“You have diabetes.” About 1.4 million Americans receive that diagnosis every year. It’s news with lifelong consequences. But newly diagnosed patients, and those who have been living with diabetes for years, should know that many people can successfully manage this chronic disease with lifestyle changes.
A study published in the National Library of Medici demonstrated that adjustments to diet and lifestyle could result in remission of type 2 diabetes. The challenge is finding — and maintaining — the right balance of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices to keep the condition in check. Patients should work with their clinicians and care teams to determine the correct approach for managing their condition, as everyone has different disease complications, health histories and resources.
Here are five tips for managing diabetes through exercise and nutrition:
1. Count carbohydrates
The American diet contains lots of carbohydrates (carbs), including pasta, bread, milk, dairy, and desserts, which break down into glucose. People with diabetes need to monitor their glucose levels and that means managing carb intake. The typical American daily diet includes more than 250 grams of carbs. For reference, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates is 130 grams or 45-60 grams per meal.
Carbohydrate counting is an effective way of managing daily carb consumption for people with diabetes. However, the American Diabetes Association emphasizes that there isn’t an ideal number of carbs that works for everyone with diabetes. That’s because not all carbs are the same and people’s bodies respond differently to nutrition. Always check with your doctor for personalized nutrition guidance.
2. Read nutrition labels
- Total carbohydrates — The total carbohydrate number combines all three types of carbs: starch, sugar, and fiber. Below this number you’ll find a list of the different carbs in the food.
- Fiber — Focus on this beneficial carbohydrate which can reduce spikes in blood sugar. Experts recommend 38 grams of fiber per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.
- Fats— This number indicates how much fat is in a serving of the food. Choose foods with “healthy” monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats versus saturated fat or trans-fatty acids.
3. Stay balanced
A balanced diet with the right amount of each nutrient group is the foundation of success for people with diabetes. Try the diabetes plate method by dividing a plate into four portions:
- Fill one quarter with a lean protein
- Another one quarter is a carbohydrate
- The remaining half with green vegetables and other non-starchy vegetables
4. Stay balanced
Regular exercise is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for people with diabetes because it helps them improve blood sugar levels and manage their weight. A good goal is about 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week. People with diabetes should check with their doctor before starting an exercise program and then start slowly, gradually increasing intensity based on their comfort level.
5. Pump it up
Strength and resistance training can be more beneficial than cardio at managing blood sugar levels. Ideally, people with diabetes should try combining aerobic activity with exercises that use weights, bands, or body weight for resistance training.
Did you know Mom’s Meals offers a diabetes-friendly menu?
For individuals with prediabetes and diabetes, Mom's Meals offers diabetes-friendly meal choices that are based on standards from the American Diabetes Association. Our registered dietitians are available to answer your questions about nutrition and ingredients.