Lifestyle Changes to Manage Type 1 Diabetes

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 through 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, and fat. Each group has a number of servings, or exchanges of food items. Each exchange within a given 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 amount 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 make changes in the amount of insulin they take and the foods that 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. Jan; 42 Àl 1):S1-193.
Diabetes mellitus type 1. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 28, 2019. Accessed November 22, 2019.
Type 1 diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: Accessed November 22, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 12/8/2020

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.