Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes

Living with diabetes can be a challenge. You are a key player on your health care team when it comes to managing your diabetes. Whether you have just been told that you have diabetes or you've had the disease for years, we can help you develop self-management skills.

This manual by the Allina Diabetes Education Council includes information that people with diabetes need to know about. Ask your diabetes educator or nurse about which topics apply the most to you now.

Tools for managing your diabetes

Food, physical activity, stress management, medicine and monitoring blood glucose are tools that can help manage your diabetes.

Diabetes chrystler with five tools for managing your diabetes as described below


Your body needs food to make glucose that is used for energy. Eating the right foods during the day will help to keep your blood glucose in control.

Remember that food makes blood glucose go up, so controlling how much, what kind and when you eat can make a difference. Here are some tips:

  1. Eat three well-balanced meals a day.
  2. If meals are more than 4 to 5 hours apart, eat a small snack.
  3. Eat a bedtime snack so that your body has enough energy while you sleep.
  4. Do not skip meals or snacks. Your body will make up for the lack of glucose by asking the liver to produce extra glucose. This can make controlling your blood glucose even harder.
  5. Ask for help if you have questions or need advice about your food choices.

Physical activity

Exercise is important for everyone. When you have diabetes, it helps to use up blood glucose. Physical activity also makes your insulin work better.

  1. Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
  2. Start slowly to avoid injury.
  3. Choose activities that you will enjoy.
  4. Get physical activity every day.

Stress management

Stress increases blood glucose and can cause problems with your blood glucose control.

  1. Think about what causes stress for you.
  2. Find healthy ways that help you cope with stress. Try them.
  3. Seek help if you need it.


There are many medicines that help control blood glucose. Your health care provider will choose the best medicines for you if you need them. It is not unusual for your medicine needs to change.

Monitoring blood glucose

Regular testing will tell you how your food, physical activity and medicines are working. You can use the diabetes management plan for following your blood glucose testing schedule as well as for recording your medicine, food and exercise recommendations.

Forms and worksheets

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet Behavior change goals

Blood glucose scale for type 2 diabetes

Effects of diabetes on your life

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet Examples of one carbohydrate choice (15 grams)

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet Food and exercise diary

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet Food and exercise diary example

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet My diabetes management plan

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet My eating guide

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet My insulin plan

Adobe Reader required to view worksheet Physical activity log

Stressful situations

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, sixth edition
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 10/23/2019

Get connected to your health information

Use your free Allina Health account to get instant access to:

  • schedule clinic appointments
  • do an eVisit
  • email you care team
  • refill prescriptions
  • monitor your blood glucose levels

Sign in or sign up.