperatures between 50˚F and 104˚F; a few will operate in somewhat colder or warmer conditions. Note the temperature range given for your test strips, as well, and store test strips in their original container to protect them from light, heat, and humidity. Medicines, including those used for diabetes, also have recommended temperature ranges at which they should be stored. That range should be noted on the written information or package insert that comes with your prescription.
If you work outside or in another environment that may be hotter or colder than the ideal temperature for your diabetes supplies, get an insulated bag and use a heating or cooling pack as needed.
For the protection of all the employees in your workplace, make sure you have a sharps container available to safely dispose of any lancets or needles you use during the workday. Some workplaces provide sharps containers, but if yours doesn’t, you will need to bring your own.
If you are at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), always keep items available for treatment. The best options to carry with you and/or keep at work are those that are portable, nonperishable, and do not need refrigeration, such as glucose tablets.
Proper nutrition is important for both good health and good performance at the job. Making healthy eating a priority can be difficult, however, if your workdays tend to be rushed.
Breakfast. If mornings are a particular problem, get things ready the night before. Set up the coffee pot and get out any dishes or utensils you’ll need. Have a back-up breakfast plan if you are unable to take a few minutes to sit down and eat. Keep healthy, on-the-go options on hand, such as dry cereal and fruit that can accompany you on your commute. Always measure out the amount you need so you can stick with your recommended carbohydrate intake for that particular meal. It is not wise to skip breakfast for a number of reasons. One is the possibility of developing hypoglycemia if you are at risk for it. This could actually delay you getting to work since you’d need to stop and treat it.
Office cafeteria. If your workplace has a cafeteria, it may be to your advantage to get to know the cooks. Let them know you are interested in healthy eating, and ask them to share information with you — such as the Nutrition Facts panels from labels of foods served in the cafeteria — so you can make appropriate choices for your meal plan. The cooks may be willing to modify certain recipes or use lower-fat cooking techniques if you ask. Simple adjustments like putting sauces on the side and grilling instead of frying go a long way toward healthier eating. Remember to show your appreciation and let the staff know they have made a difference by helping you stay on track with your meal plan.
Off-site food options. If you don’t have a cafeteria or similar place to buy meals at your workplace, you may head out to a restaurant, deli, or grocery store at mealtimes. On a regular basis, this option can get expensive and offer many challenges for healthful eating. However, you may be able to identify nearby restaurants with healthful choices or a good grocery store salad bar. Keep your meal plan in mind as you order, and aim for simple, low-fat dishes over heavily sauced meats and vegetables.