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How to Control Sugar Levels in Type 2 Diabetes with Diet and Exercise

written by: K. A. Arbuckle • edited by: lrohner • updated: 8/23/2010

Learn guidelines for type 2 diabetes sugar control with diet and exercise. A few simple changes in your daily diet and activity can give you significant health benefits.

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    Many people have had success with type 2 diabetes sugar control with diet and exercise. It entails some challenges, such as learning portion sizes and monitoring blood glucose levels carefully. If you can manage the effort, the reward is greater control over your diabetes with little need for medications. Discuss diet and exercise recommendations with your health care provider before undertaking any drastic changes. The doctor may need to see you frequently to adjust any medications and monitor your progress.

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    Dietary Guidelines

    While some advocate an extremely low-carbohydrate, restricted diet, the American Diabetes Association recommends a balanced approach. Follow some simple guidelines and eat a variety of healthy foods instead of trying a fad diet.

    Controlling blood sugar levels through your diet requires some basic steps. Imagine your plate cut in half with one side cut into fourths. The half side of the plate should be filled with non-starch vegetables, including green beans spinach, greens, carrots, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, and lettuce. The two smaller portions will contain starch and protein. Starches can include foods such as rice, pasta, bread, potatoes and cooked beans. The protein section is for meat or meat substitutes. This method ensures you receive the nutrients you need without loading up on foods that raise blood sugar levels.

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    Portion Sizes

    Harvard food pyramid Eating the right portion sizes will help to control your blood sugar levels. It also helps with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. The appropriate portion size for non-starchy vegetables, milk and yogurt measures about 1 cup, or the size of a tennis ball. A cheese portion is roughly 1 oz. Meat, poultry, fish, and meat substitutes should weigh about 3 oz., or about the size of a deck of cards. One slice of bread, 3/4 cup of cereal products, 1/3 cup rice or cooked pasta, and 1/2 cup of potato or corn make up the starchy parts of a meal.

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    Exercise

    How much exercise, the type of exercise, and even when you do it all play a role in the effects on diabetes. You should always check your blood glucose before exercising. If your levels test high or low, wait to exercise. Exercise can cause rapid changes in blood sugar, so put your safety first. If you don’t regularly exercise, start out slow with walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Increase the amount of time and vary the speed for a more intense workout. Add in some basic strength training. Lean muscle burns more calories and uses more blood sugar than fat, so strength training can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower glucose levels. Whatever form of exercise you choose, you should notice that you gain more control of your blood sugar levels, especially when combined with healthy eating.

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    Monitoring

    Diabetes Monitoring Kit 

    It helps to monitor your progress to know if you are gaining type 2 diabetes sugar control with diet and exercise. Keep a log of what you eat, of your blood test results, and your exercises. The log allows you to see if any specific foods or activities cause spikes or dips in blood sugar levels. This can help you tailor your program to fit your needs. For example, if you notice a large increase in blood sugar levels after eating pasta, you can reduce the portion, have it less often, or adjust any medication to balance the increase.

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    References

    ADA: Create Your Plate

    http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/create-your-plate/

    ADA: Food and Portion Sizes

    http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/weight-loss/food-and-portion-size.html

    NDIC: What I Need to Know About Eating and Diabetes

    http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/eating_ez/index.htm

    ADA: Ideas for Exercise

    http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/ideas-for-exercise/

    NDIC: What I Need to Know About Physical Activity and Diabetes

    http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/physical_ez/index.htm

    Images from Wikimedia Commons

    Image1: Harvard, Public Domain

    Image2: Jessica Merz