Diabetes Management 101

Diabetes Diet, Diabetes Exercise, Diabetes Lifestyle, Diet, Exercise

Middle Aged Couple
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, managing your blood glucose levels and disease will involve a three-pronged approach: developing a healthy eating plan, exercising and taking medication.

Your healthcare team will work with you to develop a customized management plan that covers all three aspects.

Healthy Eating Plan

As someone who has diabetes, you’ll need to watch your eating habits, including how you consume regular meals and snacks. A dietitian can help develop a plan specific to your needs, especially if you have any food allergies or sensitivities. You won’t have to deprive yourself or eat only “special” foods. You will need to learn how the food you eat affects your blood sugar levels. It will be important to choose nutritious foods that help you maintain steady levels and a healthy weight.

Carbohydrates will become a particularly important component of your diet because they break down into glucose. They have a large effect on your blood sugar level, so you’ll need to pay particular attention to these kinds of foods. You may want to learn about foods that are low on the glycemic index, which means they’ll have less of an effect on your blood sugar.

In general, you’ll need to eat plenty of the following foods:

  • Heart-healthy fish such as salmon and tuna
  • Foods high in fiber such as green or yellow vegetables, fruits and nuts
  • Healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains and low-fat dairy products
  • “Good” fats such as those contained in almonds, avocados, and canola, olive or peanut oils

You’ll avoid these foods:

  • Cholesterol-packed foods such as full-fat dairy products and egg yolks
  • Foods high in saturated fats such as bacon and sausage
  • Trans fats which are found in baked goods and stick margarines
  • Foods with lots of refined sugar, like candy, pastries and soft drinks


Exercise is important if you have diabetes because it provides a variety of wide-ranging benefits. Being overweight is a contributing factor for type 2 diabetes, so keeping your weight down with exercise will help control it. Weight management and cardiovascular activity are also good for your heart health. This is of particular importance to diabetics since they are at increased risk of having heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and other conditions.

Regular activity can also help lower your blood glucose levels. Exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin and helps insulin to work more efficiently. Your cells also help remove glucose from your blood when you exercise.

Exercising doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do at any age or fitness level, and your overall health and diabetes management will improve as a result.

Tip: Multi-task when exercising. Listening to music, talk radio or even books on tape can make the time go quickly and help you get in all the cardiovascular activities you need.


Medication may also be an important component of your diabetes management. If you have type 1 diabetes, you need to take insulin, either by injections several times a day or an insulin pump that provides insulin continuously. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be able to control your blood sugar levels through diet and exercise alone at first, but it’s likely that you will need medication at some point. You may be prescribed one or more oral medications and/or insulin to help manage your blood glucose levels.

There are many types of medication available to help treat type 2 diabetes. Your doctor may prescribe a medication that works well for a period of time but then starts to diminish in effectiveness over time. Getting your blood sugar levels in check is often a matter of trying one or more medications and changing or adjusting your dosage as needed. You’ll need to understand when and how to take these medications and be aware of any side effects they may cause.

Effective management of your diabetes is vital for overall health. With a combination of good food choices, exercise and medication, you should be able to keep your blood glucose under control and enjoy the best possible overall health.

Want to know more? Find more helpful information and tips by visiting our “Lifestyle” section.