Follow these prediabetes nutrition tips to reduce your risk, improve your health and live a better, more energized life.
We’re here to help you improve your prediabetes nutrition.
- Prediabetes Overview – what is prediabetes, and what are the symptoms?
- Prediabetes Nutrition Goals – small changes, meaningful results
- Creating a Prediabetes Nutrition Plan – where to start
- Prediabetes Nutrition Labels – what should you look for on nutrition labels?
- Prediabetes Progression – when does prediabetes progress to type 2 diabetes?
Prediabetes Overview – what is prediabetes, and what are the symptoms?
If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, it means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, and your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is greater.
The good news is, you can reduce your blood sugar levels and improve your health by taking a few simple lifestyle steps like:
- Shifting toward a healthier diet
- Adding more activity into your day
- Losing 5-10% of your body weight (if needed)
- Working with a Registered Dietitian to develop a prediabetes nutrition plan
As for the progression to type 2 diabetes, you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can return your blood sugar levels to a normal range.
Measuring your risk through A1C levels
An A1C test shows your average blood sugar level for the past three months. Simply put, the higher your blood sugar level percentages, the higher your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In general, an A1C level:
- Below 5.7% is considered normal
- Between 5.7% and 6.4% is considered prediabetes
- At or above 6.5% on two separate tests indicates type 2 diabetes
Source: Mayo Clinic
Prediabetes symptoms and risk factors
One of the biggest challenges with prediabetes is that people don’t experience signs or symptoms. In fact, the CDC estimates that more than 84% of people with the condition don’t even know they have it.
One possible prediabetes indicator is darkened skin on certain parts of the body, including the neck, armpits, elbows, knees, or knuckles.
There are also several prediabetes risk factors, including:
- Being overweight
- Carrying your weight in the middle of your body
- Eating a lot of red and processed meat
- Drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Being sedentary
- Having a family history of diabetes (especially parents and siblings)
- Experiencing sleep apnea
- Having conditions including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and PCOS
- If you are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian American, you are more likely to develop prediabetes
If you have one or more of these risk factors, or if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, one of the most effective steps you can take is to improve your nutrition.
Prediabetes Nutrition Goals – small changes, meaningful results
At Healthy Bytes, we like to focus on what food choices to add rather than what foods to avoid. We believe that’s an easier way for you to get started – and keep going.
In the beginning, we recommend focusing on small changes like these, which can lead to meaningful results for your health:
- More whole foods; less highly processed foods
- More whole grains; less refined grains
- More green vegetables; less starchy vegetables
- Fruits: more berries; less dried fruit and fruit juice
- More naturally sweet items; less added sugar + other sweeteners
- More water; less soda, sweet coffee drinks, and alcohol
- More olive oil; less butter
- Protein: More chicken, turkey, fish, and beans; less red meat
Beyond nutrition, here are some other lifestyle changes that can help you manage prediabetes:
- Becoming more active
- Managing your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Quitting smoking
Creating a Prediabetes Nutrition Plan – where to start
If you’re at the beginning of your prediabetes journey, you’re probably taking in a lot of new information. That’s why we recommend starting with a very basic prediabetes nutrition plan like the plate method from the American Diabetes Association. They describe it as a simple guide that offers a stress-free way to plan your portions without counting, calculating, or measuring.
Here’s how to build your plate:
- Vegetables: 50% of your plate is non-starchy vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes).
- Protein: 25% of your plate is a lean protein (like tuna, fish, chicken, or beans).
- Whole grains: 25% of your plate is whole grains (like brown rice) or a starchy vegetable (like green peas).
- Fat: Small amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, or avocados.
- Fruit: A serving of fruit if you’d like.
Once you’re feeling more comfortable with your new plate proportions, then it’s time to move onto a more detailed prediabetes nutrition plan. The overall goal? Manage your blood sugar levels and reduce blood sugar spikes. To do that, you want to make the best choices in each food category.
Prediabetes Nutrition Labels – what should you look for on nutrition labels?
A big part of making healthier choices is becoming more aware of the foods you eat. A great place to start is by looking more closely at nutrition labels when you’re in the store and comparing different options. This makes it easier for you to make choices that support your goals.
New to reading labels? Here’s what to look for:
- Serving size: Identify this first because nearly everything else on the label relates to that. If you’re following a prediabetes nutrition plan, and your serving sizes are different than what’s listed on the package, you’ll need to adjust for that.
- Amount per serving: Along the left-hand side of the label is where you’ll find the amount of various nutrients each serving size contains.
- Fats: Avoid trans fats, which can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.
- Total carbohydrates: Include sugar, starch, and fiber and show both the amount and the percent of your daily total.
- Fiber: Located under total carbohydrates, look for choices higher in dietary fiber.
- Total sugars: Located under total carbohydrates, food labels now include total sugars (naturally occurring) and added sugars (anything added during processing).
- 5% Daily Value or less of a nutrient per serving is considered low; 20% Daily Value or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high.
- The percent of the daily value for each nutrient is based on 2,000 calories a day. Your nutrition plan may be different based on factors like your age, gender and activity level.
Nutrition Label Lingo
All the descriptions food companies use to market their products can be confusing. To help, the Food and Drug Administration set strict definitions for a variety of terms. Here’s what you need to know:
Prediabetes Progression – when does prediabetes progress to type 2 diabetes?
We understand receiving a prediabetes diagnosis is difficult to hear. But you’re not alone in this. We’re here to support you with expert prediabetes nutrition advice that helps you improve your health. And our advice is always judgment-free.
Diagnosing prediabetes early means you still have a chance to prevent getting Type 2 diabetes. However, if you let this window of opportunity pass, it can become harder for you to live the life you want.
Having prediabetes does put you at higher risk for certain health conditions like heart disease and stroke. If left unaddressed, prediabetes can lead to serious health problems affecting every major organ in the body.
The good news is that the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program found that lifestyle interventions – like being mindful of your nutrition – can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in half.
Are you ready to start improving your health?
At Healthy Bytes, we believe food is vital to health and healing. Our Registered Dietitians are committed to helping you:
- Better control your blood sugar levels
- Improve your diet
- Increase your overall energy level
- Feel better
Working with us is easy:
- Book your virtual consultation
- See your Registered Dietitian online
- Leave the insurance billing to us
Prediabetes Nutrition Education – where can you learn more?
Want to read more on your own about prediabetes nutrition? Here are some resources to get you started:
- American Diabetes Association provides information for people at every stage of their journey, including nutrition and recipes, weight loss, fitness, and physical activity.
- American Heart Association has various prediabetes tools and resources, including tips for following a healthy diet plan.
- The Cleveland Clinic offers a guide to what you should eat if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes.