Help Manage Your Diabetes with Healthy Eating and Exercise

woman using magnifier to read canned good labels

By Kim Ladd, RN, BS, CPHQ, CDCES 

Spring is a wonderful time to start a new lifestyle program.  You don’t have to wait for the height of summer to take advantage of the days getting longer to get outside, and soon there will be local fruits and veggies in neighborhood stores and community farmer’s markets. There’s no time like the present to adopt positive changes in your eating and activity levels to improve your health and better manage your diabetes.  

Healthy Eating: One Key to Managing Diabetes  

How does healthy eating help you manage your diabetes and overall health? During the webinar, we will explore answers to this question and provide some “food for thought” and tips. 

Tips on Healthy Eating  

  • Focus on eating whole fruits more often than drinking 100% juice. 
  • Snack on fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits instead of cookies, brownies, or other sugar-sweetened treats. 
  • Offer whole fruits without saturated fat, sodium, or added sugars as dessert. 
  • Vary your veggies to include green, red, and orange choices. 
  • Add fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to salads, side dishes, and recipes. 

Ways to Eat to Control Diabetes 

During the webinar, we will discuss the best ways eating helps control your diabetes and prevent other health problems. Keep the following healthy eating tips in mind. 

  • Eat regular meals (including breakfast). 
  • Eat your meals and snacks at about the same time every day. 
  • Pay attention to your portion size.  
  • Practice ‘conscious eating’ (make smart food choices). 

I will also address how the three macronutrients in food (protein, fats, and carbohydrates) affect blood sugar levels and diabetes complications. 

Tips to Lower Fat/Cholesterol Levels 

  • Keep cooked portions of meat, fish, and poultry to 2-3 ounces. 
  • Do not eat the skin on poultry. 
  • Eat more deep-water fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. 
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat such as round, sirloin or flank for beef, or choose white meat pork or chicken. 
  • Trim off the fat from meat before cooking.  

Tips for Choosing Healthy Carbohydrates 

  • Fill at least half of your plate with a variety of vegetables and whole fruits. 
  • Eat whole grains, such as brown rice, whole grain breads and rolls, whole-grain pasta, tortillas, and choose foods with whole wheat or whole grain listed first on the ingredients list. 
  • Snack on whole fruit, or non-fat yogurt, rather than sweets, pastries, or ice cream. 
  • Choose whole fruit rather than fruit juice (unlike fruit juice, whole fruit contains fiber which takes longer to eat, fills you up more, and can help keep you from overeating). 
  • Choose higher-fiber breakfast cereal, such as shredded wheat, grape-nuts or raisin bran, and higher-fiber crackers such as whole rye or multi-grain crackers, and whole-grain flatbread. 

Accessible Resources to Help Count Carbohydrate Grams 

  • Ask Alexa, Siri, or Google how many carbohydrates are in a serving of the food. 
  • My Fitness Pal   
  • Be My Eyes app (free download)   
  • Seeing AI (free download from the Apple App Store
  • Digit Eyes (iPhone app $9.99)    
  • Find cooking instructions and nutrition information by searching the website.  
  • Utilize devices to magnify/ light up food labels. 

Exercise: A Second Key to Managing Diabetes 

A second key to better diabetes control is physical activity. Exercise can prevent and treat chronic diseases, like diabetes. 

  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-level exercise per week. 
  • Exercise “snacks” add up. 
  • Don’t forget about strengthening exercises. 

Moderate Exercise is any movement that gets your heart pumping, but you’re still able to talk. Some examples include: 

  • Brisk walking 
  • Dancing 
  • Water aerobics 
  • Gardening 
  • Vacuuming 

Tips for Increasing Your Activity Level

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed with adding exercise into your life. Choose one activity and give it a try. If you don’t like it, try something else. 
  1. Put it into practice until it becomes a habit. 
  1. Repeat steps one and two when adding more activities. 
  1. Add exercise to your calendar. 
  1. Exercise with an exercise buddy. 

Accessible Exercise Resources 

Additional Information on Healthy Eating and Physical Activity 

Diabetes: The Basics – Healthy Eating – VisionAware 

Diabetes: The Basics – Being Active – VisionAware 

Learn More 

Diabetes & Visual Impairment – The National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision (