Over 23 million American are affected by diabetes, a disorder where insulin is lacking or the body responds incorrectly to the insulin that is present. A healthy diet and a positive self-management routine are essential for people with diabetes. These simple do’s and don’ts can help you stay on track.

  1. Don’t consume simple sugars and processed foods. Stay away from sugars such as glucose and fructose that cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar levels. Choose foods without added sugar. Steer clear of soft drinks, juices and sweet desserts such as cookies, cakes and candy. Avoid processed foods that are typically loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and lean meats as well as fish and poultry. Opt for low-fat dairy products and whole grains. Whole grains slow down your digestion so your blood sugar can gradually rise. Drink water, nonfat milk, coffee, tea or low sodium vegetable juice rather than soft drinks and sugary fruit juices. Have a glass of water when you feel hungry, as often you are really thirsty. Use a glucose monitor to check your blood sugar regularly. Invest in a blood pressure monitor to check your blood pressure at home. Report extreme highs and lows to your health care team.
  2. Do follow a consistent routine. The timing of your meals and medication help keep your blood sugars under control. Have regular times for meals and the administration of insulin. Try to eat about the same amount of food at each meal. Fill your plate with vegetables with smaller amounts of meat, carbohydrates and dairy. Have several small snacks throughout the day. If you are on rapid & basal insulin, do not have snacks between meals. Never skip meals as it can lead to hypoglycemia and overeating at your next meal. Always have at least three meals a day with snacks in between. Pay attention to what you eat and don’t watch television or work on the computer while you eat. Be mindful of when you feel full to avoid overeating. Plan ahead by going grocery shopping regularly so you always have healthy food on hand. Maintain a reasonable weight to avoid related health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Even losing 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
  3. Don’t walk barefoot or neglect your feet. Never walk barefoot, even indoors. Wear closed shoes or sandals and slippers around the house. Have special water shoes for the pool and beach. Try not to wear open-toed shoes or thongs. Do not cut calluses or corns yourself. Wash your feet daily then put on powder, lotion, socks and shoes after bathing. Keep your feet dry and warm. Cut toenails straight across. Use an Emory board to keep edges smooth. Check your feet each day for blisters, scratches, changes in color and cuts. Use a mild lubricant to keep your feet from drying and cracking. Wear loose-fitting or diabetic socks to avoid cutting off circulation. Choose comfortable shoes that fit properly. Inspect the inside of your shoes for torn linings and foreign objects such as small stones. Contact your doctor about ingrown toenails, athlete’s foot and sores or cuts that do not show signs of healing. Always let your doctor know if you feel pain in your feet or calves.
  4. Do exercise for at least a half hour, five days a week. Exercise helps to reduce stress and maintain a healthy weight. Keep blood sugar levels in check. Fit exercise into your routine at least five days a week for a minimum of a half hour each workout. Make exercise fun so you look forward to it. Go for a brisk walk to observe nature. Swim at the local beach or pool. Enroll in yoga or aerobics classes. Take a bike ride or play basketball with kids in the family. Mix up your exercise routine so it is always enjoyable.
  5. Don’t fall victim to bad habits. If you smoke, it’s time to try to quit. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption or quit drinking altogether. Steer clear of stressful situations and negative thoughts. Try not to use food to calm your nerves. Substitute negative habits with positive ones. Try meditation and deep breathing exercises rather than smoking. Sip lemon water rather than drinking alcohol. Take a walk when you feel anxious or upset. Nibble on a piece of fruit or vegetables instead of grabbing a bag of chips. Enlist the assistance of your friends, family and health care team to help you kick bad habits. Support groups can also be very helpful.

These basic do’s and don’ts make it easier to get through the hard times when you have diabetes. Establishing a regular routine helps you avoid behaviors that can aggravate your condition. Just a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way!