Healthy Eating

5 Easy Dietary Habits to Adopt if You Have Prediabetes 

Hint: simple dietary choices, like eating more veggies and limiting added sweets, can have a profound impact on blood sugar levels!

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

Prediabetes, a condition that signals higher-than-normal blood sugar levels without reaching the threshold for diabetes, poses a critical moment for adopting healthier lifestyle choices. If you have been told that you have prediabetes, there’s good news. One of the most straightforward, effective, and research-backed ways to manage (or even reverse) prediabetes is through simple adjustments in the diet. This article will help you understand which dietary habits may help you if you have prediabetes, potentially helping your body to stabilize blood sugar levels, improve overall health, and potentially reverse the condition without overwhelming changes.

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a health condition characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, yet not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. It serves as a warning sign, indicating an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. However, individuals with prediabetes often show no clear symptoms, making it a silent health issue that can go undetected for years without proper screening.

Lifestyle factors play a significant role in the development and management of prediabetes. Poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and being overweight are among the key risk factors. Fortunately, prediabetes may often be reversed through lifestyle changes. By adopting a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, individuals can lower their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes.

What To Know About Diagnosing Prediabetes

Diagnosing prediabetes typically involves several blood tests conducted by healthcare professionals. The most common tests include the Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test, which measures blood sugar levels after an overnight fast, and the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), which measures blood sugar before and two hours after consuming a sweet drink to see how your body processes sugar. Additionally, the Hemoglobin A1C test provides an average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. Results falling into a specific range may indicate prediabetes, prompting the need for lifestyle interventions and possibly more frequent monitoring to prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes.

If your healthcare provider told you that you have prediabetes, certain dietary habits may offer some benefit.

5 Dietary Habits to Adopt if You Have Prediabetes 

If you have prediabetes, along with making appropriate lifestyle changes like including physical activity in your day, here are five dietary habits you may want to consider. 

Eat More Fiber

Incorporating high-fiber foods into your diet is a beneficial habit for managing prediabetes. Fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, not only help in maintaining a healthy weight but also slow down the absorption of sugars in your bloodstream, aiding in the regulation of blood sugar levels.

The recommended daily intake of fiber varies depending on age and gender. Generally, women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should target around 38 grams. However, most people consume far less than these amounts. Gradually increasing fiber intake and including a variety of fiber-rich foods in your diet can help you reach these goals and benefit your overall health.

RELATED: Is Your Diet Lacking Fiber? Here are 11 Fiber-Rich Foods for a Healthy Gut

Include Healthy Fats

Incorporating healthy fats into a diet, especially for individuals with prediabetes, is a strategic move toward managing and potentially preventing the progression of the condition. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, can help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. This gradual absorption prevents spikes in blood sugar, aiding in the regulation of insulin sensitivity, a critical factor in managing prediabetes. Furthermore, these fats contribute to a feeling of satiety, reducing the overall calorie intake by curbing excessive snacking and overeating, thereby supporting weight management goals which are vital for the prevention of diabetes.

RELATED: Top Tips to Make Your Meals More Filling

Choose Whole Grains Over Refined Options

Data shows that consumption of whole grains is linked to lower fasting blood glucose levels compared to the intake of refined grain products. Whole grains, unlike their refined counterparts, maintain their bran, germ, and endosperm, which means they’re higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This composition slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels that are particularly detrimental to prediabetes management. Furthermore, the high fiber content in whole grains promotes a feeling of fullness, which can aid in weight management—a key factor in prediabetes control.

Start by swapping out white bread, pasta, and rice for their whole-grain counterparts like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta. Additionally, explore diverse grains such as quinoa, barley, bulgur, and oats to add variety and nutrients to your meals. For breakfast, consider oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, or for lunch and dinner, try adding quinoa or barley to salads. Remember, reading food labels is crucial to ensure you’re choosing products made with whole grains rather than refined grains.

RELATED: These Are The Healthiest Types of Carbs, According to an Expert

Limit Sugary Drinks and Snacks

Limiting sugary drinks and foods is crucial for individuals with prediabetes because these items can significantly impact blood sugar levels. Foods high in refined sugars lead to rapid spikes in blood glucose, which the body can struggle to regulate due to insulin resistance, a hallmark of prediabetes. Over time, these spikes can exhaust the pancreas, potentially hastening the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, sugary foods often have high caloric content but low nutritional value, contributing to weight gain—a risk factor for diabetes.

Additionally, diets high in sugar can lead to other health complications associated with prediabetes, such as an increased risk of heart disease and inflammation in the body.

RELATED: Refreshing Sparkling Alternatives to Kick Your Soda Habit

Include Non-Starchy Vegetables In Your Diet

Most Americans are not eating the recommended servings of vegetables every day, potentially leaving them with a nutritional gap that can impact their overall health. Vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, yet low in calories and carbohydrates, making them an ideal choice for individuals aiming to control or reverse prediabetes.

Incorporating a variety of colorful vegetables into your diet can not only help in managing blood glucose levels but also support overall health and well-being. Data shows that people who eat more vegetables have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

Start by adding a serving of vegetables to every meal; for example, mix spinach into your morning smoothie, include a salad with lunch, and steam or roast a variety of colorful vegetables to accompany your dinner. Snack on raw veggies like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers instead of processed foods. Experiment with vegetable-based soups and stews, which are hearty and satisfying. Also, try substituting grains with veggie alternatives, such as cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles, to increase your vegetable intake while reducing carbohydrate consumption. These small changes can make a big difference in managing blood sugar levels effectively.

Eating Smart For Prediabetes

Having prediabetes can be a critical wake-up call to pay closer attention to dietary habits. Thankfully, there are several dietary strategies that effectively help in managing blood sugar levels – an important factor when managing prediabetes. 

Along with practicing healthy lifestyle habits like exercising and managing stress, taking simple steps when it comes to dietary choices, like eating more veggies and limiting added sweets, can have a profound impact on blood sugars and ultimately may help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.