Lifestyle Changes to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Diet, healthy weight and regular activity are important parts of treatment plan. For some, this may be enough to eliminate the need for medicine. Healthy habits can also help everyone decrease the risk of complications.

Weight Loss

Weight loss can make the body more responsive to insulin. This will lead to better blood glucose control. Losing just 5% to 10% of body weight can make a difference in your blood glucose control for people who are overweight.

Safe weight loss can be done by eating fewer calories, choosing healthy food, and regular exercise.

Diet

A balanced diet will help to manage blood glucose, reduce weight, and lower risk of complications. A registered dietitian can help to make meals plans and food choices. Basic eating guidelines for people with type 2 diabetes are:

Planning Meals and Snacks

Blood glucose rises and falls with eating patterns. Eating similar meals and at similar times each day will help keep blood glucose stable. Most diabetes plans are based on 3 meals per day and 2 to 3 snacks. Each meal should be at about the same time each day. Meals should also have about the same amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat as the same meal the day before.

Filling Your Plate

US Department of Agriculture’s guidelines encourage:

  • Fill half of the plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat whole grains, lean protein, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Watch portion size Avoid overeating.
  • Choose low-sodium foods.
  • Opt for water instead of sugary drinks.

American Diabetes Association (ADA) tips for a healthy plate include:

  • Choose a larger amount of non-starchy vegetables. There are many kinds to choose from like spinach, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, mushrooms, and peppers.
  • Add a small serving of starchy foods. Some examples include: whole grain bread, rice, cooked beans, peas, corn and potatoes.
  • Add a small serving of meat or meat substitute (such as chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu).
  • Drink a glass of fat-free milk with your meal.

Focusing on Carbohydrates

Sugar and starch are both carbohydrates. The body reacts to any type of carbohydrate in the same way. The total amount of carbohydrate you eat is more important for blood glucose control.

A dietitian can help to set carbohydrate goals. This amount should be spread evenly throughout meals and snacks. Foods and drinks that are high in sugar should be limited or avoided.

Exercise

The ADA recommends exercising for at least 150 minutes a week. This should be moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Examples include brisk walking, riding a bicycle, playing tennis, or doing water aerobics. Strength training should also be done at least twice a week. Examples of strength training include using free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands.

Exercise usually causes a drop in blood glucose. Medication dose and schedule may need to be changed as regular exercise increases.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if you:

  • Are having difficulty losing weight
  • Have any questions about your eating plan
  • Feel that your eating plan is too difficult to follow
  • Want to start an exercise program or make significant changes in your present program
  • Have any symptoms of hypoglycemia after exercising
    • Shakiness
    • Lightheadedness
    • Extreme sweating
    • Hunger
    • Headache
    • Pale skin color

References:

Create your plate. American Diabetes Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed August 22, 2020.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Accessed August 22, 2020.
What is MyPlate? Choose My Plate—Department of Agriculture website. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate. Accessed August 22, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH
Last Updated: 9/25/2020

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