Having prediabetes is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes within a few years, but making changes in the way you eat can lower your risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Along with losing 5 to 7% of body weight if you are overweight or obese, choosing more nutritious foods can slow or reverse insulin resistance and lower blood sugar.
Best Diets for Prediabetes
Many different eating patterns can help lower blood sugar and reduce the chance of developing diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. These are some dietary patterns that have been linked to weight loss, lower blood sugar, and/or lower risk for diabetes.
Vegetarian or vegan
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
For most people, the most important consideration is whether the diet is sustainable for them. Someone who loves meat may not be able to follow a meatless diet indefinitely, and may go back to old eating habits soon. Similarly, someone who loves pasta and bread may feel deprived on a low-carbohydrate diet and may not be able to stick to the plan.
Following are sample menus for each of the above types of diet to lower blood sugar and decrease risk for diabetes.
Vegetarian diets include strict vegan diets, which do not include any animal-source foods, as well as ovo-lacto vegetarian diets, which include eggs and cheese but no fish or meat. Pesco-vegetarian diets include fish.
Each of these patterns has been linked to weight loss, lower risk for type 2 diabetes, and reduced A1C (or glycated hemoglobin, a measure of long-term blood sugar control. According to research published in Current Diabetes Reports, compared to regular meat-eaters who had a prevalence of diabetes of 7.9%, vegan diet eaters had a 2..9% prevalence, those who ate an lacto-ovo vegetarian diet had a 3.2% prevalence, and those who followed a pesco-vegetarian diet had a 4.8% prevalence of diabetes. Patterns were similar for body mass index (BMI), a measure of a healthy body weight.
Sample Menu for a Vegetarian Diet
Plain oatmeal made with milk or almond milk and fruit
Whole-grain pita with hummus, sprouts, and grilled vegetables or lettuce, served with fruit
Vegetarian chili with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, your choice of beans, and spices, served with (optional) lettuce, yogurt, a whole-grain dinner roll, and/or cheese
Tofu or eggs cooked with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and onions
Veggie or bean burger on a whole-grain bun (or bread) with lettuce and tomato, plus baby carrots, and fruit on the side
Bean (and optional cheese) burrito with steamed vegetables
Summary Table of Diets for Prediabetes
Vegetarian: only plant-based (vegan), with eggs and dairy (lacto ovo vegetarian), or with fish (pescatarian)
Nuts, seeds, oils
Meat and poultry
Dairy products (vegan)
Mediterranean: consistent with traditional eating in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea
Vegetables, fruit, whole grains
Olive oil and other healthy fats
Fish, poultry, beans
Less healthy fats, such as butter
Low-Carb: less than 40 to 45% of calories from carbohydrates
Meat, fish, poultry
Nuts and seeds
Bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and other grain products
Foods with sugar
DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
Low-fat dairy products
Beans and nuts
Full-fat dairy products
Mediterranean Diet Patterns
You are correct if you think, "heart health," "red wine," and "olive oil," when you think of Mediterranean diets, but wait, there is more! What about, "weight loss," "lower A1C," and, "whole grains," as the American Diabetes Association points out? The Dietary Guidelines also suggest a Mediterranean diet as one of many possible healthy eating patterns to try.
It emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats such as olive oil, as well as whole grains and protein sources such as fish and beans. To limit are sugars and unhealthy fats, as well as red meat.
Cottage cheese with oats and cantaloupe
Quinoa and lentil salad with tomatoes, feta, cucumber, onion, and olive oil
Chicken stir fry with vegetables, using olive oil, and served with brown rice
Shredded wheat with berries and milk
Whole-wheat pita with chicken breast, hummus, and raw vegetables
Baked salmon with sweet potato fries baked with olive oil and steamed broccoli
Low-Carbohydrate Diet Patterns
Carbohydrates drive up blood sugar levels, and cutting back on carbohydrates may help lower blood sugar in diabetes and prediabetes. The American Diabetes Association says a low-carb diet may get below about 40 to 45% of calories from carbohydrates, with the other calories coming from fat and protein.
Eggs, fish, poultry, and meat are carbohydrate-free foods, and they may be the foundation of a low-carb diet, along with non-starchy vegetables. Fats are also carbohydrate-free or low-carb, and healthy ones include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Low-carb diets may limit fruits, grains, and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.
Scrambled eggs with feta cheese, spinach, and onions.
Grilled chicken served over a salad of greens with nuts, sliced strawberries, and dressing
Bell pepper stuffed with Mexican seasoned ground turkey and topped with melted cheddar cheese
Cauliflower hash with lean ground turkey, onions, eggs, and olive oil
Taco salad with romaine, diced tomatoes, chicken or ground turkey, avocado, and sour cream
Portobello mushroom pizza with sauce, mozzarella cheese, vegetables, and cooked diced chicken
Peanut butter sandwich with diced apples and cinnamon
Bean and cheese burrito on a whole-grain tortilla, with diced tomatoes and served with fruit.
Stewed chicken with artichoke hearts, spinach, onions, and carrots, served with brown rice.
Oatmeal with pumpkin, cinnamon, and walnuts
Vegetable bean soup served with a whole-grain roll and a piece of fruit
Vegetarian lasagna with whole-grain pasta, mushrooms and bell peppers in the sauce, and cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese
Best Prediabetes Diet
Lark Diabetes Prevention Program pulls on elements from the above diets to create what we consider to be the best prediabetes diet. Lark's unique coaching offers personalized weight loss and healthy eating plans for each individual. Not only are they healthy and simple, but they are designed to fit into your lifestyle. Check your communications from your employer or health provider to see if Lark is an available benefit for you!
Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.