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The Foods to Avoid If You Have Prediabetes

September 27, 2018
What Foods to Avoid If You're Prediabetic - Lark Health

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Learn Which Foods To Avoid If You Have Prediabetes

If you have prediabetes, also known as borderline diabetes, what you eat becomes even more important, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The right foods to avoid if you have prediabetes can help you prevent type 2 diabetes and get your blood sugar levels down to normal levels. On the other hand, eating the wrong foods can raise blood sugar, increase insulin resistance, and raise your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 

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The list of foods to avoid if you are prediabetic is long, but take heart: there are healthy alternatives for all of them so you can enjoy your prediabetes diet! Here are some of the foods to avoid if prediabetic, and what you can choose instead.

Foods to Avoid Examples
1. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Soft drinks (sodas), sweetened iced tea, flavored hot and cold coffee drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit punch and juice drinks with less than 100% fruit juice
2. Refined Grains
White bread, bagels, pita, buns, rolls, and English muffins, white pasta, rice, pearled barley, refined cereal
3. Fried Foods
French fries and hash browns, onion rings, doughnuts, churros, fried chicken and fish, chicken nuggets, fried shrimp, fritters
4. Sugar-Sweetened Breakfast Cereals and Cereal Bars
Honey Nut Cheerios, cornflakes, most children’s cereals, granola, raisin bran, most chocolate, fruit, honey, and cinnamon-flavored cereals, granola bars, cereal bars
5. Fruit-Flavored Yogurt
Most low-fat or full-fat, fruit-flavored yogurt, often “fruit-on-the-bottom” and/or “all-natural,” yogurt smoothies
6. Desserts and Candy
Pies, cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins, ice cream, frozen yogurt, chocolate and other candy bars, hard candies, tarts, pastries, cobblers, turnovers
7. Unhealthy Fats
Butter, lard, shortening, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, fatty meats, poultry skin
8. Red and Processed Meats
Steak, pork chops, ground beef, bacon, salami, luncheon and deli meats including turkey breast and ham, pepperoni, sausage, hot dogs, bologna, beef and turkey jerky
9. Salty Processed Snacks
Potato chips, tortilla and corn chips, white crackers and pretzels, cheese puffs
10. Dried Fruit and Fruit Juices
Raisins, dates, dried apricot, apple, pear, papaya, and cranberries, trail mix with dried fruit, fruit punch with 100% fruit, grape, orange, apple, pineapple, and other 100% juices and juice blends

1. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) can raise insulin resistance and diabetes risk. They include soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, sugar-sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, and hot and cold coffee and tea beverages. A 12-oz. can of soda, 20-oz. bottle of sweet tea, and large mocha can each have over 40 grams of sugar, and in fact, sugar from SSB account for 39% of the sugar in the average American's diet, according to the US Dietary Guidelines. [2] The effects of SSB and added sugars in prediabetes range from spiking blood sugar to causing weight gain.

What is better: plain or ice water, decaffeinated, unsweetened tea or coffee, and seltzer water. The goal is to have low-calorie or calorie-free, decaffeinated beverages with no artificial sweeteners.

2. Refined Grains

Refined Grains

Refined grains are high on the glycemic index, which means they spike your blood sugar levels and eventually increase insulin resistance. Refined grains are processed to remove high-fiber, high-nutrient portions of the intact, "whole," grain kernel, leaving only the starchy endosperm component. Examples of refined grains and grain products include white bread, crackers, pasta, and rice, refined cereals, and tortilla chips.

What is better: Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread and bread products, crackers, pasta, pretzels, and cereal, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, and oatmeal. The goal is to choose high-fiber grains and keep portion sizes small.

3. Fried Foods

Fried Foods

Fried foods intuitively sound unhealthy, but why are they? They can contain artery-clogging trans fats, are high in calories and total fat, and are often high in added refined starches, as in the cases of doughnuts and breaded fried chicken and onion rings. Eating fried foods often raises diabetes risk[3], possibly because of a link with weight gain and increased insulin resistance. 

What is better: non-breaded foods cooked by grilling, baking, or roasted instead of frying, and more nutritious alternatives, such as side salads and beans instead of fried potatoes. The goal is to cut back on extra calories, fat, and starch.

4. Sugar-Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

Sugar-Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

The Harvard School of Public Health explains that both hot and cold breakfast cereals can contain added sugars. A single 1-ounce serving of your standard sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal has 9 or more grams of added sugar, which is quite enough to drive up blood sugar – and risk having a mid-morning blood sugar and energy crash! Kids' cereals are not the only ones at fault, as healthy-sounding ones such as raisin bran, granola, and flavored oatmeal can have 10 to 20 grams of sugar per serving. Cereal can also can be surprisingly high in sodium, and it adds refined starches if you do not choose a whole-grain variety.

What is better: whole-grain, unsweetened or lightly sweetened cereal with no more than 4 grams of sugar per serving, such as original Cheerios, bran flakes and plain oatmeal. The goal is to get whole grains and fiber without adding sugar and sodium to your morning.

5. Fruit-Flavored Yogurt

Fruit-Flavored Yogurt

With its high-quality protein, low GI, bone-building calcium, and gut-healthy probiotics, yogurt is among the best foods to choose if you have prediabetes. The problem comes when you select fruit-flavored, low-fat yogurt in an effort to be healthy. 

What is better: fat-free, plain regular or Greek yogurt. If you need flavor, try adding berries, diced apples or pears, peaches, sliced bananas, cinnamon, pumpkin puree, oats, nuts, or seeds. 

6. Desserts and Candy

Desserts and Candy

The sugar is only the beginning of the problems with desserts and candy. The empty calories, and often extra fats and starches, will not do your waistline any favors. Many baked goods, such as pies and snack cakes and cookies, contain unhealthy fats that further harm your blood sugar.

What is better: fresh fruit, 100% dark chocolate, and frozen pureed bananas can satisfy a sweet tooth or fill in as a snack. The goal is to satisfy your sweet tooth without too many calories or too much sugar, and having a half-portion can be a healthier compromise than eating the whole thing.

7. Unhealthy Fats


Unhealthy fats are not just bad for your heart or waistline. They may have no sugar or carbohydrates, but they they raise diabetes risk. [4] Along with animal fats such as butter, lard, and fat from poultry skin and fatty red meat, watch out for partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated fat sources, such as shortening and partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods.

What is better: skinless chicken and turkey, olive and other plant-based/vegetable oils, avocado, nut and peanut butter, fatty fish, and flaxseed. The goal is to replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated (think: olive oil and avocados) and omega-3 fatty acids (think: fish, walnuts, and flaxseed).

8. Red and Processed Meats

 Red and Processed Meats

Many types of red and processed meat are not that high in calories, and most are even low-carb or free from carbohydrates. Still, red and processed meats are among the foods to avoid if prediabetic because they raise your risk of diabetes. [5] It may be related to the type of fat they contain, the form of iron they contain, their tendency to increase disease-causing inflammation in your body, and in processed meats, the nitrates and sodium they tend to contain.

What is better: skinless poultry and ground turkey, fish, tofu, and beans, low-sodium and all-natural deli meats.

9. Salty Processed Snacks

Salty Processed Snacks

"You cannot eat just one," which is why salty processed snacks are on the list of foods to avoid if prediabetic. The load of calories, starch, and sodium from chips, crackers, and pretzels does no good for your blood sugar, and the damage can increase when you eat a "multi-serving" bag in one sitting, or get a dose of unhealthy fats from fried chips or crackers with partially hydrogenated oils.

What is better: nuts and peanuts, whole grain pretzels and crackers, air-popped popcorn, baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, and other raw vegetables with a healthy accompaniment such as hummus, bean dip, or low-fat cheese. The goal is to get a crunch with some fiber and protein.

10. Dried Fruit and Fruit Juices

Dried Fruit and Fruit Juices

Fruit is rich in fiber, antioxidants, and potassium, and is linked to a healthier body weight, [6] but dried fruit and fruit juice and drinks are among the foods to avoid if prediabetic because they are concentrated sources of sugar and calories. A quarter-cup of raisins and a 2-ring serving of dried pineapples each have 29 grams of sugar, according to the Department of Agriculture. Worse are sugar-sweetened dried fruit and canned fruit and fruit cocktail in sugar-added syrup.

What is better: Fresh or no sugar-added frozen fruit, especially when eaten with a source of fat or protein, such as apple slices with walnuts or strawberries with cottage cheese, nuts or seeds for a portable snack, and, instead of fruit juice, water or a low-calorie beverage.

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