10 Effective Ways to Keep Diabetes Under Control

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Rebecca Zinger (RD, LD)

The best ways to keep diabetes under control include testing your blood glucose levels regularly, eating small meals, keeping a track of your carbohydrate sources, and exercising regularly. It is also important to check your feet often and maintain your eye health. Understanding what you should do to keep your blood sugar levels under control, and which lifestyle choices and dietary choices you should make, is essential.

Diabetes is a modern epidemic and affects millions of people around the world, and there is no cure as yet. Once you are diagnosed with this condition, it is essential to manage it properly to reduce the impact on the body. Being diagnosed with pre-diabetes, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes is life-altering but can be managed with the guidelines discussed in this article.

How to Keep Diabetes Under Control?

Diabetes can have a domino effect on the body and can affect the body negatively in a range of ways, from vision and inflammation of the joints to kidney health and the digestive process. Therefore, implementing a comprehensive lifestyle plan is very important. Let us look at the most important ways you can manage diabetes. [1]

Daikon, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and vegetables that can help manage diabetes near a glucose meter

An assortment of foods that can help manage diabetes. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Test Your Blood Sugar Regularly

Many people have a set schedule for checking their blood sugar, but often, they do it after or before meals. Spreading out more checks throughout the day can give you a better picture of your body’s responsiveness to food and the rate of glucose absorption so you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Your goals for your blood sugar levels include 70-90 mg/dL fasting and 120-140 mg/dL 2 hours post-prandial (post-meal). Blood sugar levels are recommended to be performed 6-7 times a day. Once your diabetes is better controlled, on the advice of your primary care physician, you can do a check 3-4 times per day and eventually lesser. [2] [3]

Maintain Your Medication Regime

It is important to follow your prescribed insulin regimen and/or anti-diabetic medication dosage. More importantly, people who have type 1 diabetes or those who follow intensive insulin therapy, it is imperative to adjust the dosage as suggested by your doctor. [4]

Recognize Carbohydrate Sources

Knowing your carbohydrates is important for diabetes management as and can impact your blood sugar, or blood glucose levels more than anything else. Carbohydrates include sugar, starches, and fiber. Healthy carbohydrates include whole grain products, fruits, vegetables, and grains whereas carbohydrates such as sodas and fast food items contain sugar, fat, and very little nutrients. There are several tools like carbohydrate counting which can help you manage your diabetic levels. [5] [6]

Use Smaller Plates

Another psychological trick is to prepare your meals on smaller plates. You are more likely to maintain appropriate portion control and undershoot your levels of calorie and sugar intake, while also having food for later and saving money over the long term. A popular way is to follow the Diabetes Plate Method, which simply is to fill up half the plate with non-starchy, fibrous vegetables (brocolli, spinach), a quarter with grains or simple vegetables, and the rest with lean protein. [7] [8]

Eat Smaller Meals More Often

By spreading out 5 or 6 meals throughout the course of the day, your body will remain active in its digestive processes, which increases insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, you will have less blood sugar spikes and drops if the caloric and sugar intake is spread out over the course of a day. You can snack in between your 3 main meals and a bedtime snack is the most important for those who take long-acting insulin at night.

Speaking to a dietitian is also a great way to establish an eating plan and schedule that is customized to your specific needs. Also, research suggests that high-energy breakfast helps in reducing hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetics (Daniela Jakubowicz et al., 2015). It is important to have a healthy breakfast – a combination of at least one carbohydrate choice, fat, and protein. [9] [10]

Track Your Exercise Patterns

It is easy to think that your exercise regiment is solid and consistent, but taking actual notes about your exercise habits for a few weeks will give you a tangible record to better help you make the physical changes to your lifestyle that you really need. Experts suggest setting realistic goals, even if it means walking only 10-15 minutes per day. [11]

Eliminate Fast Food

Making your own lunch/dinner at home is the best choice for people suffering from diabetes. Stopping for fast food or eating at restaurants means that you can’t properly track the fat, sugar, salt, and calorie intake of your meals, which can be very dangerous for maintaining balanced blood sugar. Fast food may also contain high salt content and a study published by the American Diabetes Association suggests that intake of high-salt diet increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in diabetics. Sometimes, eliminating fast food completely is not possible for people diagnosed with diabetes as money and time may be a challenging barrier in their lives. In these situations, it is better to choose healthy options at fast food restaurants. [12] [14]

Read Food Labels

Learn how to read food labels so that you can eat healthily. A good rule of thumb is to note the first three ingredients in the packaging as it is what the product is mainly made of. You can also request for nutrition information (total fat, sugar, carbohydrate) at some restaurants. It is also mandatory to list the number of calories next to the food or beverage option or provide nutrition facts online. It may take a little more time and research but once you set the ball rolling, it gets easier to manage healthy food options. Also, take home menus from new restaurants you do try so you can look over them at your leisure for the next time you want to eat a healthy, diabetes-friendly meal out! [15] [16]

Check Your Feet

Checking your feet daily is very important due to the risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer or diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). Circulation issues in the extremities, particularly the feet, are common for people suffering from diabetes. This can also result in numbness or lack of sensation, so cuts or scrapes may be completely unnoticed. This sort of minor nerve damage can be dangerous and can lead to infection or more serious foot issue, sometimes even requiring amputation. Check your feet every day and make notes about any obvious changes in sensation or circulation. Discuss these notes with your doctor at your next check-up. [17]

Get Your Vision Checked

Diabetes can seriously impact your vision health, and blindness is one of the most serious and frighteningly common side effects of long-term diabetes. Getting your vision checked regularly may be the best way to prevent retinopathy. [18]

Infographic on ways to keep diabetes under control

Keep your diabetes in control with these easy-to-follow tips. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 Other Ways To Keep Diabetes Under Control

There are additional helpful ways to keep your diabetes under control. Let us take a look.

  • Try new fruits and vegetables: If you have been eating only fast food, it may be a fun exercise to discover new tastes and flavors by trying fresh produce. Always be mindful of the fruit sugar and carbohydrate content when you do this. [19]
  • Use a health app or device: Similar to tracking your exercise habits to review and adjust accordingly, wearing a pedometer, iPhones, Apple watches, Fitbit, etc gives you a clear picture of how much you are actually moving each day. If your numbers are too low, then it might motivate you to take the stairs, go for a walk on your lunch break, or take a jog after work, all of which helps the overall picture of your health. [20] [21]
  • Increase your fiber intake: Fiber is an essential part of any diabetic diet. Recommended amounts are 38 grams of dietary fiber for men and 25 grams for women. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you’re less likely to snack and load up on unhealthy, dangerous sugars. [22]
  • Reduce your quick stop coffee: Those fancy cups of coffee from specialty coffee shops are often packed with sugar, which can cause insulin and glucose fluctuations in your body, in addition to the caffeine crash that so often occurs. Sugar-free coffee condiments, non-dairy creamers, or low to non-milk options are recommended. [23]
  • Quit Smoking: Although stressful situations usually make people smoke more, it can be a very bad choice for people with diabetes, particularly those with Type 2 diabetes. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which limits good circulation to the extremities. Furthermore, smoking research has shown that it increases insulin resistance, which is the opposite of what diabetic patients want. [24]

If you follow some or all of these suggestions, you will be able to live a happier, healthier, and higher-quality life with diabetes.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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