In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, and risk for developing type 2 diabetes is increased, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Losing weight and choosing more nutritious foods can help reverse insulin resistance and prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, and it does not need to be complicated. Here are 21 ways to reverse prediabetes with food choices.
1. Skip the soda.
Added sugars are a major culprit when it comes to high blood sugar and weight gain, and soft drinks contribute 16% of added sugars to the American diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Water, unsweetened iced tea, and black coffee are low-calorie, sugar-free beverages that can quench thirst just as well as soda. Energy drinks and sports drinks are also major sources of sugar and calories.
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2. Go for whole grains.
After learning that they have prediabetes, many people run the other way whenever they see a carbohydrate. However, certain carbohydrates can actually lower risk for diabetes when they are consumed in moderation. A study in European Journal of Epidemiology linked consumption of total whole grains, whole grain bread, whole grain cereal, bran, and brown rice to lower risk for diabetes. It is easy to swap almost any refined grain product for a similar whole-grain one.
3. Try riced cauliflower
Fried rice, steamed rice, risotto, and cheesy rice casserole: all of them are traditionally made with white rice, which is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, according to research in European Journal of Epidemiology. Swapping riced cauliflower for half or all of the white rice not only slashes calories, but also adds a vegetable and some fiber. To swap veggies for pasta, try using a spiralizer to swap zucchini noodles for spaghetti, or sliced eggplant instead of lasagna noodles.
4. Rethink condiments.
Condiments can add quickly calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sugar to a dish or meal, but they do not need to do so. There are alternative condiments for almost any situation. For example, instead of:
- Mayonnaise on sandwiches: mustard, pesto, or hummus
- Ketchup or barbecue sauce: hot sauce, pizza sauce, mustard, or worcestershire sauce.
- Syrup or jam: cut fresh fruit or berries.
- Whipped cream in coffee: almond milk.
- Cream with berries: non-fat cottage cheese or yogurt.
- Butter: peanut butter or olive oil.
- Creamy dressing: olive oil and vinegar or vinaigrette.
Using more spices can help add flavor to foods without using so many condiments.
5. Let fiber be your guide.
Fiber consumption is linked to diabetes risk, and most Americans could stand to consume more fiber. A simple strategy for weight loss and health is to search for foods that are naturally rich in fiber, since they tend to be filling foods and the same ones that are linked to lower risk for diabetes. Such foods include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, beans, and nuts.
6. Have a salad.
Cliche? Maybe. Sound advice? Definitely! Part of the beauty of salads is their potential to fill you up on very few calories, since vegetables are so low in calories. Another great thing about salads is that you can make them the way you like them. Start with a bed of greens for a more filling salad, add whichever vegetables you love, and mix in some protein, such as chicken, tofu, garbanzo beans, or feta cheese. Then top your salad with seeds or fruit instead of empty calories such as chow mein noodles and bacon bits.
7. Extend Meatless Mondays.
Plant-based protein sources are cholesterol-free, and often high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They can include beans, lentils, soy products including tofu, peanuts, nuts, and products made with these ingredients, such as veggie burgers. Choosing these types of protein sources instead of animal protein such as red and processed meat can also reduce saturated fat consumption and improve blood sugar control.
8. Order oatmeal.
Breakfast from a cafe or fast food restaurant can be high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, since it often turns out to be a donut, muffin, or breakfast sandwich or burrito with bacon or sausage on a croissant or biscuit. Instead, it is often possible to start your day with a whole grain by ordering plain oatmeal and fruit, cold cereal such as Cheerios and milk, or whole-wheat toast or half a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter.
9. Go nuts.
Nuts and peanuts are high in healthy fats, and sources of fiber, protein, and cholesterol-lowering compounds called phytosterols. Just keep portion sizes small, such as ½ to 1 ounce per day. Nut are good snacks on their own, and can also go into salads and cereal.
10. Olive oil
Among the most calorie-dense foods in the world, olive oil also happens to be one of the healthiest, as an abundance of research links olive oil consumption to lower risk for heart disease and many other conditions. It can go on salads, on vegetables and meats before baking, and on sandwiches instead of mayo or butter. It is also good for dipping.
11. Low-fat dairy
Milk and dairy products are not just sources of important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and more. They are also linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. A study in Diabetes Care found a 4% lower risk for each extra serving of dairy products per day. While the association held true for all dairy products, choosing low-fat ones can save calories and help with weight control.
12. Flavor your own oatmeal and yogurt.
Flavored oatmeal and yogurt can have more sugar than a doughnut or candy bar, even when they have healthy-sounding fruit flavors. By choosing regular oatmeal (or rolled oats or steel cut oats) and plain yogurt, you can have the chance to add real fruit (and the fiber that comes with it) without added sugars. Almost any type of fruit goes well with oatmeal or yogurt.
13. Sneak in vegetables.
Vegetables always have a place, since they are low in calories, packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other phytonutrients, and known to be linked to lower body weight and blood sugar. The trouble, for many people, is fitting them in. If you are not a fan of salads, raw vegetables, and cooked vegetable dishes on their own, there are tons of ways to sneak vegetables into other dishes. These are some examples.
- Adding cooked or frozen vegetables to soups.
- Stirring spinach or other cooked vegetables into pasta sauce or lasagna.
- Swapping half the pasta for grated zucchini or shredded cabbage.
- Add vegetables as toppings for pizza, burgers, and sandwiches.
Be sure to try a vegetable several times before you decide that you do not like it. It can take some time to acquire an affinity for the taste!
14. Have a fruit salad for dessert.
Choosing fruit instead of a sugary dessert can lead to a lower intake of calories and sugar, and a higher intake of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium – all good for diabetes prevention! A variety of fruit offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, such as flavonoids found in apples, berries, and citrus fruits. Research in Journal of Diabetes Investigation found that blueberries, apples, and grapes were specifically linked to lower risk for diabetes.
15. Dip your fork.
Pouring dressing on a salad can lead to taking twice as much as you really need. Instead, keep it under control by serving or ordering dressing on the side. Then dip your fork into the dressing before you put your fork into your lettuce.
16. Listen to your mother.
The saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, apparently has a scientific basis when it comes to diabetes prevention. A study in Food and Function found that each additional weekly serving of apple or pear was associated with a 3% lower risk of developing diabetes. Could it be related to the fiber and flavonoids in these fruits?
17. Help yourself to watermelon.
Watermelon is a source of a compound called citrulline. In a study published in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, adding watermelon to the diet reduced inflammation in the body and led to weight loss and body fat. A review article published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacological Physiology found that watermelon consumption may help lower blood sugar. Pumpkin leaves, muskmelon, cucumbers, and gourds are also sources of citrulline.
18. Enjoy your coffee.
Coffee may be a luxury every morning, and there is no reason to give up the habit, at least when it comes to diabetes prevention. Research in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that consuming coffee over the long term can help reduce insulin resistance. Just keep it in moderation, say, two to four cups daily, stay away from it at night, and watch out for sugar, syrups, and whipped cream that can drive up calories, carbohydrates, and fat.
19. Skip luncheon meats.
Luncheon meats, such as ham, bologna, salami, pepperoni, and turkey breast, are linked to higher risk for diabetes, not to mention heart disease. Roasted chicken breast, canned tuna, and peanut butter are all easy and healthy swaps for sandwiches. Other processed meats to limit include hot dogs, sausages, and smoked meats; along with skinless chicken, lean ground turkey, broiled fish, and veggie burgers are all lean and nutritious proteins that can swap for processed meats.
20. Use cooking spray.
People who eat fried or deep fried foods more often tend to have higher body weights and more chronic conditions. At home, baking, grilling, and saute-ing using cooking spray can help you avoid this added risk factor. When ordering out, opt for grilled, baked, roasted, steamed, and broiled choices, and order a side salad or vegetables instead of fries.
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21. Trim the fat.
Fatty meat is linked to higher risk for diabetes and other chronic conditions, possibly in part because of its excess calories and saturated fat. Choosing leaner cuts and trimming the fat off meat before cooking it can cut over 200 calories per serving.
Lark Diabetes Prevention Program can help with these and more simple tips for lowering risk for diabetes. The program is fully recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and you may be eligible for it through your healthcare insurance or employer benefits!