The how-to of achieving control of blood sugar varies for every person, but there are some common tips to follow that can help improve your numbers. Here are easy tips and tricks to help get blood sugar under control.
1. A lot of Physical Activity
Pick a variety of physical activities you like and get at least 30 minutes of activity a day at least 5 days a week. Walking is a good exercise, but if that’s your choice, try to walk every day. If you haven’t been very active, consult your doctor before starting. Our Fitness Tip Sheets will help you meet and keep this goal.
2. Eating healthy
The Food Branch of our Food & Fitness Channel provides many recipes and Tip Sheets for Shopping Smart, Cooking Good, and Eating Healthy.
3. Small goals make a big difference
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, you need diet and exercise goals that encourage you to succeed—not ones that set you up to fail, says Ann Goebel-Fabbri, PhD, a psychologist and investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center, in Boston.
4. Bring your own lunch
Avoid eating lunch at restaurants or fast-food joints. Restaurant meals “can go out of control easily,” Savoca says. They tend to have large portions, lots of calories, and high amounts of fat. Research has found an association between eating out more and having a higher body weight.
5. Change your daily routine
Instead of stopping for a fat-filled latte on the way to work, have a cup of coffee with low-fat milk and a low-fat granola bar.
6. Make healthier choices when you go to restaurants
For example, at McDonald’s, a diabetes-friendly choice might be a salad with grilled chicken and low-fat dressing. “What’s important is for people to be able to problem-solve,” Savoca says. “People probably have a lot of the answers; it’s just that it takes a little time to come up with them and make them their own.”
7. Keep gum handy
Pop a piece of sugar-free gum (but not too many pieces—some sugar-free gums contain sweeteners that can upset your stomach at high doses). Gum may “fix” your need for a snack and leave you with a fresh, minty taste that you won’t want to ruin with a bag of sour-cream-and-onion potato chips.
8. Try one new fruit or vegetable each week
With the variety available at a typical supermarket, this strategy could introduce you to new favorites for months. However, test your blood sugar after trying a new item—especially fruit. Some may have a more dramatic effect on blood sugar than others, and if they do, you may have to limit portion sizes accordingly.
9. Keep Eating Habits Consistent
Skipping meals, especially breakfast, could push your blood sugar higher, and depending which blood glucose-lowering medications you take, could cause hypoglycemia. When you don’t eat for several hours because of sleep or other reasons, your body fuels itself on glucose released from the liver.
For many people with type 2 diabetes, the liver doesn’t properly sense that the blood has ample glucose already, so it continues to pour out more. Eating something with a little carbohydrate signals the liver to stop sending glucose into the bloodstream and can tamp down high numbers.
10. Include and Enjoy Healthy Sources of Carbs
An eating plan that is too low in carbohydrate “is not balanced and may deprive the body of important fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, M.S.Ed., RD, CDE, author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes. Brown-Riggs counseled a PWD type 1 who cut her carbohydrate intake to 90 grams per day.
The result: constant hunger and no improvement in blood glucose or lipids. Brown-Riggs helped the woman balance her meal plan with additional carbohydrate-containing foods. “When she increased her carb intake, her hunger subsided. Additionally, she was able to improve her A1C, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels. Meal planning for diabetes is not one-size-fits-all,” explains Brown-Riggs.
11. Cook Pasta Al Dente and Measure Servings
It is best to eat your spaghetti al dente, says David J. A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital. Overcooked pasta and other starches become soft, lose their form, and give up their glucose more readily, likely giving you a slightly bigger rise in blood sugar, he says.
12. Talk to Your Doctor About Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol may lower blood sugar, but it can do so erratically and therefore isn’t considered a safe or effective method of glucose control.
Alcohol interferes with the liver’s ability to raise blood glucose and can cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). This is especially important to note if a person takes a blood glucose-lowering medication that can cause hypoglycemia, such as a sulfonylurea or insulin. In fact, it’s hard to predict just when alcohol might cause hypoglycemia.
Sometimes the effects can occur the following day. And when alcohol is mixed with high-sugar drinks, such as sodas and juices, or eaten with carb-containing foods, your blood sugar may initially rise but drop later.
13. Have a Cup of Green Tea
Replacing sugary drinks with green tea is a great way to cut calories, save carbs, and get a good dose of disease-fighting polyphenols. But don’t bank on it to lower your blood sugar. A few studies suggest that green tea may help prevent type 2 diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity, but the evidence isn’t strong enough to make firm recommendations.
14. Drink Water to Save Calories and Stay Hydrated
It’s a smart idea to drink plenty of calorie-free beverages, especially water, every day. This is especially true when your blood sugar levels are elevated. Because high blood sugar can cause excessive urination, drinking plenty of water helps prevent dehydration, says dietitian Constance Brown-Riggs.
15. Test your blood sugar two to three hours after meals
Hardy frequently tests her blood sugar with a glucose monitor. With time she slowly figured out which foods made her blood sugar jump up too quickly. Sometimes her blood sugar gets too high, but she doesn’t get down about it; she just aims to do better.