Save Time Managing Diabetes

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Save Time Managing Diabetes

What is the biggest obstacle for you in effectively managing your diabetes? According to a study in The Journal of Family Practice, more than a fifth of people answered that question, “Not enough time.” Sound familiar?

The study was a survey of diabetes educators, based on their patients’ experiences. They found that “for experienced patients with Type 2 diabetes controlled by oral agents, recommended self-care would require more than 2 extra hours daily. Elderly patients and those with newly diagnosed disease, or those with physical limitations, would need more time.”

The two most time-consuming elements of self-management were meal preparation (including shopping and meal planning) and exercise, followed by foot care and glucose monitoring, medication management, dealing with doctors and insurers, stress management and support activities.

Few doctors are aware of the time pressure that prescribed diabetic self-care puts on their patients. They probably won’t fix your time demands for you. So, what can you do for yourself to save time in diabetes care?


The more things become routine, the less you will have to think about them. A shopping list reduces time spent in a store, and having a standard list saves time going through the kitchen remembering what you need.

Some food markets deliver. If that’s available and affordable for you, it will save a lot of time. Your shopping list becomes your order.

Some foods are quicker to prepare. Here are 20 fast recipes, and there are many more on our site that will fit your diet. Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian Amy Campbell gives tips for fast cooking here.

Frozen foods are even faster, but you have to find diabetes-friendly ones. One advantage of frozen is that the carbohydrate count is right on the label. Because there’s so much nutritional info on the label to look at, though, shopping for frozen dinners takes a lot of time, so it’s faster to have a few favorites and stock up on them.

Freezing your own food is healthier, cheaper and allows you to cook two–four meals at once, and since they’re all the same, you’ll know in advance how each one will affect you. You’ll need plastic containers or bags to store them, and labeling them might help you remember what they are.

Here are some tips for fast shopping. With that said, you might want to go several places, follow advertised specials or use coupons to save money — activities that will take more time. Keep in mind that it’s a trade off.

Healthy snacking helps keep sugars controlled, and packaged snacks are quick, but not always healthy, or cheap. Healthy, portable quick snacks include nuts or homemade trail mix. Spreading nut butter on celery or carrot sticks and packing them in a bag or container could provide snacks-to-go for a week. Cottage cheese and humus are other quick snacks when you’re at home. Here are some more ideas that look tasty.

Glucose monitoring

Organization also saves time with checking glucose. Have all your supplies in one place, preferably in a packet you can take with you. Your supplies should include a log for writing your results and times, unless you rely on your meter’s log.

If your results are consistent, you might be able to reduce unnecessary tests. Fasting and pre-meal checks aren’t always needed for people not using insulin. If you are using insulin, a continuous glucose monitor might be appropriate and save time.


If you’re taking oral medicines, a pill dispenser filled once a week is much quicker than opening a bunch of bottles once, twice or three times a day. Linking your medication times to other routine activities such as eating or brushing your teeth saves a minute and helps you remember to take them.

Calling in for refills and picking them up can take a lot of time. Ordering online and having them delivered can save that time, if your health-care system or pharmacy has that service.

Communicating with a doctor is far less time-consuming if s/he has an e-mail address or patient portal. You might ask about that when choosing a physician in the first place.


The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 30 minutes a day of exercise. Most Americans, with or without diabetes, don’t do 30 minutes, but new studies have found that shorter, more intense exercise may be even better for controlling after-meal blood sugar. Five minutes a few times a day might be all that is needed.

We can eliminate travel time to the gym. If there are stairs at home or at work, do we need a stair-climber machine? If there’s a sidewalk outside, must we have a treadmill? Although gyms can provide social connection, walking around the neighborhood can do that too, and in less time.

One area you shouldn’t try to save time on is foot care. For instance, always put on shoes and socks, check your feet daily for inflammation or injury, and run your hand in your shoes to check for sharp things before putting them on. Taking two minutes a day to floss and brush also seems a worthwhile use of time. But when it comes to the two big time-users of food and exercise, saving time is possible and valuable. We just need to get organized.

Want to learn more ways to save time while managing diabetes? Read “Healthy Meals…In a Flash.”

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