Controlling Type 2 Diabetes with a Healthy Lifestyle

People who have type 2 diabetes can sometimes control their condition with diet and exercise, and avoid medication or reduce the dose they take. Even if you need medication to help control your diabetes, following a healthy meal plan and getting regular physical activity can help blood sugar control and stave off complications.

A healthy lifestyle will help you get to and maintain a healthy weight, manage your blood glucose level, lower blood pressure if you have high blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve your mood.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with type 2 diabetes need to be aware of their total daily caloric intake. They also need to make sure they get appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals each day.

Here are healthy eating tips from the ADA:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods each day. Try new foods and eat a variety of foods within each section of the USDA's Choose My Plate food plan. Visit the USDA website for more information.

  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. These include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat less fat. Fats, particularly saturated fats and cholesterol, increase the risk for heart disease. Having type 2 diabetes puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

  • Use less added sugar. You don't have to give up dessert if you have type 2 diabetes, but you should practice moderation. Many sugar-free, low-calorie and low-fat desserts are available.

  • Don’t salt your food. When shopping or eating out, choose foods that are lower in sodium. Most of your daily sodium intake comes from processed, prepackaged foods, such as canned goods and frozen meals.

  • If your health care provider has prescribed medications for you to take, it's important to balance the foods you eat with your medications and exercise to help maintain and manage blood sugar levels. Your health care provider or dietitian can help you design a meal plan that works best for you and your lifestyle.

Here are exercise recommendations from the ADA:

  • Engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

  • Try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. This should be spread over at least 3 days per week. You should go no more than 2 days in a row without exercise. This can help with weight management and blood sugar control.

  • Your exercise program should include aerobic exercise (activities that increase your heart and breathing rates), strength training, and stretching exercises to increase your flexibility.

  • Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

5 days of tasty meals

Here's an example of a meal plan for people trying to control their weight or type 2 diabetes. Be sure to consult with your health care provider or dietitian for the best meal plan for you:


Breakfast: 2 small blueberry pancakes (1 starch, 1 fat, 1 fruit). Add less than a teaspoon of light tub margarine and 2 tablespoons sugar-free syrup, which don't count.

Mid-morning snack: 2 small tangerines (1 fruit), 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (1 milk).

Lunch: Chef's salad: lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, onions, red pepper, topped with 1 ounce turkey, 1 hard-cooked egg, 1 ounce low-fat cheddar cheese (3 vegetable, 1 meat). Add 4 crisp bread sticks (2 starch).

Mid-afternoon snack: 3 cups microwave popcorn (1 starch, 1 fat). 1 cup reduced-calorie cranberry juice cocktail (1 fruit).

Dinner: 3-ounce top-grade steak (1 meat) with 1/2 cup steamed spinach, roasted Vidalia onion, carrots, zucchini and red pepper strips (3 vegetable); add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Large slice of bakery whole-grain bread (2 starch).

Evening snack: Sugar-free gelatin with 1 cup raspberries (1 fruit), topped with yogurt (1 milk).


Breakfast: 1/2 grapefruit, cereal, 1 cup skim milk (1 starch, 1 milk, 1 fruit).

Mid-morning snack: 4-ounce orange juice (1 fruit).

Lunch: Omelet of 1/2 cup egg substitute and 1 ounce low-fat cheese, chopped vegetables (1 meat, 1 vegetable), baked "home-fry" style potatoes with onions (1 starch), 2 slices rye toast (2 starch) with 1 teaspoon reduced fat margarine and 2 teaspoons low-sugar jam.

Mid-afternoon snack: 2 whole kiwis (2 fruit).

Dinner: Roast a turkey breast, providing leftovers for lunches. Tonight, eat a salad, 1/2 cup broccoli, 3 ounces turkey (1 meat, 1 vegetable), 1/3 cup stuffing (1 starch, 1 fat), 1/4 cup of jellied cranberry sauce (2 fruit).

Evening snack: 1/2 cup crushed pineapple (1 fruit), 1 cup nonfat fruit-flavored light yogurt sweetened with aspartame (1 milk).


Breakfast: 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, 1 cup skim milk, 1 small peach (1 starch, 1 milk, 1 fruit).

Mid-morning snack: 1 slice toast, smear of light tub margarine (1 starch).

Lunch: 1 cup vegetable soup (1 starch), 3 ounces tuna (1 meat), 2 slices whole-wheat bread (2 starch), lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, onion (1 vegetable), 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise (2 fat).

Mid-afternoon snack: 1 cup light yogurt with 12 fresh cherries (1 milk, 1 fruit).

Dinner: 1/2 chicken breast (3 ounces cooked, 1 meat) grilled or baked, glazed with garlic and onion jam (1 starch), large baked potato (2 starch) with 3 tablespoons low-fat sour cream (1 fat), 1 cup green beans (2 vegetable).

Evening snack: 1/2 cup canned peaches (1 fruit), glass of skim milk (1 milk).


Breakfast: 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 cup skim milk, 2 tablespoons raisins (1 starch, 1 milk, 1 fruit).

Mid-morning snack: 1/2 whole-wheat bagel, 4-ounce orange juice (1 starch, 1 fruit).

Lunch: 3 ounces turkey on roll, lettuce, tomato (1 meat, 2 starch, 1 vegetable), teaspoon low-fat mayonnaise, glass of skim milk (1 milk).

Mid-afternoon snack: 6 cashew nuts (1 fat) and small apple (1 fruit).

Dinner: 3 ounces baked scrod (1 meat), 2/3 cup cooked couscous (2 starch), 1 cup steamed spinach (2 vegetable). Salad with croutons (1 vegetable, 1 starch).

Evening snack: 2 small plums (1 fruit) and glass of skim milk (1 milk).


Breakfast: 1/2 whole-wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon reduced fat cream cheese (1/2 fat), 1 cup light yogurt, 1-1/4 cup fresh strawberries, (1 starch, 1 milk, 1 fruit).

Mid-morning snack: 1/2 whole-wheat bagel and low-fat cream cheese (1 starch, 1/2 fat).

Lunch: 1 cup lentil soup (1 starch, 1/3 meat), 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese (2/3 meat), with 2 peach halves on lettuce (1 fruit, 1 vegetable). 1 slice whole-wheat bread (1 starch).

Mid-afternoon snack: 3 cups low-fat microwave popcorn (1 starch) and 1 cup reduced-calorie cranberry juice cocktail (1 fruit).

Dinner: Pork tenderloin fajitas with southwest seasoning spices, fried onions and peppers, (1 meat, 2 vegetable) two 6-inch corn tortillas (2 starch), salsa, nonfat sour cream and 1/4 medium avocado (2 fats).

Evening snack: Sugar-free strawberry gelatin with sliced strawberries (1 fruit).