Diabetes: Nutrition and Exercise
You can make a difference in your blood glucose control. To keep your blood glucose levels within goal range, balance what you eat and drink, diabetes medications (if taken), and physical activity.
What is the role of carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source. About half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate choices include bread, grains and starchy vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and sweets. These foods break down into sugar. This sugar is then stored and used for energy. Insulin is needed to transport the sugar in the blood to its storage area. In diabetes, a lack of insulin or too little insulin results in high blood sugar levels.
What is carbohydrate counting and how does it work?
Carbohydrate counting involves determining the amount of carbohydrate that is right for you at each meal and for the entire day . Reading food labels for total carbohydrates and measuring serving sizes will help. For example, a breakfast consisting of 1 slice of toast with 1 tsp. peanut butter, half a banana, and 1 cup of milk = 3 carbohydrate servings or 45 grams of carbohydrate. (1 serving = 15 grams of carbohydrate). A registered dietitian can help you learn more about carbohydrate counting and help you decide how much carbohydrate you should have each meal and day.
Are some carbohydrates better than others?
The amount of carbohydrate you eat at one time has the biggest impact on your blood sugars. Pay attention to portion sizes. Look for vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (breads and cereals that have a whole grain listed as the first ingredient) and side dishes such as barley, whole grain pastas, brown rice, beans, and lentils. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, or those frozen or canned without added sugars or salts.
How often should I exercise?
Exercise improves fitness, increases insulin sensitivity, maintains bone health, helps in weight management, and improves sleep patterns. Exercise can help lower blood glucose levels, which is why exercising in the morning or after a meal might naturally help to lower any higher blood glucose levels.
Exercise includes many activities — walking, swimming, biking, tennis, gardening, lawn-mowing. Think of what you like to do, then get moving! Exercise should include 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (50-70% of maximum heart rate). In addition, people with Type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to perform resistance training three times per week. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
To help develop a meal plan that is right for your lifestyle, contact a registered dietitian from the Department of Nutrition Therapy at the Cleveland Clinic.