List of Foods Good for Pre-Diabetics

Pre-diabetes is a condition marked by blood sugars that are higher than normal but not too high to be diagnosed with diabetes. Most people with pre-diabetes develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. If you have pre-diabetes, the best way to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes is to lose 5 to 7 percent of your current body weight by following a healthy diet.

Whole grain bread with jam. Credit: joannatkaczuk/iStock/Getty Images

Importance of Healthy Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates break down into glucose, so they have a huge impact on your blood glucose level. To help control your blood sugar, it's important to eat the right kinds of carbs. Focus on starches that are complex carbohydrates and not sugars, which are simple carbohydrates. Incorporating healthy unprocessed carbohydrates will ensure you are eating the best diet for prediabetes. Foods should include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes, such as beans and peas
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as milk and cheese

Avoid less healthy carbohydrates, such as foods or drinks with added fats, sugars and sodium.

Read more: A Complete Guide to Complex Carbohydrates

Whole Grains and Starches

Grains and starches make up an important part of your diet for pre-diabetes. The amount you need depends on age, sex and activity level but for health and weight management, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends you make at least half of your grain and starch choices whole grain. For everyone age 9 and over, this amounts to three to five servings or more of whole grains every day.

A whole-grain food has more fiber than a refined grain food. Fiber in food takes longer to digest helping you to feel satiated longer. Good grain and starch choices for pre-diabetics include:

  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-grain cereal
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Popcorn

Read more: 13 Powerful Grains and Seeds

Good Fruit Choices

Fruits provide vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and potassium. For pre-diabetes, who get a moderate amount of exercise, USDA recommends eating 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit a day. To help with weight control, eating the whole fruit is a healthier choice than drinking the juice because of its fiber content. Put these good fruit choices on your diabetic shopping list:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Dried fruit
  • Unsweetened canned fruit
  • Juice without added sugar

Read more: What Are the Benefits of Eating a Lot of Fruit?

Good Vegetable Choices

Vegetables make a good choice for pre-diabetes weight loss because they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily from the five subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.

In addition to helping you lose weight, a high intake of vegetables will help prevent heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, according to the USDA. Good vegetable food choices include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus

Meat, Fish and Beans

Meat can be a source of calories and fat in the diet. To limit your calorie intake for pre-diabetes weight loss, choose more lean cuts of meat such as:

  • Poultry without the skin
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Ham
  • Pork loin
  • Beef tenderloin
  • Lean ground meat

Eating more meat alternatives, such as beans, can also help you reduce your calorie and fat intake. In addition to being a good source of protein, beans also contain high amounts of fiber and folate. Most adults need 5 to 6 1/2 ounces of protein-based foods daily, including meat, fish and beans.

Milk and Dairy Foods

Milk can also be a source of fat and calories, so choose low-fat and nonfat milk and dairy foods for calorie control. Most Americans do not get enough calcium in their diet. The USDA recommends three servings of dairy a day. A serving is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese. Good milk choices for pre-diabetes include:

  • Skim or 1 percent fat milk
  • Nonfat or low-fat yogurt
  • Nonfat or low-fat cheese

Best Choices for Oils

Oils are a concentrated source of calories and intake needs to be limited, especially when trying to lose weight. Most adults need 5 to 7 teaspoons of oil, according to the USDA. Vegetable oils are low in saturated fat and make healthier choices than animal fats, like butter. Good oil choices for pre-diabetics include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish
  • Cooking oil, including olive, safflower and canola
  • Salad dressings
  • Avocados
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