Before I offer answers to the questions about what to eat if you have pre diabetes and whether you should follow a pre diabetes diet plan, let’s get clear on what pre diabetes is, who’s at risk and actions to take that can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
What is Pre Diabetes?
Pre diabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.1 (Pre diabetes refers to the condition that typically occurs before one develops type 2 diabetes.)
The number of people estimated to have pre diabetes is simply staggering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the estimate at 84 million Americans. That’s one out of three adults at risk for diabetes! Most people don’t know they have pre diabetes because often there are no symptoms, nor have they been tested for it or told they have it.1
November is American Diabetes Month®. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) now recommends that all adults over 45 years of age be screened for pre diabetes.2 Other risk factors for pre diabetes or type 2 diabetes include being overweight or obese, having one or more parents or siblings who have or had type 2 diabetes or women who have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy).2
Pre Diabetes Tests
According to the ADA, any of the following lab tests with the corresponding results can be used to diagnose pre diabetes:2
- Fasting Blood Glucose: 100-125 mg/dL
- 2 hours after the start of an oral glucose tolerance test: 140-199 mg/dL
- A1c test (A1c approximates an average of all the ups and downs of blood glucose over the previous two to three months): 5.7 to 6.4 percent
People can develop pre diabetes and have it for several years or more before blood glucose levels rise high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Think of the diagnosis of pre diabetes as a window of opportunity to take action to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. If you’ve been diagnosed with pre diabetes take action today. Don’t delay! According to CDC, 15 to 30 percent of people with pre diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years if they don’t take action immediately.1
Let’s switch gears to discuss the specific actions to take if you have pre diabetes or diabetes symptoms and, more specifically, to what is a pre diabetes diet plan.
Action Plan to Slow the Progression of Pre Diabetes
Preventing Diabetes with Weight Loss
Studies conducted around the globe over the last few decades show that losing 7 percent of your current body weight and keeping as much of this weight off over the years can help you slow or even reverse pre diabetes3 (this adds up to about 10 to 15 pounds for a person who weighs 200 pounds). In general, the closer you are to your ideal body weight the less risk there is of developing type 2 diabetes.
Creating a Pre Diabetes “Diet Plan”
Studies generally show that eating a healthy diet with the right number of calories to help you lose weight gradually can slow the progression of pre diabetes. An eating plan, such as the Mediterranean diet, that is rich in foods like olive oil, fish, whole grains and fruits and vegetables, has been shown to be beneficial.3 With this type of diet plan, limiting carbohydrate intake is not the focus. Instead, the focus is on choosing “healthier” sources of carbohydrate like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low fat dairy foods. For information about why there is no universal “pre diabetes diet plan” or “diabetic diet,” I encourage you to read my blog “Is There a ‘Diabetic Diet’?”
However you look at it, switching to a healthier eating plan can help, whether you change to a more Mediterranean-style diet plan or make changes to help you decrease your weight. Do leave some wiggle room for those less-than-healthy foods and calorie splurges on occasion. It’s important that you make sure your eating plan fits your needs and doesn’t force you to radically change your current eating habits. That’s because research shows that over time you won’t be able to maintain radical changes.4
The Do I Have Pre Diabetes national awareness campaign recommends you set realistic goals to lose weight, such as making one change in your food choices and eating habits at a time before you embark on making another.5
Reducing Sugar Intake
One easy to accomplish goal for many people to start with as part of a healthier diet plan is to reduce the amount of added sugars you consume. This may be from sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar or other sweeteners added to beverages and from sugary foods and sweets. You’ll find tips to reduce your consumption of added sugars with these simple changes and these sweet swaps ideas and recipes. Pick a few changes and swaps and see how they work for you. Then come back and try a few more.
Importance of Exercise and Staying Active
One more important action to add to your prevent type 2 diabetes to-do list is to get and stay physically active. People in the diabetes prevention studies who were most successful with reversing or slowing the progression of pre diabetes did 150 minutes of physical activity a week.3 Typically that was walking. Just like with changing your eating habits and food choices, start slow and build up.
Work with your healthcare providers to find out if you have pre diabetes or are at high risk for type 2 diabetes. If so, take action NOW and make changes one step at a time.
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
For more information about planning a healthy diet, visit the Diabetes Management section of this blog.
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies more than 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is that simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. Each positive step is a step in the right direction along the path to a long and healthy life.”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Diabetes Prevention Program. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/prediabetes-type2/index.html. Accessed 1/27/16
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care for Diabetes – 2016. Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes. Diabetes Care. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/Supplement_1/S13.full. Accessed 1/27/16
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care for Diabetes – 2016. Prevention or Delay of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/Supplement_1/S36.full. Accessed 1/27/16
- Sacks, F, et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. New Eng J Med. 2009;360(9):859-873.
- Do I Have Prediabetes national awareness campaign (link: https://doihaveprediabetes.org/index.html). Accessed 1/27/16.