Diet and exercise for type 1 diabetes

A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity are essential for good type 1 diabetes management. Following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you bring and keep your blood glucose levels within your target range, and improve your overall health.

Whether you're looking to make a complete lifestyle change, or simply to fine-tune your current care regimen, you'll find useful information and resources in this section.

Why are diet and exercise so important?

  • Better glucose control

    A healthy diet and regular exercise will help keep your blood glucose on target by reducing your intake of foods that cause blood glucose to rise too much, and by using excess glucose for energy.
  • Healthy body weight

    Good nutrition and increased physical activity can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, which will also improve your glucose control and overall health.
  • Emotional wellbeing

    Taking good care of your body can bring additional benefits, including increased energy levels, more self-confidence, and relief from stress.

Eating well with type 1 diabetes

Making the right food choices can be difficult, as it often seems easier to choose something convenient, or what everyone else is having. But eating well means learning to make healthy choices for you – regardless of where you are or who you are with.

Remember, a healthy diet doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Your diabetes care team will help you create a meal plan that is right for you, and find ways to work healthy eating into your daily routines.

Important tips for type 1 diets:
  • Eat regularly
  • Eat a variety of foods in the right amounts
  • Balance the amount you eat against your physical activity and your insulin dosage

Managing blood glucose around mealtimes

Meet Rhodri Owen. Rhodri has type 1 diabetes and manages his meals and his blood glucose levels so he doesn't have to give up some of his favourite foods.


Watch Rhodri explain how he manages diabetes around mealtimes

Why carbohydrates matter

It is very important that you read the labels on foods so you know their carbohydrate content. Glucose is a carbohydrate, so the amount and type of carbohydrate you consume may affect your blood glucose levels and the amount of mealtime insulin you need to take.


Carbohydrates come in two main forms

Simple carbohydrates

  • Include fruit, honey, white bread and dairy
  • Give food a sweet taste
  • Raise blood glucose levels quickly 

Complex carbohydrates

  • Include potatoes, brown bread, pulses and oats
  • Contain more fibre and take longer for the body to absorb
  • Raise blood glucose levels more slowly

Keeping track of your carbohydrate intake – also known as 'counting carbs' – can be complicated, but there are lots of tools, apps, and online references available to help you get started.

Try this free carb counting booklet

Can I drink alcohol with type 1 diabetes?

You can enjoy alcohol if you have type 1 diabetes, as long as you drink in moderation and never on an empty stomach.

You should also be aware that alcohol can have unexpected effects on blood glucose. The sugar in alcohol can cause a sharp rise in blood glucose, but the combination of alcohol and diabetes medication can also cause hypoglycaemia – low blood glucose. These effects are difficult to predict, and you and your companions should know the risks and what to do if you become unwell.

Can I drink alcohol with type 1 diabetes?

Exercise and type 1 diabetes

Regular physical activity is good for your physical and mental health – and it's good for your blood glucose control too. You just need to plan carefully and take additional precautions to make sure you can enjoy exercise and sports safely.  

Different physical activities affect blood glucose in different ways. Higher intensity activities, like running or playing football, can make your blood glucose levels rise. Lower intensity activities, like walking, can make your levels drop. Talk to your healthcare professional before starting or changing any exercise or sports programme and get advice on what is best for you.


Type 1 tips for sports and exercise

  • Check your blood glucose regularly: test before, during and after exercising so you can adjust what you eat and your insulin dose as needed
  • Share records with your diabetes care team: knowing how exercise affects your glucose levels will help them create a plan that works for you
  • Avoid hypos: eat the right amount of carbs before and after exercising, and be ready to respond to signs of a hypo – always keep a snack with you
  • Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water – having diabetes can increase your risk of dehydration


Exercise affects individuals in different ways. Find an activity that works for you, and that you enjoy, and you'll be more likely to stick with it and get all the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Learn about insulin pumps

Insulin pumps are small portable devices that provide your body with mealtime insulin throughout the day. Pumps remove the need for multiple injections, and can offer more flexible insulin dosing to suit an active lifestyle.


Learn more about insulin pumps

Disease Experience Expert Panels

Our Disease Experience Expert Panels (DEEPs) bring together individuals living with serious chronic diseases, including people with type 1 diabetes and their caregivers, to provide insights and advice based on their experiences.


Explore DEEP

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