Taking control of diabetes: the importance of diet and exercise

Diabetes is a complex and challenging condition. It can be hard to know what steps to take to make your journey easier. The good news is that there are lifestyle changes you can make today that can help! In this newsletter we’ll focus on sharing information and tips around nutrition and exercise to help keep your blood sugar levels in check and help you feel healthier and more in control of your condition. Always consult with your healthcare provider prior to making changes to your lifestyle, treatment, diet or exercise schedule.

Diet and Exercise

The Importance of Staying Active

If you have diabetes and you are able to exercise based on the guidance of your healthcare team, staying active is essential! Exercising regularly is an important way to improve your blood sugar levels, as it can help your body cells to use insulin more effectively.1,2 Physical activity can also improve cholesterol,2 improves blood pressure3 and can lower your weight sustainably.3

If you are looking for ideas on how to incorporate exercise into your daily life, take a look at the tips below:4

  • Start small: If you are new to exercise, try making small changes that will get you moving more in your daily life. For example, try climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator, walk to your local shops instead of driving or organize walks with friends and family.

  • Get your heart pumping: Once you are ready to do more, try aerobic exercises like running, cycling and swimming. This type of activity is helpful for controlling blood sugar levels and can improve your heart health.

  • Add strength training: If you can, try doing weight training. This type of activity can keep your muscles and bones strong, and your blood sugar levels under control by helping your body use insulin better.4

  • Stay flexible: Remember to stretch before and after exercise to help prevent injury to your muscles.

Please speak to your healthcare professional before making changes to your exercise regime, to ensure you understand the impact it could have on your blood glucose levels and any necessary steps you should take to stay safe and healthy.

What About Your Diet?

In addition to staying active, sustaining a healthy and balanced diet is key to taking charge of your diabetes journey! If you take insulin, managing your carbohydrate intake is especially important to keep your blood sugar in check. In addition to helping you control your blood sugar levels, eating the right foods may help you maintain your heart health and prevent long-term complications associated with diabetes.

Here are a few tips you can try to help maintain a balanced diet. Talk to your healthcare provider if the following may be suitable for you:5,6

Control your portion sizes but eat regularly

  • Be mindful of recommended portion sizes and try not to overeat at mealtimes.  

  • If reducing your portion sizes leaves you feeling hungry, try spacing out your meals to ensure you are eating regularly and are getting enough overall calories.

Count your carbohydrates5,6

  • You can calculate how much insulin you should take to manage your blood glucose levels after eating:

    If you take mealtime insulin, take note of each gram of carbohydrate that you eat and calculate your dose of insulin based on that number. This advanced form of carb counting is recommended if you are on intensive insulin therapy using shots or a pump.

  • If you don’t take mealtime insulin, detailed carb counting may not be critical to keep your blood sugar levels stable, but noting your carbohydrate intake can help you keep an eye on overall nutrition and health.

  • You can consult consult your diabetes nurse or healthcare professionalto find out the number of grams of carbohydrates in many common foods. Additionally, there are several apps that can assist you with recording your carbohydrate intake to make carb counting easier to fit into your daily life.

Try the Diabetes Plate Method7

Divide your plate into 3 sections and try to build a meal that looks like this:
  • Half the plate: non-starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach and broccoli

  • One-quarter of the plate: 3 to 4 ounces of lean meat such as chicken or turkey

  • One-quarter of the plate: starchy foods like potatoes, pasta or corn

  • On the side, try adding low fat milk or fruit

Stay tuned for our next update, which will be focused on diabetes and mental health!

The information brought to you by Ascensia Diabetes Care Singapore Pte Ltd provides general information. It is not intended to be used as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not replace the advice of your Healthcare Provider. Always speak to your healthcare provide prior to making changes to your diet, exercise or treatment.


1. Kirwan JP, del Aguila LF, Hernandes JM, et al. Regular exercise enhances insulin activation of IRS-1-associated P13K in human skeletal tissue. J Appl Physiol. 2000;88:797-803.

2. Colberg SR et al. Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2016;39:2065-2079. 

3. Wing R, The Look AHEAD Research Group. Cardiovascular Effects of Intensive Lifestyle Interventions in Type 2 Diabetes. N Engl J Med 2013;369:145-54. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1212914

4. AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors® BEING ACTIVE. https://www.diabeteseducator.org/docs/default-source/living-with-diabetes/tip-sheets/aade7/aade7_being_active.pdf?sfvrsn=12. Accessed February 2021.

5. Ascensia Diabetes Care. Quick Guide to Carbohydrate Counting 2017. Accessed February 2021.

6. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/understanding-carbs/carb-counting-and-diabetes. Accessed February 2021.

7. Center for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/meal-plan-method.html. Accessed February 2021.

8. American Diabetes Association. https://shopdiabetes.org/collections/diabetes-cookbooks. Accessed February 2021.