If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor might prescribe insulin to help keep your blood glucose levels in check. But in other cases, you might be able to control your blood glucose without taking insulin. Whatever treatment plan your doctor prescribes, healthy lifestyle choices can help you manage your type 2 diabetes and lower your risk of complications.

Here are some non-insulin treatment options you can use to manage type 2 diabetes.

Eat a well-balanced diet

Following a diabetes-friendly meal plan can help you keep your blood glucose level under control. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating. Instead, it’s best to work with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that fits your needs and goals. Along with other strategies, they will likely encourage you to:

  • practice portion control
  • eat a wide-variety of nutrient-rich foods
  • limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates and junk food

Talk to your doctor or dietitian to learn more about healthy meal plans for type 2 diabetes.

Get regular exercise

Any type of physical activity can help lower your blood glucose level. Regular exercise can also help improve your mood, strength, and flexibility — and lower your risk of other chronic health conditions.

The American Diabetes Association recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per day, at least five days per week. Examples include:

  • walking
  • running
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • rowing
  • dancing
  • playing tennis or basketball

It’s also important to perform at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities per week. Examples include:

  • lifting free weights
  • using weight machines
  • using resistance bands
  • doing body-weight exercises, such as pushups, sit ups, and squats

If you don’t have time for a full workout, consider breaking up your routine into three 10-minute fitness sessions throughout your day. This might include a simple brisk walk around your neighborhood. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start slowly. Gradually build up your strength, speed, and endurance. Your doctor, physiotherapist, or licensed trainer can help you develop a fitness plan that works for you.

Maintain a healthy weight

If you’re overweight, losing weight can help you manage your type 2 diabetes. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. For most people, that means exercising more, eating fewer calories, or both.

To develop a safe and sustainable weight loss plan, speak with your doctor. They might refer you to a dietitian or other specialist who can help you meet your weight loss goals.

Ask your doctor about oral medications

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to keep your blood glucose level under control, your doctor might prescribe medications. While insulin is one type of medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, it’s not the only one. To help manage your condition, your doctor might prescribe one or more oral medications, such as metformin. These medications can help lower your blood glucose level to a safe range.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about the medications available to treat type 2 diabetes. Ask them about the potential benefits and risks of different options. Tell them about any other drugs, supplements, or herbal products that you use. In some cases, medications used to treat diabetes can interact with other drugs or supplements. Many of them aren’t recommended for pregnant or nursing women.

The takeaway

If your doctor prescribes insulin injections or other drugs to manage your type 2 diabetes, it’s important to take your medications as prescribed. But in some cases, your doctor might prescribe a treatment plan that doesn’t include medications. This may involve changes to your daily lifestyle habits that can help reduce the amount of medication you need to take. Following a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you control your diabetes and limit the amount of medication you need to keep your blood glucose levels in check.