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Diet and Exercise for Diabetic Patients

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Diet and Exercise for Diabetic Patients

5 min read


A healthy lifestyle for someone with diabetes includes both exercise and proper nutrition, for more details, read further.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At September 3, 2019
Reviewed AtDecember 28, 2023


To live a healthy lifestyle while having diabetes, diet and exercise are crucial. Maintaining an appropriate blood glucose level, also known as blood sugar, can be achieved through a nutritious diet and regular exercise, among other advantages. Patients must balance their diet, drinking, and exercise with any diabetic medications they may be taking to control their blood sugar levels. Maintaining the blood glucose level within the range prescribed by the diabetic nutritionist depends on diet choices, portion sizes, and timing.

Making modifications to diet and beverage intake and increasing the physical activity level can be difficult at first. It could be simpler for the patient to begin with little adjustments and enlist the support of their loved ones, friends, and medical professionals. Patients can benefit from eating healthily and exercising most days of the week.

  • Maintain the blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels within the designated ranges.

  • Drop pounds or maintain a healthy weight.

  • Avoid or postpone diabetes-related issues.

  • Feel content and energized.

What Is a Balanced Diet?

Our diet mainly consists of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and all three are needed for the proper functioning of the body.

  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are divided into simple and complex.

  • Simple Carbohydrates: It consists of sugar and its products. It absorbs quickly and increases glucose levels in a short period.

  • Complex Carbohydrates: They are present in beans, wheat, rice, and vegetables. It absorbs slowly and increases glucose levels slowly and for a longer duration.

In diabetic patients, complex carbs are preferred but with limitations, and avoid pure sugar as much as possible.

  • Protein: Protein is an integral part of the diet. It is divided into animal protein and non-animal protein.

  • Animal protein should be consumed in the size of a palm every day. Consuming lean meat is better than red meat.

  • Non-animal protein sources are soy, lentils, cheese, and dairy products. Dairy products need to be fat-free.

  • Fats: Fats are of saturated and unsaturated types. Saturated fatsshould be avoided, and their primary source is milk and other dairy products. Fat from plant sources is further divided into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Limited consumption of plant-sourced fats like canola, sunflower, and olive oil is safe for people with diabetes. It is usually advised to avoid deep-fried and bakery items. The basic idea is to avoid fat content.

Which Foods Are Safe to Eat When Dealing With Diabetes?

Eating a range of healthful meals from all food categories in the amounts recommended by the meal plan as prescribed by diabetic nutritionists is essential for eating well with diabetes. The dietary groups consist of

  • Vegetables:

    • Non-starchy Vegetables: Broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, and tomatoes are among them.

    • Starchy Vegetables: Contains green peas, potatoes, and corn.

  • Fruits: Contains oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes.

  • Grains: Whole grains, which include wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa—should make up at least half of the daily grain intake. Examples include tortillas, bread, pasta, and cereal.

  • Protein-Rich Foods: These include fish, almonds, and peanuts; poultry or turkey without the skin.

  • Dried beans and some peas, such as split peas and chickpeas; meat alternatives, like tofu; dairy—nonfat or low-fat milk, or lactose-free milk if intolerant to lactose; yogurt; cheese.

Which Foods and Beverages Should Be Avoided if Suffering From Diabetes?

Items and beverages to restrict include

  • Foods high in salt, also known as sodium sweets, include baked goods, candies, and ice cream.

  • Liquids with added sugars, like juice, soda, and sports or energy drinks.

  • Fried foods and other foods are high in saturated fat and trans fat.

  • Water is a better option than sugary drinks. Try adding a sugar replacement to the tea or coffee.

If the patient chooses to drink alcohol, they should do it in moderation. For women, limit the intake to one drink per day; for men, limit it to two. Alcohol can cause the blood glucose level to drop too low if they use insulin or diabetic medications that boost the body's production of insulin. If it has been a while since they last ate, this is especially true. Eating is recommended when consuming alcohol.

Why Should Someone With Diabetes Engage in Physical Activity?

Maintaining health and controlling the blood sugar levels both depend on physical activity. Many health advantages come from being active. Engaging in even modest physical activity might be beneficial. Experts advise aiming for five days a week of at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity. Vigorous exercise feels hard and intense, while moderate activity feels demanding and slightly so. Patients may need to engage in physical activity for at least 60 minutes five days a week if they want to lose weight or keep it off.

A few of the Physical activities:

  • Reduces the levels of blood glucose.

  • Reduces blood pressure.

  • Increases blood flow.

  • Burns excess energy to maintain a low weight if necessary.

  • Elevates emotional state.

  • Can become better and prevent falls.

  • In older folks, memory may improve the quality of sleep.

How Can a Diabetic Safely Engage in Physical Activity?

To stay properly hydrated, make sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise. Here are some more guidelines for healthy exercise when they have diabetes.

  • Prepare in Advance: Before beginning a new exercise regimen, check with the medical team, particularly if they have any underlying health issues. The medical team will advise the patient on safe ways to stay active as well as provide a goal range for the blood glucose level.

  • Prevent Low Blood Sugar: Exercise causes the blood sugar to drop, therefore the patient should take precautions to avoid hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. The risk of hypoglycemia is higher if they use insulin or some other diabetes medications, like sulfonylureas. Hypoglycemia can also happen if the patients have not eaten before exercising or if they have done a lengthy, vigorous activity. Hypoglycemia can occur after physical exertion or up to 24 hours later.

  • Take Good Care of Feet: High blood glucose levels can cause poor blood flow and nerve damage, which can lead to complications for those with diabetes. Wearing supportive, comfy shoes and taking good care of the feet before, during, and after physical activity can help prevent foot issues.

What Kinds of Physical Activity Are Appropriate for Someone With Diabetes?

  • Include More Exercise in Everyday Regimen: Try these easy strategies to include daily physical activity into life:

    • While watching television advertisements or conversing on the phone, move about.

    • Perform household tasks, like gardening, leaf raking, housecleaning, and car washing.

    • Walk to the store after parking at the far end of the shopping center lot.

    • Use the stairs rather than the lift.

    • Take family on active adventures like a stroll in a park or a family bike ride.

Every 30 minutes or so, engage in a brief physical exercise if the patients are seated for an extended period, such as when watching TV or working at a desk. Lighthearted pursuits consist of

  • Lifting or extending the legs.

  • Arm stretches with the arms up.

  • The desk chair can be turned around.

  • Body contorts.

  • Walking while making side lunges.

  • Engage in Aerobic Activity: Exercise that increases heart rate and forceful breathing is known as aerobic exercise. On most days of the week, the patients should try to get in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Patients do not need to complete the entire task at once. These minutes might be divided up into several periods over the day.

  • To Gain Muscle, Engage in Strength Training: Strength training is a low- to moderate-intensity physical activity that promotes bone health and muscular growth. Strength training holds significance for all genders. More calories will be burnt if the body is composed of more muscle and less fat. Increasing calorie burn will aid in weight loss and maintenance.

  • Practice Stretches: Stretching is a mild to moderate type of exercise. Stretching improves flexibility, reduces stress, and lessens the likelihood of painful muscles.


Diet and exercise are key components of a healthy lifestyle for people with diabetes. Among other benefits, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help the patient maintain an appropriate blood glucose level or blood sugar. To keep their blood sugar levels under control, patients must combine their diabetes prescriptions with their diet, drinking, and exercise. Timing, portion sizes, and food selections all play a role in keeping blood glucose levels within the range that the diabetic nutritionist professional has recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which Exercise Benefits a Diabetic Patient?

Diabetic people should follow regular exercise to lead a better life.  Aerobic exercise is mainly suggested to manage diabetes. In addition,  exercises help reduce bad cholesterol levels and maintain HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Various forms of exercise, include yoga, walking, cycling, running, etc., are also helpful for diabetic patients.


Which Diet Is Essential for Diabetes?

A diabetic individual should include nutritious food in their diet and food that is low in calories. The foods that are important in a diabetic diet are as follows:
- Whole grains.
- Fiber-rich foods.
- Dairy products that are less in fat.
- Legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
- Fish.


Can Carrots Be Included in a Diet for Diabetes?

Generally, people with diabetes try to avoid root vegetables as they have a high glycemic index. But the carrot is also a root vegetable with a low glycemic index. According to the American Diabetes Association, a diabetic individual can include carrots in their diet to gain its benefits. In addition, carrots are low in starch content, which makes them a better choice.


What Foods Can Reduce Blood Sugar Levels?

People who opt to reduce and maintain their blood sugar levels can include the following foods in their diet.
- Pumpkin.
- Fish.
- Nuts.
- Other vegetables like okra, broccoli, beans, etc.
- Chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, and berries.


What Foods Should a Diabetic Avoid?

There are certain foods that a diabetic individual should avoid to prevent the rise of blood glucose levels and other complications:
- High-sodium content foods.
- Fried foods.
- Processed meat.
- Baked desserts and snacks.
- Sugary beverages, etc.


Can a Diabetic Eat Fruits?

Yes, fruits can be included in the diet of a person with diabetes. In addition, studies also support that the risk of diabetes is low when the amount of fruit intake is high. However, a few studies report that it is better to avoid fruits and other foods high in glycemic index, especially jackfruit, mangoes, banana, pineapple, etc.


When Should Exercise Be Avoided With Diabetes?

Generally, a person benefits from exercise that is done in the morning. For a diabetic person, it is important to avoid exercising when the blood glucose levels are too high or too low, as it may lead to weakness, giddiness, etc. Therefore, an individual with diabetes can do exercise in the morning at 7.00 AM, followed by breakfast at 7.30 AM or 8.00 AM.


When Is Blood Sugar Highest in a Day?

Usually, blood glucose levels are high in the early morning. The effect of certain hormones that are released during the night may be the cause, or high carbohydrate food intake in the night would also lead to a rise in blood sugar in the early morning. In addition, it is important to have a doctor’s consultation if the blood sugar level is abnormally high.


When Is the Best Time for Diabetics to Have Breakfast?

Many may skip breakfast due to various reasons, without knowing its importance. Especially patients with diabetes should not skip their breakfast. They should ensure that they have breakfast by 8.30 am. Breakfast must be rich in fiber and other nutrients. In addition, fruits, cereals, and low-fat dairy may also be included.


When Sould a Person With Diabetes Walk?

Depending on the age and other chronic illnesses, the walk can be brisk or mild. Generally, a 30-minute walk is considered effective for healthy as well as diabetic individuals.  A diabetic person can walk for 30 minutes in the morning, after which they can have breakfast (after an interval of 30 minutes to 1 hour).


Can a Person Eat Rice if He Is a Diabetic?

A diet that is less carbohydrates and fat is good for patients with diabetes. White rice that is high in the glycemic index raises blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is better to consume them in less quantity. Along with them, a bowl of vegetables that are rich in nutrition, eggs, and other legumes can be taken.


Can I Drink Milk at Night With Diabetes?

Milk is essential for all individuals, as it is rich in protein and other essential minerals. However, consuming them at night or before bedtime may increase blood glucose levels. In addition, diabetic patients may prefer low-fat milk in the morning to achieve its benefits and to maintain blood sugar levels.


What Can a Diabetic Do First in the Morning?

People with diabetes can follow a morning routine for a better life. They can check their blood sugar levels in the morning, based on which a session of exercise can be done. After an interval of 30 minutes, a high-fiber and nutritious breakfast is crucial. It is also essential to take the suggested medications on time to manage diabetes.


Which Type of Diabetes Is Controlled With Diet and Exercise?

There are two types, namely, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes requires medications or insulin injections for management. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes can be controlled with a proper diet and a good exercise routine. It is always advisable to get a doctor’s suggestions on diet plans and exercise to prevent complications.
Dr. Qazi Mujahid Ali
Dr. Qazi Mujahid Ali



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