by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Healthy habits can help a person manage diabetes. These may be changes to:


A dietitian can help a person with diabetes keep their glucose levels in the right range with healthy eating. This will mean:

  • Eating 3 balanced meals at the same time each day
  • Not skipping meals
  • Watching portion sizes
  • Eating foods and drinks that do not have sugar
  • Eating foods that are low in sodium and fat
  • Limiting foods that are high in fat, such as fried foods

Methods of Dietary Planning

There are 2 main ways to plan meals. These are:

Exchange System

Food is divided into 6 groups:

  • Starch
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Veggies
  • Meat
  • Fat
  • Each group has a number of servings, or exchanges of food items. Each exchange within a group has the same calories and grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrate (carb) as every other exchange in that category.

    A dietitian will help a person with diabetes learn how many calories are needed each day. These calories will be turned into exchanges from each of the 6 food groups. These exchanges will be spread out across meals and snacks for the day.

    Carbohydrate Counting

    Sugar and starch are carbs that turn into glucose in the body. White grain products, citrus fruits, and milk products have the highest amounts of carbs. A dietitian can teach a person with diabetes how many grams to eat per day. The grams should be spread out during the day. A person will also be told the amount of insulin that is needed for each gram of carb that is eaten.


    Exercise can help lower blood glucose and help the body use it better. It may also lower the amount of insulin that is needed. A person may need to change the amount of insulin they take and the foods they eat based on how much they exercise.


    Smoking may make it harder to manage diabetes. A person with diabetes should take steps to quit smoking.


    American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2019. Diabetes Care, 2019; 42 (Suppl 1): S1-193.

    Diabetes mellitus type 1. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 5, 2022.

    Type 1 diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: Accessed May 5, 2022.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
    • Review Date: 03/2022
    • Update Date: 05/05/2022