With terminologies such as prediabetes, type 1, and type 2, deciphering the differences between versions of this blood sugar condition can be confusing.

In this article, we’re going to focus on covering everything you need to know about prediabetes, including what makes it different from type 1 and 2.

We’ll also be taking a closer look at what types of food should be included in a prediabetes diet and what food you’ll want to make sure you avoid.

Overview Of Prediabetes

As the term indicates, prediabetes is the antecedent to regular diabetes. In some cases, it is possible to become prediabetic before developing type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile-onset diabetes.
Yet the most common scenario is when prediabetes becomes an intermediary state between registering normal blood sugar levels and diabetes type 2.

A prediabetes diagnosis can be somewhat alarming, seeing as the disease could indicate abnormal levels of blood sugar, which is most often due to some form of insulin resistance. This condition occurs when the body doesn’t utilize insulin correctly, and it’s more often than not a precursor to diabetes type 2.

The Mayo Clinic[1] states that individuals with a prediabetes diagnosis are at a higher risk of developing diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease.

Nevertheless, getting diagnosed with prediabetes doesn’t have to mean you’ll end up with full-fledged type 2. The key to minimizing this risk is an early intervention that will help get blood sugar levels back into a healthy range.

The most important facet of this intervention is making sure you’re following a prediabetes diet plan, ultimately focusing on eating the right types of food.

Fact Vs. Fiction: Prediabetes Diet

Risk for prediabetes
Many factors increase the risk for prediabetes. For example, if family members are diabetic, genetics could be the culprit. But various other factors play a part in the development of this condition, such as lack of exercise and being overweight.

In cases of prediabetes, sugar from food sources starts to build up within the bloodstream because insulin is unable to move the sufficient amount into the cells.

Many individuals believe that carbohydrates are the sole culprit of prediabetes, but ultimately the type of carbs and amount consumed in each meal impact blood sugar.

A diet that heavily consists of processed and refined carbohydrates, which digest at a faster rate, will cause more elevated blood sugar spikes than that of a diet focused on healthy carb sources.

Most individuals with prediabetes often struggle and find it difficult to lower blood sugar levels after eating. The key to avoiding those sugar spikes depends on monitoring carbohydrate intake.

Another thing to note is that when you consume more calories than the body requires, they get converted and stored as fat.

This can lead to unwanted weight gain. Surplus body fat, especially the type located around the abdominal area, can be connected to insulin resistance. This is one of the main reasons individuals suffering from prediabetes are also commonly overweight.

Like most diabetic diets, a diet for prediabetes focuses on the quality and number of carbohydrates included in each meal.

As individuals begin to embark on a prediabetes diet plan, their doctor or nutritionist may suggest tracking or limiting the number of carbohydrates consumed in a day by using a diet journal or carb counting app.

Once the awareness phase is in full swing, it’s common for nutritionists to transition to educating on the best types of foods that offer complex or healthier carbohydrates.

Many individuals following a diet for prediabetes also find it extremely useful to cross-reference a glycemic index for foods. This scale allows people to understand how much specific foods will increase blood sugar, taking the guessing game out of dieting and helping to keep their levels in check.

Another important facet to any prediabetes diet is to get smart about portion control. Excess food consumption leads to unwanted weight gain and an increased risk of insulin resistance. Eating consciously will help shed those unwanted pounds.

A research study from 2013[2] found that individuals who lost 10% or more of their excess body weight within six months from their prediabetes diagnosis reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes dramatically.

Prediabetes Diet Recommended Foods

Prediabetes Foods
Focusing on a whole-food diet and opting for unprocessed foods can go a long way toward keeping type 2 diabetes at bay. Low carb veggies and fruits, plant-based protein, lean meats, and fiber-rich grains are the foundation of any prediabetes diet.

Some of the best food choices include:

  • Whole grain options – barley, bulgur, oats, brown rice, quinoa, rye, and whole-wheat pasta
  • Vegetables that are non-starchy – peppers, beets, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, celery, leafy greens, cucumbers, cauliflower, and artichokes
  • Low-glycemic fruits – oranges, mangoes, pears, cherries, apples, strawberries, plums, and peaches
  • Protein sources – turkey, cod, shrimp, buffalo, tofu, tempeh, chicken breast, tilapia, crab, ground beef, eggs, flank steak, egg whites, and edamame
  • Nuts, beans, and legumes – chickpeas, cannellini beans, lima beans, peanuts, walnuts, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, cashews, and almonds

Prediabetes Diet Foods You Should Avoid

When bouncing back from a prediabetes diagnosis, it is pivotal to remove processed foods. Fast-food and packaged ready-meals are full of refined sugars and low-quality carbohydrates. Here are the main issues and prediabetes foods to avoid:

  • Refined grains – Skip plates of pasta, white loaves of bread, rice, and crackers when possible. Opt for whole-grain healthier options instead
  • High-sugar foods – Limiting food products, such as granola bars, desserts, cereals, and pastries, is integral in a prediabetes diet. These foods contain added sugars and sweeteners that are detrimental to blood sugar levels
  • Calorie-rich drinks – Fruit juices, sugary coffee drinks, sodas, and energy drinks should be avoided at all costs. These types of drinks are usually high in sugar and offer poor nutrition. Try opting for sparkling water with cordials or lime juices
  • Alcohol – Avoid happy hour and two-for-one indulgence. Extreme alcohol consumption provokes inflammation. Researchers think alcoholism is interlinked with the type 2 diabetes process. If abstinence is not possible, moderation is key

Result-Based Prediabetes Healthy Eating Strategies

No to sugary

Here are the six golden rules of prediabetes diet principles that can keep blood sugars from getting out of control.

1. Say “no” to sugary drinks

As mentioned previously, refraining from popular soda and sugar-rich drinks is crucial. Research from 2017[3] found that there is most definitely a link between sugary-beverage consumption and obesity in adults and children. Another study also showed that these drinks increase the risk of diabetes type 2.

2. Opt for healthier proteins

According to the Cleveland Clinic[4], healthy proteins help maintain blood sugar levels as they slow carbohydrate absorption. Protein further helps keep you feeling satiated, minimizing the chances of snacking.

3. Staying hydrated

Individuals can mistake thirst and dehydration for hunger cues, thus leading to overeating – a big no-no for any prediabetes diet. Staying hydrated can also help lower blood sugar levels. One study found that participants who drank more water became less likely to develop blood sugar spikes and issues.

4. Diet is worthless if not coupled with a good exercise routine

A good prediabetes diet plan also requires workout routine. Both strength training and aerobic exercise can help individuals lose weight and keep the weight off. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, strength training three times per week paired with thirty minutes of aerobic exercise per day is ideal.

5. Cut back on portion sizes

Many people don’t realize it, but a diet for prediabetes doesn’t have to be restrictive. You can still opt for most of the foods you enjoy eating but in smaller quantities. When you’re dining out, consider opting for a half-ration or taking leftovers home for the following day.

According to the Mayo Clinic[5], even healthy foods can lead to excess weight gain if consumed in large quantities. Weight gain is the main risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.

6. Long-term lifestyle change

The best way to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes is to turn a prediabetes diet plan into a long-term healthy lifestyle change.


A prediabetes diet doesn’t have to make eating boring or complex. Making small lifestyle changes is a great way to bring blood sugar levels back into a healthy range.

While there is no such thing as a 100% accurate prediabetes diet plan, the small changes in eating habits can go a long way. Start by paying attention to the types of carbohydrates you consume, swapping out processed options for healthy choices.

Then continue by adding in lean protein foods and non-starchy vegetables. Taking each small step at a time, health and lifestyle changes happen. You want to make sure you’re creating a solid foundation that will stand the test of time and be easy to maintain long-term.