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Tips For Managing Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you know it's important to keep your blood glucose levels under good control. That means eating right, being physically active, managing your weight, checking your blood glucose readings and taking any prescribed medications—all steps for managing diabetes that you can control. To help manage your food plan without giving up taste, see our Healthy Living Recipes for ideas.

Your Diabetes Meal Plan—Personalized Just for You

A healthful meal plan plays an essential part in helping you avoid high and low blood glucose throughout the day, reducing your risk for health problems such as heart disease and stroke, and helping to prevent, delay or manage diabetes-related complications.

You may want to have a meal plan designed for you by a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), who works closely with your doctor. The RD or CDE takes into account your lifestyle, your food preferences, whether you need to lose weight or lower your blood cholesterol or blood pressure, and any medications you’re taking.

There’s no single “diabetes diet,” but generally, following the healthful eating guidelines of food pyramid servings are good for people who have type 2 diabetes and those who don’t. And because type 2 diabetes tends to run in families, healthful eating habits, along with regular physical activity, may help family members who are at risk for diabetes, too. Learn about diabetes risk.

Your RD or CDE will help you establish a meal plan that includes:

  • A variety of foods from the MyPyramid food groups, with emphasis on fiber-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and low fat or fat free dairy products.
  • Moderate amount of carbohydrates at each meal and snack.
  • Modest portions of unsaturated fats (i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) such as those in salmon, nuts and vegetables oil.
  • Limited amounts of foods containing saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.
  • Three to six planned meals and snacks a day, allowing no more than four to five hours between a meal or snack.
  • Total calories and appropriate portion sizes to meet your weight management goals.

No Sugar-Coating: All Carbohydrates Count

Carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables and dairy products, plus sweet foods such as cookies, cake, ice cream, soft drinks, honey and table sugar.

When managing diabetes, it’s important to monitor all the carbohydrates you eat because, regardless of the source, carbohydrates are quickly broken down by the body into glucose in your body.

This might surprise you if you thought you only needed to be careful about the sugar in your diet or that choosing “sugar free” foods was enough. But the fact is carbohydrates from any source are quickly broken down by the body into glucose.

The goal is to monitor the total amount of carbohydrates you take in and eat about the same amount at each meal and snack according to your meal plan. Your RD or CDE may teach you to count the grams of carbohydrates you consume to manage your blood glucose levels.

For special occasions, you can enjoy desserts and other sweet foods with some smart planning.

The Lowdown on Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can help you manage your blood glucose and your weight. A good goal is to be active for 30 minutes on most days of the week (60 minutes is recommended if you want to lose weight). It’s fine to accumulate this amount in shorter time periods of 10 or 15 minutes. What’s more, you can choose activities you like: brisk walking, swimming, biking, dancing, strength training—even housework and gardening!

If you haven’t been active for a while, walking briskly for five or 10 minutes a day is a terrific start to managing diabetes. Before you begin, check with your doctor or CDE to learn how to fit physical activity into your meal plan and medication schedule.

Learn more about exercise.

Blood Glucose—Check!

Your blood glucose levels are affected by what and how much you eat, how physically active you are, what medications you take, and whether you’re sick or under stress.

An important part of managing diabetes is checking and recording your blood glucose levels daily as recommended by your doctor, CDE or RD. They may also ask you to keep a food diary, listing what, how much, when you eat and when you take your medications. This information helps your diabetes care team adjust your meal plan, physical activity or medications to keep your blood glucose in good control.

Checking your blood glucose is especially important if you are recently diagnosed with diabetes or when you have trouble keeping your blood glucose in control. Your doctor may also periodically give you an A1C test to check the average amount of glucose that’s been in your blood for the previous two or three months. This test is another measure of whether your blood glucose is in control.


A Team Effort

When you’re managing diabetes, you’re not alone. You’ll see your doctor, CDE and/or RD for regular check-ups. You also may see specialists, such as an ophthalmologist, podiatrist, exercise physiologist or mental health professional.

The bottom line is that together, you and your team can manage your diabetes. It’s a great feeling to be in control!

For more information about diabetes

To locate an RD in your area, go to the American Dietetic Association Web site at and click on the Find a Nutrition Professional link.

To locate a CDE in your area, go to the American Association of Diabetes Educators website.

The American Diabetes Association:

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