A prediabetes diagnosis is a warning sign about your health. Prediabetes means having blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not considered to be diabetes. It’s a window to make changes that will improve your health and lower your risk of developing diabetes and its complications.
“Diet, in combination with activity, can have a considerable impact on the development of type 2 diabetes,” says New Brunswick-based registered dietitian Michelle Corcoran, who works with clients who have prediabetes, type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Two large studies have shown that by cutting calories, reducing fat intake, and exercising at least 150 minutes a week, the number of participants who progressed from prediabetes to diabetes dropped by 58 percent.
That said, prediabetes should be taken seriously. While not everyone diagnosed with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes, many will—and people with prediabetes are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Losing weight will make a difference—a drop of even five to 10 percent can lower your risk, Corcoran says. Follow these healthy diet guidelines to reverse your prediabetes.
Whole Grains for a Healthy Diet
Consuming whole grains has been shown to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, says Corcoran: “People who consume three servings a day are almost one-third less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who consume three servings a week.”
Boost your intake by choosing whole-grain products rather than refined wherever possible. Examples of a serving include:
• 1 slice of whole-grain bread
• 1/2 cup of cooked whole-grain pasta
• 1/3 cup of cooked brown rice
• 1/2 cup of cooked steel-cut or slow-cook oats
For breakfast, it’s important to choose steel-cut or large-flake (slow-cook) oats rather than instant or five-minute, which don’t have as much of the whole grain, says Corcoran. If you don’t have time to cook in the morning, she suggests cooking steel-cut oats ahead of time and reheating in the microwave for a quick meal.
Fruits and Vegetables
Corcoran recommends eating at least three pieces of whole fruit a day. Examples of a serving include:
• 1 medium apple, banana or orange
• 1 cup of blueberries
• 2 cups of strawberries or blackberries
• 2 kiwifruit
• 2 small plums
• Half a grapefruit
Try making a fruit smoothie as a quick and easy breakfast that includes fruit servings and is doable all year round, thanks to frozen berries. Corcoran suggests adding plain yogurt or silken tofu to make it more nutritious and increase the protein, which keeps you feeling full longer. Add ground flaxseed for extra fiber and omega-3 fats, which are especially beneficial for anyone at risk of heart disease.
As for vegetables, aim for five or more servings daily (one serving is half a cup of cooked veggies or one cup of raw). How do you choose? “The more colorful, the more vitamins,” says Corcoran—so mix it up. To boost your intake, she suggests having vegetables and dip pre-made in the fridge as a snack that’s instantly available when you’re hungry—like while preparing dinner. Try chopping up broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cherry tomatoes or cucumbers, and serve with hummus or an eggplant dip.
Easy Tricks for Healthier Eating
Corcoran offers some strategies to build into your routine for a healthier overall diet:
• Eat breakfast
“People who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to gain weight, be sluggish and overeat later in the day,” she says. Besides oatmeal, fresh whole fruit and homemade fruit smoothies, other good breakfast selections include boiled eggs, lower-fat cheese (such as light havarti or mozzarella) or a higher-protein yogurt such as Greek yogurt.
• Mix it up
“The key thing when planning any meal is to have something from each food group,” says Corcoran. A balanced meal that includes whole grains, fruits or vegetables, and healthy sources of protein and fat will keep you satisfied for longer and make you less likely to nibble on unneeded snacks and sweets.
• Nosh on nuts
“Adding nuts to your diet has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” Corcoran says. The best picks are raw or dry-roasted, with no added fat, salt or sugar—add them to salads or grain dishes for extra flavor or nutrition. Or choose a natural peanut or almond butter to top your morning whole-grain toast.
• Be a picky carnivore
“The more processed the meat, the more risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” says Corcoran—so limit high-salt, high-fat picks like bacon, salami and hot dogs to special treat status. As for red meat, Corcoran recommends no more than two servings a week, and less if possible. A serving is just two and a half ounces of cooked meat, about the size of a deck of cards.
• Drink moderately
If you don’t drink, that’s fine—you don’t need to start the habit. But if you do, Corcoran strongly recommends that women have no more than one drink a day, and men no more than two per day.
• Banish trans fats
“Eating trans fats will increase your risk of heart disease,” says Corcoran, as well as raise your risk of progressing to Type 2 diabetes. Watch for items like baked goods and processed foods—always read labels—and when baking at home, avoid shortening in favour of liquid oils such as olive or canola or a small amount of lard.
• Enjoy your morning coffee
“You can reduce your risk by consuming coffee,” says Corcoran. “I’ve seen some studies quote between two and three cups a day.” Consider a cup of coffee part of a healthy balanced breakfast—just be careful of all the sugary and fat-laden add-ons in your coffee shop.