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So, you’ve got prediabetes. Serious problem? Yep. But don’t fret, it’s often reversible with the power of diet and nutrition.
So how does nutrition come to the rescue? Following a prediabetes diet might look like:
- choosing low glycemic foods
- increasing fat and protein intake
- reducing sugar intake
- filling up on fiber
Worst-case scenario: you keep sliding down the path toward type 2 diabetes. Best-case scenario: you finesse your food choices to halt the decline and potentially reverse your prediabetes.
Wanna know more? Let’s dive in.
Prediabetes is a pretty strong predictor of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Basically, your blood sugar is high, but it isn’t quite high enough to be classified as T2D.
If you have prediabetes, glucose (sugar) builds up in your bloodstream and causes blood sugar levels to spike. And this high blood sugar (aka hyperglycemia) can be a recipe for damaged nerves, blood vessels, and organs. The buildup can happen for a couple of reasons:
- Maybe your body doesn’t produce enough insulin — the handy hormone that collects glucose and delivers it to your cells.
- Maybe your cells have stopped responding quickly to insulin — aka, they don’t *want* these deliveries, thankyouverymuch.
Why your body can’t seem to use or produce insulin correctly depends on many factors, but some risk factors include genetics, inactivity, and being overweight.
When it comes to food, prediabetic bodies have trouble processing sugar and other refined, processed carbs (including sugar). So eating foods that don’t have much sugar (protein and healthy fats) or break down into sugar slooooowly (low glycemic foods) can help you avoid blood sugar spikes. These tend to be low carb, fiber-full, nutrient-dense eats.
In addition to dialing down blood sugar, experts say prediabetic folks with overweight bodies should also shed 5 to 7 percent of their body weight for the greatest chance of reversing the condition.
Fill up on the following foods to stabilize your blood sugar and help aid weight loss (if that’s part of your plan).
Remember, foods low on the glycemic index (GI) are the gold standard for anyone who wants to tame high blood sugar. That means most large portions of refined carbs are out.
But, eating low GI carbohydrates, in small portions (1/2 cup or less) will have less impact on your blood sugar levels. Here are some low GI carbs you can enjoy in small amounts:
- brown rice
- oats and oatmeal
- whole-wheat bread and pasta (in moderation)
- some gluten-free meals and flours (check your labels!)
Fiber is a special kind of carb found in plant-based foods. Your body can’t digest fiber like other carbs, so it fills you up without touching your blood sugar. Kinda cool, right?
Some of our fave high fiber foods include:
- butternut squash
- leafy greens
Low sugar fruits
Ah, nature’s desserts. Eat your heart out with these low sugar and low glycemic fruits like:
- lemons and limes
- prunes (toss the pits!)
Swap that processed Double Whopper for more nutritious cuts of meat and plant-based protein like:
Other nutrient-dense nibbles
Chucking refined carbs can leave you feeling hangry. Fill up on these dense, whole-food snacks instead:
- sunflower seeds
- chia seeds (erm, in a smoothie or pudding)
You probably know smashing full sleeves of Oreos isn’t a good choice for prediabetes. But we can get more specific than “don’t eat unhealthy stuff.”
Here are the high glycemic and calorie-rich foods you should sidestep or eliminate on your prediabetes diet.
Avoid syrupy sweet drinks that flood your body with glucose (this will only ratchet up blood sugar issues) such as:
- hot chocolate
- sweetened lattes
- energy drinks
- boba milk tea
- sweet tea
- sports drinks
- most cocktails
These simple carbs (also called refined carbs) don’t have much nutritional value and affect your blood sugar. Avoid common culprits like:
- white bread
- white rice
- plain pasta
Processed meats from the deli or your fave bar and grill can have a lot of added sugar. Processed meats are also often covered in breading or flour that will raise blood sugar. Try to avoid:
- breaded meats
- fried meats
- meats covered in sweat sauces like BBQ sauce
- plant-based meat alternatives with high saturated fat content
It’s a fact: Alcohol undermines weight loss efforts. Booze packs in plenty of calories for very little nutritional value. Dialing back could help you slash carb intake *and* lose weight.
- 12-ounce beer = 155 calories
- 6-ounce glass of red wine = 153 calories
- 4-ounce Manhattan = 266 calories
A prediabetes diet goes a long way toward reversing this condition. But a multi-pronged approach will turbocharge your efforts.
Move your body
Research shows that daily exercise improves insulin efficiency. And, of course, it torches calories to help support any weight loss goals.
Beyond that, exercise can boost heart health, lift your mood, and is just all-around good for you. Aim for a combo of strength training and cardio for at least 150 minutes a week.
Try to let go of some tension
Stress relief alone will not fix prediabetes. But we know that stress hinders your other efforts (like your diet!). Maybe you stress-eat or don’t meal-prep because you’re stressed. Maybe stress triggers sleep probs, which can raise your risk of diabetes.
Try incorporating other stress-relief activities like yoga, breathing techniques, nature walks, and meditation.
Watch your portions
Weight loss requires a calorie deficit. So, if that’s your goal, help cut down your calorie consumption with these tips:
- Check your labels. Did you know that some “individual” bags of chips and other snacks include more than one serving? Product labels offer valuable info on carb count, calories, and the intended serving size.
- Go halfsies as restaurants. Restaurants often go overboard on the serving size. If it’s a large entree, try splitting it with a friend. Or enjoy half the plate now, then have the rest put in a to-go container for later.
- Use smaller plates. If you often overeat because you’re overfilling your plate, try using a smaller plate. This is a mind trick, but it just might work.
- Practice mindful eating. It might sound funny, but savoring your food — really focusing on each bite — makes a big difference on your consumption. So, make mealtime a thing. Sit down at the table, enjoy the flavors, chew each bite fully, and stop when you’re full.
Talk with your doc
Reversing prediabetes is possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian about tailoring a nutrition and exercise plan that matches your goals. A personal trainer can help too.
Eating “healthy” to reverse prediabetes doesn’t have to feel ho-hum. Peep these meal ideas that you’ll actually enjoy.
|Eat this||Not that|
– omelet with feta and veggies
– whole-wheat toast with avocado and egg
– cottage cheese with fruit
– small portion of overnight oatmeal topped with cinnamon
– drinks like black coffee or unsweetened green or black tea
|– sweetened cereal|
– bagels or white toast
– pancakes and syrup
– sugary lattes with whipped cream
|Lunch||– taco bowl with lean beef, lots of veggies, and guac|
– low carb chili-stuffed red peppers (swap the rice for quinoa)
– big green salad topped with a protein and vinaigrette
|– drive-thru combos|
– salad dressings brimming with added sugar or saturated fat
– baguette sandwiches
|Snacks||– handful of nuts or seeds|
– piece of fruit
– unsweetened Greek yogurt
|– candy |
– granola bars with added sugar
|Dinner||– salmon + sweet potato + steamed veggies|
– chicken + tomato sauce + side salad
– eggplant lasagna (easy on the cheese)
– greasy burgers
– white noodles with premade sauces
- Prediabetes = blood sugar levels that are too high but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
- Prediabetes can be reversed through healthy lifestyle changes like diet and regular exercise.
- A prediabetes diet should include fiber, proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
- A prediabetes diet requires cutting or reducing sugar, simple carbs, saturated fat, trans fat, and alcohol.
- If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes and want to manage or reverse it, talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian. They can help you formulate a plan for your nutrition and fitness.