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Nutrition and physical activity are important parts of a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes.

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Along with other benefits, following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood glucose levelalso called blood sugar, in your target range. To manage your blood glucose, you need to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are all important in keeping your blood glucose level in the range that your health care team recommends.

Becoming more active and making changes in what you eat and drink can seem challenging at first. You may find it easier to start with small changes and get help from your family, friends, and health care team. You may worry that having diabetes means going without foods you enjoy. The good news is that you can still eat your favorite foods, but you might need to eat smaller portions or enjoy them less often.

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Your health care team will help create a diabetes meal plan for you that meets your needs and likes. The key to eating with diabetes is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, in the amounts your meal plan outlines. Learn more about the food groups at the U. Drink water instead of sweetened beverages.

Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea. If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low. Some people with diabetes need to eat at about the same time each day. Others can be more flexible with the timing of their meals.

Depending on your diabetes medicines or type of insulin, you may need to eat the same amount of carbohydrates at the same time each day. If you use certain diabetes medicines or insulin and you skip or delay a meal, your blood glucose level can drop too low. Ask your health care team when you should eat and whether you should eat before and after physical activity. Eating the right amount of food will also help you manage your blood glucose level and your weight. Your health care team can help you figure out how much food and how many calories you should eat each day.

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If you are overweight or have obesitywork with your health care team to create a weight-loss plan. The Body Weight Planner can help you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach and maintain your goal weight. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories and replace less healthy foods with foods lower in calories, fat, and sugar. If you have diabetes, are overweight or obese, and are planning to have a baby, you should try to lose any excess weight before you become pregnant.

Learn more about planning for pregnancy if you have diabetes. Two common ways to help you plan how much to eat if you have diabetes are the plate method and carbohydrate counting, also called carb counting. The plate method helps you control your portion sizes.

The plate method shows the amount of each food group you should eat. This method works best for lunch and dinner. Use a 9-inch plate. Put nonstarchy vegetables on half of the plate; a meat or other protein on one-fourth of the plate; and a grain or other starch on the last one-fourth. Starches include starchy vegetables such as corn and peas. You also may eat a small bowl of fruit or a piece of fruit, and drink a small glass of milk as included in your meal plan.

Carbohydrate counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat and drink each day. Because carbohydrates turn into glucose in your body, they affect your blood glucose level more than other foods do. Carb counting can help you manage your blood glucose level. If you take insulincounting carbohydrates can help you know how much insulin to take. Carbohydrate counting is a meal planning tool for people with diabetes who take insulin, but not all people with diabetes need to count carbohydrates.

Your health care team can help you create a personal eating plan that will best meet your needs. The amount of carbohydrates in foods is measured in grams.

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Most carbohydrates come from starches, fruits, milk, and sweets. Try to limit carbohydrates with added sugars or those with refined grains, such as white bread and white rice. Instead, eat carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat or nonfat milk.

In addition to using the plate method and carb counting, you may want to visit a registered dietitian RD for medical nutrition therapy. Medical nutrition therapy is a service provided by an RD to create personal eating plans based on your needs and likes.

For people with diabetes, medical nutrition therapy has been shown to improve diabetes management. Medicare pays for medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes If you have insurance other than Medicare, ask if it covers medical nutrition therapy for diabetes. No clear proof exists that taking dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, or spices can help manage diabetes. Talk with your health care provider before you take any dietary supplement since some can cause side effects or affect how your medicines work. Physical activity is an important part of managing your blood glucose level and staying healthy.

Being active has many health benefits. If you are overweight, combining physical activity with a reduced-calorie eating plan can lead to even more benefits. These benefits included improved cholesterol levels, less sleep apneaand being able to move around more easily. Even small amounts of physical activity can help. Experts suggest that you aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity 5 days of the week.

If you want to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you may need to do 60 minutes or more of physical activity 5 days of the week. Be sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise to stay well hydrated. The following are some other tips for safe physical activity when you have diabetes. Talk with your health care team before you start a new physical activity routine, especially if you have other health problems.

Your health care team will tell you a target range for your blood glucose level and suggest how you can be active safely. Your health care team also can help you decide the best time of day for you to do physical activity based on your daily schedule, meal plan, and diabetes medicines. Because physical activity lowers your blood glucose, you should protect yourself against low blood glucose levels, also called hypoglycemia.

You are most likely to have hypoglycemia if you take insulin or certain other diabetes medicines, such as a sulfonylurea. Hypoglycemia also can occur after a long intense workout or if you have skipped a meal before being active. Hypoglycemia can happen during or up to 24 hours after physical activity. Planning is key to preventing hypoglycemia.

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For instance, if you take insulin, your health care provider might suggest you take less insulin or eat a small snack with carbohydrates before, during, or after physical activity, especially intense activity. You may need to check your blood glucose level before, during, and right after you are physically active.

People with diabetes may have problems with their feet because of poor blood flow and nerve damage that can result from high blood glucose levels. To help prevent foot problems, you should wear comfortable, supportive shoes and take care of your feet before, during, and after physical activity. Most kinds of physical activity can help you take care of your diabetes. Certain activities may be unsafe for some people, such as those with low vision or nerve damage to their feet.

Ask your health care team what physical activities are safe for you. Many people choose walking with friends or family members for their activity. Doing different types of physical activity each week will give you the most health benefits. Mixing it up also helps reduce boredom and lower your chance of getting hurt. Try these options for physical activity. If you have been inactive or you are trying a new activity, start slowly, with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Then add a little more time each week.

Increase daily activity by spending less time in front of a TV or other screen. Try these simple ways to add physical activities in your life each day:. If you are sitting for a long time, such as working at a desk or watching TV, do some light activity for 3 minutes or more every half hour. Aerobic exercise is activity that makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder. You should aim for doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

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You do not have to do all the activity at one time. You can split up these minutes into a few times throughout the day. Talk with your health care team about how to warm up and cool down before and after you exercise. Strength training is a light or moderate physical activity that builds muscle and helps keep your bones healthy. Strength training is important for both men and women.

Burning more calories can help you lose and keep off extra weight. You can do strength training with hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines. Try to do strength training two to three times a week. Start with a light weight. Slowly increase the size of your weights as your muscles become stronger.

Stretching exercises are light or moderate physical activity. When you stretch, you increase your flexibility, lower your stress, and help prevent sore muscles. You can choose from many types of stretching exercises.

Yoga is a type of stretching that focuses on your breathing and helps you relax. Even if you have problems moving or balancing, certain types of yoga can help. For instance, chair yoga has stretches you can do when sitting in a chair or holding onto a chair while standing. Your health care team can suggest whether yoga is right for you. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public.

Diabetes Overview What is Diabetes? What foods and drinks should I limit if I have diabetes?

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Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity