What Does “Take With Meals” Mean?


Ugh. I recently needed to be put on antibiotics. When the pharmacist didn't mention taking the meds with food, I questioned her about it.

"Yes, you sure can take with food, it won't hurt" was her reply.

Remembering that when I got home, I popped in some light food into my mouth, followed by the first dose of the meds. It didn't go well. I felt nauseous.

Taking medication with food is important

If you're confused about medication and when to eat food, let me clear that up for you.

"Take with meals" or "take with food" means to eat food at the same time or shortly before ingesting medication. Food is recommended at the time of ingesting certain medications because there is a chance that the medication can cause nausea without the buffer of food in the stomach."

Taking with the meal is important because some medications work so fast, that it affects your stomach before you know it.

This simple instruction of "take with meals" is open to confusion. Is it before the meal? After? In between? I'm not a doctor, but do have experience with taking medication. The important thing is to not take on an empty stomach.

This means having food in your stomach and giving the food a chance to get well into the stomach, providing a "cushion" before the medication drops into your system.

Food ideas to take with medication

If you've ever experienced taking Zinc, a known mineral supplement that definitely upsets a stomach, you soon learn the tricks to avoid that unpleasant feeling. By the way, the one trick with Zinc, is buy chelated zinc tablets

According to Healthline, chelated minerals are bound to a chelating agent, which are typically organic compounds or amino acids that help prevent the minerals from interacting with other compounds. All I know is that the lady at the health food store recommended the chelated zinc, and my tummy has been happy ever since.

Meal ideas to take with medication.

Meal ideas to take with medication.

New York Health Works recommends eating neutral foods like "crackers, rice, bread, peanut butter, and other neutral foods do a good job coating your stomach and prompting digestion, which helps your body to metabolize your medication efficiently."

I like to eat a bowl of yogurt or have a peanut butter sandwich in my stomach before taking medication. If you have a chance for a full meal, enjoy it and take the medication after. If you've ever experienced an upset stomach, you will take all precautions to avoid that yucky feeling!

Foods to avoid with medication

Did you know that there are certain foods that you should avoid taking with your medications? Believe it or not, certain foods can block the full absorption of your medication.

I want my medication to work, so I follow doctor's orders! I can't give medical advice, or talk on specifics, but some foods to avoid are common knowledge. Consumer Reports gives a very detailed list of what foods to avoid with specific medication. 

In general, avoid these foods with medication, but please refer to the Consumer Reports because it is very specific about more food examples an interactions with medication.

Here's a short list to avoid.

  • Leafy greens
  • Bananas
  • Citrus fruits
  • Salt substitutes
  • Black licorice 
  • Alcohol

Consumer Reports also mentions that it's not that you can't have the foods while on the medication, it may simply be a matter of not eating the foods within 2 hours of taking the medication.

The pharmacist made sure to tell me to not take my daily vitamins for a week and mentioned avoiding calcium tablets. As you can see on the bottle label in the picture, it reads "Take this medicine at least 2 hours before or 6 hours after taking antacids, iron, or vitamin/mineral supplements."

take food with medication

Warning labels on a medication bottle. There is no warning about taking with food.

By the way, the bottle was also labeled "You should avoid prolonged or excessive exposure to direct and/or artificial light while taking this medication." It is important to understand that your meds don't only help you heal a medical issue in a positive way, they can affect you in other negative ways.

Avoiding other medications

The pharmacist's job is to make sure that you understand how your different medications interact with each other. It's vital to know that some medicines can interfere with each other. This can result in nausea, or either medicine being less effective that it should.

The pharmacist may advise not to take medications within a certain time amount of each other. It's important as a patient to follow instructions carefully.

In conclusion

Always read the papers that accompany the medication. Even though the pharmacist is required to go over the medication with you, you may not get the full scoop. One time, one of my kids had a mild reaction after taking a medication. I read the fine print a little better in the paperwork and found out a few things that helped me understand better what was going on.

Be safe with your medication. There are all kinds of pill reminders that help space out medication. This is super helpful if you find yourself taking long-term medication.

As another tip, make sure that you your eyesight/eyeglasses are in check to read fine print, the hearing aids are working properly to catch everything the pharmacist is telling you.

Eat a good diet helps with judgement. Sometimes when people are sick or living alone, they don't eat as well as they should. This results in fatigue and tiredness, and that is where mistakes and confusion over medication are made.

Lastly, always monitor children and the elderly when taking medication that mistakes are not made. This actually is applicable to all age ranges. I find my husband and I teaming up these days to remind each other to take our daily vitamins. It's so hard to remember all the time!

Buddy up with a friend or family to always make sure best practices are followed when it comes to medication. Be well and stay healthy!

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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