The Right Diet for Prediabetes

Watch carbs with the glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) is a tool you can use to determine how a particular food could affect your blood sugar.

Foods that are high on the GI will raise your blood sugar faster. Foods ranked lower on the scale have less effect on your blood sugar spike. Foods with high fiber are low on the GI. Foods that are processed, refined, and void of fiber and nutrients register high on the GI.

Refined carbohydrates rank high on the GI. These are grain products that digest quickly in your stomach. Examples are white bread, russet potatoes, and white rice, along with soda and juice. Limit these foods whenever possible if you have prediabetes.

Foods that rank medium on the GI are fine to eat. Examples include whole-wheat bread and brown rice. Still, they aren’t as good as foods that rank low on the GI.

Foods that are low on the GI are best for your blood sugar. Incorporate the following items in your diet:

  • steel-cut oats (not instant oatmeal)
  • stone-ground whole wheat bread
  • nonstarchy vegetables, such as carrots and field greens
  • beans
  • sweet potatoes
  • corn
  • pasta (preferably whole wheat)

Food and nutrition labels don’t reveal the GI of a given item. Instead make note of the fiber content listed on the label to help determine a food’s GI ranking.

Remember to limit saturated fat intake to reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease, along with prediabetes.

Eating mixed meals is a great way to lower a food’s given GI. For example, if you plan to eat white rice, add vegetables and chicken to slow down the digestion of the grain and minimize spikes.

Portion control

Good portion control can keep your diet on the low GI. This means you limit the amount of food you eat. Often, portions in the United States are much larger than intended serving sizes. A bagel serving size is usually about one-half, yet many people eat the whole bagel.

Food labels can help you determine how much you’re eating. The label will list calories, fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrition information for a particular serving.

If you eat more than the serving listed, it’s important to understand how that’ll affect the nutritional value. A food may have 20 grams of carbohydrate and 150 calories per serving. But if you have two servings, you’ve consumed 40 grams of carbohydrate and 300 calories.

Eliminating carbohydrates altogether isn’t necessary. Recent research has shown that a lower carb diet (less than 40 percent carbs) is associated with the same mortality risk increase as a high carbohydrate diet (greater than 70 percent carbs).

The study noted minimal risk observed when consuming 50 to 55 percent carbohydrates in a day. On a 1600-calorie diet, this would equal 200 grams of carbohydrates daily. Spreading intake out evenly throughout the day is best.

This is in line with the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic’s recommendation of 45 to 65 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates daily. Individual carbohydrate needs will vary based on a person’s stature and activity level.

Speaking to a dietitian about specific needs is recommended.

One of the best methods to manage portions is to practice mindful eating. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Sit, and eat slowly. Focus on the food and flavors.