Having diabetes doesn't mean you can't eat your favorite foods. But you need to know how your food choices will affect your blood sugar. A diabetes educator or dietitian can help you learn skills -- such as counting carbs, reading food labels, and sizing up portions -- that will let you keep your diabetes in check while still enjoying your favorite meals.
Define Your Plate
Use a rule of three to build a healthy, satisfying meal. This rule can help you lose weight and manage your diabetes by increasing your intake of non-starchy foods. Divide your plate in half. Fill one half with non-starchy vegetables like spinach or broccoli. Next, divide the empty side into two halves. Use one for starchy foods like bread or pasta. In the last section, add meat or another protein. You can also add an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk and a ½ cup of fruit.
Write It Down
Get in the habit of writing down your critical information. Record your daily blood sugar levels to track how food, activity, and medicines affect your blood sugar and A1c test results. A written record can show you and your doctor whether your diabetes treatment is working over the long term. Writing down your goals and feelings in a journal may also help you stay on track and better communicate with your health care providers.
Have a Sick-Day Plan in Place
Common illnesses like colds, flu, and diarrhea can make your blood sugar rise. And having diabetes in turn may make it harder to fight off infections. Have a plan in case you get sick. Store snacks that are easy on the stomach but can still give you enough fluids and carbs. Check your blood sugar more often and know when to check for ketones and when to call your doctor. Get a flu shot every year.
Manage Your Medicine Cabinet
You may take pills or injections to manage your diabetes. Try to keep 3 days' worth of your diabetes medicines and supplies on hand in case of an emergency, as well as a list of all your medicines. Your drugs may interact with other medicines, even ones that can be bought without a prescription. Make sure to tell your doctor before you take any new medicine. And always take your list to your regular doctor and dental appointments.
Fight Everyday Stress With Activity
Living with diabetes can make you sad or unhappy at times. Stress not only affects your mood, but it can raise your blood sugar, too. Stress may cause you to make poor food choices and drink more alcohol. But an easy way to feel better from everyday stress is to get active. Being active raises the levels of chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. If you don't want to exercise in a gym, join a sports team or take dance lessons to keep moving.
Exercise in Short Sessions
It may be hard to find time to exercise. It can also be hard to keep going if you're not used to exercising for 30 minutes straight. The good news is you can spread your 30 minutes throughout the day. Three 10-minute walks are as good as 30 minutes at once. So don't hold out to exercise when you have a lot of time. Moderate physical activity (both strength building and cardio) will help you control your blood sugar, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce stress.
Try Strength Workouts
All types of exercise can benefit people with diabetes. But training with weights or other resistance equipment may help you prevent muscle loss (lost muscle often leads to more fat). Several studies suggest strength training -- lifting weights, for example -- improves your reaction to insulin and your glucose tolerance. Of course, regular strength training can also improve your muscle mass and help you lose weight, too.
Check Your Feet Every Night
Use a hand mirror or ask someone to help you look for cuts, swelling, or color changes on your feet. Don't forget to look between your toes, too. If you see unhealed cuts or broken skin, call your doctor right away. Make foot care part of your daily routine: Wash and moisturize your feet and trim your toenails as needed. Talk to your doctor about treating corns or calluses. And have him examine your feet during every visit.
Choose a Date to Quit Smoking
If you smoke, picking a date to quit gives you the chance to prepare for it. You may need help beating the mental and physical parts of nicotine addiction. Stop-smoking programs, support groups, and wellness centers can offer professional help. Whether you quit cold turkey or use other treatments to help you quit, having time to prepare for it may improve your chances of success.
Drink Alcohol Only With Food
Your doctor may say it's OK for you to have an occasional drink. Drink alcohol only when you can eat something along with it, because alcohol can cause low blood sugar. Also have some water handy in case you get thirsty. Even so, mixed drinks can raise your blood sugar if you use juice or a regular soda as your mixer. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men no more than two a day.
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American Association of Diabetes Educators: "Healthy Eating." "Being active." "Healthy Coping."
USDA: "MyPlate," "Protein Foods," "Vegetables," "Grains."
American Diabetes Association: "Tips," "Diabetes Myths," "Create Your Plate," "Checking Your Blood Glucose," "When You're Sick," "Stress," "Alcohol," "Tips for Emergency Preparedness," "Is There a Danger of Interactions?" "Future Visits," "Smoking."
CDC: "Take Charge of Your Diabetes: 2. Controlling Your Diabetes," "Diabetes Public Health Resource: Seasonal Flu Information," "Take Charge of Your Diabetes: Records," "Take Charge of Your Diabetes: Foot Problems."
Flu.gov: "Diabetes and Flu."
National Diabetes Education Program: "Take Care of Your Heart. Manage Your Diabetes," "Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime," "Tips to Help You Stay Healthy," "Tasty Recipes for People With Diabetes and Their Families," "Tips for Teens with Diabetes," "Tips to Help You Stay Healthy."
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: "What I Need to know About Gestational Diabetes."
Harvard Health Publications: "Benefits of Exercise -- reduces stress, anxiety, and helps fight depression, from Harvard Men's Health Watch"
Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi: "How Is Diabetes Managed?"
Nemours Foundation: "Keeping Track of Your Blood Sugar."
Medline Plus: "Diabetes: When You Are Sick."
Diabetes Forecast: "Exercise May Stave Off Anxiety nad Panic Attacks."
Joslin Diabetes Center: "Diabetes and Strength Training."
Diabetes Spectrum: "Strength Training in Diabetes Management."
American Cancer Society: "Guide to Quitting Smoking."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.