Taking control of diabetes: the importance of diet and exercise

Diabetes is a complex and challenging condition. It can be hard to know what steps to take to make your journey easier. The good news is that there are lifestyle changes you can make today that can help! In this newsletter we’ll focus on sharing information and tips around nutrition and exercise to help keep your blood sugar levels in check and help you feel healthier and more in control of your condition.

Diet and Exercise

The Importance of Staying Active

If you have diabetes, staying active is essential! Exercising regularly is an important way to help improve your blood sugar levels, as it can help your body cells to use insulin more effectively.1,2 Physical activity can also improve cholesterol,2 improves blood pressure3 and can lower your weight sustainably.3

If you’re looking for ideas on how to incorporate exercise into your daily life, take a look at the tips below:4

  • Start small: If you’re new to exercise, try making small changes that will get you moving more in your daily life. For example, try climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator, walk to your local shops instead of driving or organize walks with friends and family.

  • Get your heart pumping: Once you are ready to do more, try aerobic exercises like running, cycling and swimming. This type of activity is helpful for controlling blood sugar levels and will improve your heart health.

  • Add strength training: If you can, try doing weight training two to three times a week. This type of activity can keep your muscles and bones strong, and your blood sugar levels under control by helping your body use insulin better.

  • Stay flexible: Remember to stretch before and after exercise to help prevent injury to your muscles.

Please speak to your healthcare professional before making changes to your exercise regime, to ensure you understand the impact it could have on your blood glucose levels and any necessary steps you should take to stay safe and healthy.

What About Your Diet?

In addition to staying active, sustaining a healthy and balanced diet is key to taking charge of your diabetes journey! Eating the right foods might help to control your blood sugar levels, maintain your heart health and prevent long-term complications that can be associated with diabetes.

Here are a few tips you can try to help maintain a balanced diet:

Divide your plate into 3 sections5

Try to build a plate that looks like this:

  • Half the plate: non-starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach and broccoli
  • One-quarter of the plate: 3 to 4 ounces of lean meat such as chicken or turkey
  • One-quarter of the plate: starchy foods like potatoes, pasta or corn
  • On the side, try adding low fat milk or fruit

Control your portion sizes but eat regularly5

  • Be mindful of recommended portion sizes and try not to overeat at mealtimes.  

  • If reducing your portion sizes leaves you feeling hungry, try spacing out your meals to ensure you are eating regularly and are getting enough overall calories.

Count Carbohydrates6

  • Counting carbohydrates might sound complicated but it’s actually an easy way to maintain a healthy diet and has been shown to provide long-term health benefits.

  • You can consult your healthcare professional to find out the number of grams of carbohydrates you should be consuming daily. Additionally, there are several apps that can assist you with recording your carbohydrate intake to make carb counting easier to fit into your daily life.

  • If you are trying a new diet, measure your blood sugar levels before and after you eat for the first few days to see if the carbohydrate content of your meals is causing you to go above your blood sugar targets.

Use Diabetes Friendly Recipes

The path to a healthy lifestyle may not be easy, and some of the suggestions above may work better for you than others. The important thing is to persevere and to keep trying new things until you find the diet and exercise regime that is right for you. Once you do that, you might see great improvements in your physical and mental health, and you might feel more in control of your diabetes!

Stay tuned for our next update, which will be focused on diabetes and mental health!


1. Kirwan JP, del Aguila LF, Hernandes JM, et al. Regular exercise enhances insulin activation of IRS-1-associated P13K in human skeletal tissue. J Appl Physiol. 2000;88:797-803.

2. Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2016;39:2065-2079 l DOI:10.2337/dc16-1728.

3. Wing R, The Look AHEAD Research Group. Cardiovascular Effects of Intensive Lifestyle Interventions in Type 2 Diabetes. N Engl J Med 2013;369:145-54. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1212914

4. AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors® BEING ACTIVE. https://www.diabeteseducator.org/docs/default-source/living-with-diabetes/tip-sheets/aade7/aade7_being_active.pdf?sfvrsn=12 accessed January 11th 2021.

5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/meal-plan-method.html accessed January 11th 2021

6. Ascensia Diabetes Care. Quick guide to carbohydrate counting, 2017.

7. American Diabetes Association. https://shopdiabetes.org/collections/diabetes-cookbooks accessed January 11th 2021.

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