Diabetes management

Dina Daniello-Santiago, RD
Registered Dietician, Employee Assistance Program
May 2, 2021

The most commonly asked questions when it comes to being newly diagnosed with diabetes often are: what can I eat? how do I manage my blood sugar? should I exercise? and do I need to test my blood sugar daily? It might surprise you to know that there is actually no such thing as a diabetic diet, and in fact, you can eat mostly any healthy food. Managing your diabetes does not need to be complicated. Just follow these easy guidelines to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.

Take some time to learn about diabetes and what is actually happening in your body. Diabetes is a disease that takes place when your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is too high. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and eye problems. This background knowledge and understanding can be a motivating factor for better managing your blood glucose levels. Talk to your health care provider to seek out more information, guidance and support.

Testing, testing, testing! Checking your blood glucose level each day is an important way to manage your diabetes. Monitoring your blood glucose level is very important if you take insulin, but is also a very useful tool even if you are not on insulin. Without testing with a blood glucose monitor before and after eating you would have no idea how the foods you eat impact your blood sugar levels. Daily testing can help you make decisions about food, physical activity and medicines. Other factors that can impact your blood sugar levels are stress, changes in hormone levels, illness and alcohol.

Another beneficial test that takes place when you visit your health care provider is called a A1C test, which shows your average blood glucose level over the past three months. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below seven percent. Ask your health care team what your personal goal should be when it comes to your daily blood glucose monitoring as well as your A1C.

Take your medication. Insulin and other diabetes medications are designed to lower your blood glucose levels when food intake and exercise alone aren't sufficient to manage diabetes. But the efficiency of these medications depends on the timing and amount of the dose. Medications you take for conditions other than diabetes may also affect your blood glucose levels. Speak to your health care provider about the correct time to take diabetes medication in addition to other medications you may be on.

Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. What you eat will have an impact on your blood sugar levels, but not all foods are created equal. Therefore, what you choose to eat, how much you eat and when you eat are all important in keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Following a healthy meal plan simply means eating healthy foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes. Try to make every meal well balanced with a good mix of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and fat. Pay attention to the types of carbohydrates you choose. Selecting foods that are higher in fiber can help keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Talk to your dietitian about the best food choices, the appropriate balance of nutrients and meal timing.

Get moving! Set a goal to be more physically active. Try to be physically active for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week. Work up to this if you need, starting with just 10 to 15 minutes and slowly progress. Be sure to speak to your doctor before starting any type of exercise program. When you exercise, your muscles use sugar (glucose) for energy. Regular physical activity also helps your body use insulin more efficiently. So, the best thing to do after you eat is go for a walk!

Diabetes management requires awareness. Knowing what makes your blood sugar levels rise and fall and how to control these day-to-day factors is the key. Knowledge is power so be sure to talk to your health care provider to recommend where you can go for further education, counselling and support. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be proactive and take charge of your health.