Essential tips for managing diabetes with diet, exercise, and additional healthy habits

  • 2 Minutes Read
Katherine Isacks
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Yes, a healthy diet and exercise plan is at the core of managing diabetes. What about the other self-care behaviors to help you achieve optimal blood sugar control? Read on to learn about habits that will help you manage diabetes for life.

Managing diabetes with diet and exercise

How managing diabetes with diet and exercise works

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you've probably already heard from your doctor about managing diabetes with diet and exercise. How do those two simple "prescriptions" make such a difference?


The carbs that you eat and drink directly affect your blood sugar level. Carbohydrates ("carbs") are found abundantly in grains, grain products, fruit, juice, milk, yogurt, dried beans and peas (legumes), starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes), sugars, syrups, and sweets. All digestible carbs eventually convert to glucose or sugar in the body. So, it's wise to count carbs and pay attention to how carbs impact your blood sugar for optimal blood sugar control.


Exercise lowers blood sugar by removing glucose from the bloodstream to fuel muscles. Whether completing errands on foot or doing an on-demand workout class, physical activity helps to reduce blood sugar for hours after the activity has ended. Make an effort to include aerobic exercise as well as resistance training in your weekly routine. Aim for 30 minutes x 5 days a week.

Other important self-care behaviors

In addition to managing diabetes with diet and exercise, other essential habits help you control blood sugar and effectively keep you well and safe.


Do you know how to use your blood glucose meter, strips, and lancets?
Do you know when to test your blood glucose? Are you using a continuous glucose monitor to stay on top of glucose levels?

Monitoring glucose levels helps you figure out what raises blood sugar levels so you can take action. In addition to daily testing, regular A1C checks are essential. Doctors encourage getting this blood test every three months if you are above goal (usually A1C > 7%) or less frequently if you reach your target. To learn more about the A1C test, click here.

Taking medication

Do you remember to take all of your medications?
Do you share any concerns about side effects or cost of your prescriptions with your doctor?

Medications are a critical tool used to manage diabetes. If you struggle to take your medications, please talk to your doctor or diabetes care and education specialist for help.

Problem solving

Do you get unexplained high or low glucose readings?
Do you keep glucose, food, medication, and exercise records to help you troubleshoot problem readings?

Paying attention to these factors will help you figure out what raises and lowers blood sugar levels so you can adjust your routine as needed. If you struggle to identify areas to change, make an appointment with a diabetes care and education specialist.

Reducing risks

High blood sugar affects various organs and small and large vessels in the body. Routine visits to the doctor, dentist, and eye doctor help ensure optimum health. Quitting smoking (if you are a smoker), keeping your blood pressure in the target range, and taking care of your feet will also help reduce complications.

Healthy Coping

One of the most overlooked behaviors to optimal diabetes management is "healthy coping." People with diabetes have a higher risk for depression-and depression makes it harder to manage diabetes.

Did you know significant life changes can affect diabetes management? Both happy and sad events can affect blood sugar control. Examples include job promotion, job loss, job stress, marriage, divorce, death of a loved one, the birth of a child, pregnancy, moving the household, relationship difficulties, etc.

Talk with your doctor if you feel you need more assistance in any of these self-care behaviors. Additional resources may be available near you to help with managing your diabetes with diet, exercise, and other healthy habits.

Related Resources

Low-carb diet by MyNetDiary
Tracking diabetes with MyNetDiary
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Reviewed and updated by Joanna Kriehn MS, RDN, CDCES, on August 5, 2021.

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Diabetes->Blood glucose
Aug 9, 2021

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