Pamela Assid, DNP, RN, is a board-certified nursing specialist with over 25 years of expertise in emergency, pediatric, and leadership roles.
Isabel Casimiro, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine and works as an endocrinologist at the University of Chicago.
In the United States, around 90% or more of people affected by diabetes have type 2 diabetes. People affected by this condition cannot use insulin effectively. Cells become resistant to insulin, making them not take in enough sugar. In turn, the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with blood glucose (sugar) levels. The high blood glucose levels that result can adversely affect different body systems, such as cardiovascular (heart) or renal (kidney) systems.
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have had type 2 diabetes for years, it’s essential to make changes to manage symptoms and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
This article will offer tips, including diet, exercise, blood sugar monitoring, and more, to help you better manage type 2 diabetes and its symptoms.
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For many years, carbohydrate counting was considered integral to diabetes meal planning, but new information has shown that carbohydrate intake isn’t all bad. Instead, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the diabetic plate method. This is a way to balance meals proportionally without calorie counting to maintain a healthy diet.
First, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, which tend to be lower in carbohydrates and keep blood glucose levels down. These include:
Limiting your consumption of foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugar can help support better blood sugar management and prevent health complications related to diabetes.
Next, fill one-fourth of your plate with lean proteins, which are lower in fats. Lean protein choices include:
According to a 2017 review of nine studies, low-carb diets could help enhance blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes while also improving triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (considered good) cholesterol levels.
Finally, the last one-fourth of your plate should include carbohydrates. The type of carbohydrates chosen will ideally keep blood glucose levels low rather than making them spike. These include:
Staying active is essential to maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. Even starting with something simple, like walking, can help the body use insulin more effectively. If you're not usually physically active, work with your healthcare provider to identify fitness goals.
When starting an exercise regimen, it can be helpful to consider the following:
Achieving a healthy weight can help your body use insulin more effectively, control blood sugar levels, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure (particularly for those who have obesity), and increase energy levels.
Some things to consider to assist with weight control include:
An essential component of type 2 diabetes management is monitoring blood glucose levels. This can help indicate patterns or trends, such as foods that affect glucose levels or the effectiveness of medications. Your healthcare provider will explain when and how often to check glucose levels using a blood glucose meter at home.
Keeping your levels in a healthy range can prevent type 2 diabetes complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision changes, or even amputation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these tips for using a blood glucose meter:
Your healthcare provider will help identify your blood glucose level targets, depending on your age, health conditions, and diabetes treatment plan. The ADA recommends the following blood glucose level targets:
Type 2 diabetes affects each person’s blood glucose levels differently. Some people can effectively manage blood glucose levels with proper nutrition and exercise. Others might need medications, such as antihyperglycemic medication, or occasionally, injected insulin, to help keep blood glucose levels in a normal range.
While there is no optimal antihyperglycemic medication, some of the most commonly used medications include:
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body does not effectively utilize insulin to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can bring about complications, including heart or kidney disease, vision changes, stroke, or amputation.
Maintaining a healthy weight through nutrition and exercise can help manage type 2 diabetes. Monitoring blood glucose levels using a blood glucose meter can help you and your healthcare provider ensure that your type 2 diabetes treatment plan is effective. If blood glucose levels aren’t responding to diet and exercise, your healthcare provider might recommend adding oral antihyperglycemic medication like metformin to your treatment plan.

Managing a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming and confusing. Speak with your healthcare provider to determine a treatment plan that includes a healthy diet, exercise, blood glucose monitoring, and medication, if needed.

American Association of Clinical Endocrinology. Type 2 diabetes.
American Diabetes Association. Type 2 diabetes.
Gray A, Threlkeld RJ. Nutritional recommendations for individuals with diabetes. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., eds. Endotext., Inc.; 2000.
Meng Y, Bai H, Wang S, et al. Efficacy of low carbohydrate diet for type 2 diabetes mellitus management: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsDiabetes Research and Clinical Practice. 2017;131:124-131.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes.
Blonde L, Umpierrez GE, Reddy SS, et al. American association of clinical endocrinology clinical practice guideline: developing a diabetes mellitus comprehensive care plan—2022 updateEndocrine Practice. 2022;28(10):923-1049. doi:10.1016/j.eprac.2022.08.002
By Pamela Assid, DNP, RN
Pamela Assid, DNP, RN, is a board-certified nursing specialist with over 25 years of expertise in emergency, pediatric, and leadership roles.

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