Close to 96 million Americans have prediabetes.
After diagnosis, one of the first questions people ask is, “what can I eat?”. We’re here to announce the good news—you have a ton of great food choices.
Eating right doesn’t mean eating boring. Southwestern-style turkey meatloaf, super spicy beef chili, and savory lemon chicken with rosemary and garlic; are just a few of the meals pre-diabetics can enjoy.
Eating healthy is about knowing what food choices and eating patterns work best. In this short but complete guide, we’ll help you jumpstart a fun diet for prediabetes.
Are you ready to eat well for prediabetes, without giving up flavor? Then keep on reading!
Prediabetes Overview for Carbohydrates
There are 3 different carbs out there; starches, fibers, and sugars. When planning a diet, carbs aren’t a one size fits all situation. There is evidence to prove that a low-carb diet can help certain people with prediabetes and diabetes.
However, there isn’t a universal term for low-carb. For some, a low-carb diet means not taking in more than 26 to 45% of their calories from carbohydrates. For some individuals, this type of low-carb diet works well.
Among others, they need a much larger carb reduction to get good results. Your best plan of action will be to work closely with your doctor to choose a low-carb approach that minimizes your risks. You don’t want to put yourself at risk for hyperglycemia or any other health concerns.
When it comes to providing a prediabetes overview for macronutrients, there isn’t going to be a perfect number to look for here, either. Instead of trying to find the perfect amount of carbs, fat, or protein, focus on your individual needs.
Start thinking about all of your wellness goals, including prediabetes management. That way, you can create a long-term diet solution that’s still fun.
Prediabetes Overview for Saturated Fats
Often times all you’ll need is small food tweaks to help reduce risk factors with prediabetes. A lot of the food swaps will be easy to make, and they could help reduce cardiovascular disease risk, and kidney disease risks too!
For instance, you could start replacing foods that are high in saturated fats with foods that are rich in unsaturated fats. Consider swapping out your saturated fat-filled butter for healthy olive oil. Replace fatty beef with lean fish. There are so many ways you can swap foods without giving up the joy of eating.
Simplifying Prediabetes Treatments
Do you already know what eating pattern works well for you? Even if you do, it can still be tricky figuring out how to start building healthy meals that will manage your blood sugar well and still be fun to eat. That’s where the diabetes plate method can really save the day.
Using the diabetes plate method, you can create meals that are perfectly proportioned and provide you with all of the nutrients your body requires. Vegetables, carbohydrates, and proteins are all a part of the diabetes plate method. Instead of worrying about calculating, weighing, measuring, and counting, the plate method makes things easy.
What Is the Diabetes Plate Method?
How does the diabetes plate method work? It’s a fast and easy way to manage your blood sugar with fun and healthy meals.
What will you need to start out? First, you’ll need a plate that’s not too big. The size of your plate is usually what’s going to help determine your portions.
Pick a reasonably sized plate. A plate that’s about 9 in across in diameter should work just fine. If your plates are larger than this, consider using dessert plates or salad plates for your meals instead.
Does your dinner plate have a lip on the inside edge? Pretend that that’s the border where you’ll stop filling your plate.
Do you have the right plate picked out? Great! Now it’s time to fill it up. Picture two lines on your plate. The two lines break the plate up into three sections.
You can also picture a sideways T on the plate. Half the plate is for nonstarchy veggies; the other 2 halves make up your proteins and carbs.
Non-Starchy Veggies for Half the Plate
The first section of your plate will be the largest section. The first section will take up half of the plate and needs to be filled with delicious non-starchy vegetables. Why?
Non-starchy vegetables are perfect for managing your blood sugar. Since they’re low in carbohydrates, they don’t cause any spikes in your blood sugar.
Non-starchy vegetables are also rich in minerals, fibers, and vitamins. They’re an essential part of a complete, healthy diet.
Not sure where to begin? Here’s a list of our favorite non-starchy vegetables that are full of flavor:
- Green beans
- Snap peas
- Snow peas
- Bell peppers
- Hot peppers
- Spaghetti squash
- Brussel sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Swiss chard
- Bok choy
Filling up half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables means you’ll be getting a healthy serving of superfoods. The list above is really just the beginning. We could go on for the rest of this article, listing delicious non-starchy vegetables that you can eat.
Arugula, endive, pea pods, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, and asparagus are just a few more you can add to the list. However, only half of your plate needs to be filled with non-starchy vegetables.
What are you going to put on the other two quarters? For one of them, you’ll need lean protein foods.
Lean Protein Foods Well Portioned
Why can’t you just fill up a quarter of your plate with protein foods? Why do they need to be lean protein foods?
Proteins that come from animal sources usually contain saturated fat. Saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease. That’s why lean proteins make a healthy alternative.
Lean proteins are low in both fat and saturated fat. However, you have to be picky when choosing your lean proteins.
Certain lean proteins, like legumes and beans, are high in carbohydrates. While it’s okay to have some carbs, you’ll need to be aware of each source so you can monitor your intake.
What are some of the best lean protein foods you can include in your pre-diabetic plan? Here’s a list of a few of our favorites:
- Lean deli meats
- Cottage cheese
- Nut butter
Along with the list above, you can also include lean beef cuts. Some of the best lean beef cuts to choose from include tenderloin, flank, chuck, round, and sirloin.
Lean pork cuts are another way to add variety to your diet. Tenderloin pork or center loin chops are both tasty and healthy.
You can also look into plant-based meat substitutes. However, you’ll want to read the food labels closely.
Sometimes plant-based meat substitutes are high in sodium, which can cause different health complications. Instead, you’ll want to look for health-conscious plant-based foods that are also full of flavor.
Carbohydrate Foods With a Focus
The last quarter of your plate needs to be filled with carbohydrate-rich foods. These foods can include things such as legumes, fruit, yogurt, and milk.
Carbohydrate-rich foods are going to have some of the biggest impacts on your blood sugar. By limiting your portion of carbohydrate foods to only one-quarter of the plate, you’ll be able to prevent your blood sugars from rising too high post-meal.
What carbs are smart carbs? Here are a few more of our favorite carbohydrate foods to include:
- Acorn squash
- Green peas
- Kidney beans
- Soy milk
- Brown rice
- Whole grain pasta
- Colorful potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
Are you lactose intolerant? Then you can use milk substitutes. Soy milk, oat milk, and almond milk are great choices.
As far as bread choices go, it’s best to look for whole-grain bread products. Be careful when buying whole-grain bread. Sometimes the labels can be deceiving.
Double-check that it’s actually 100% whole grain and doesn’t just contain some whole grain in it. Whatever you do, stay away from white bread at all costs. White bread instantly converts into sugar, which can wreak havoc on pre-diabetic conditions.
Choose Low-Calorie Drinks
What’s the best low-calorie drink choice when you have prediabetes? The truth is that water should be your go-to choice.
Water doesn’t have any carbohydrates or calories, so it won’t impact your blood sugar. If you can focus on drinking water more often than not, you’ll be setting your body up for success.
However, it’s a good idea to have a few backup drinks on the menu so that you don’t get bored with your water-drinking routine. Here are a few of our favorite low-calorie drink options that aren’t water:
- Unsweetened hot tea
- Sparkling water
- Club soda
- Flavored water
- Limited intake of 100% fruit juice
Do you have a favorite diet soda or other diet drink? We don’t want to ruin one of your favorite beverages for you, but you should be aware that diet drinks aren’t always as healthy as they appear to be.
Sometimes manufacturers will use dangerous sweeteners in lieu of sugar. In certain cases, the sweeteners can have negative effects on pre-diabetic conditions, making a seemingly healthy drink dangerous. The other issue is that diet drinks don’t usually provide any type of nutrients.
Instead of a diet drink, you’d be better off treating yourself to a 100% fruit juice beverage. Just keep in mind that you have to limit your fruit juice intake since it will be high in sugar. However, as long as the beverages are made from real fruits and don’t include added sugars, you’ll be getting a great dose of nutrients.
Going off Plate
Now you know what goes in each section for the diabetes plate method. Half of your plate will be full of delicious non-starchy vegetables, a quarter is full of lean protein foods, and the last quarter is full of carbohydrate foods.
But what about meals that don’t quite fit the plate? Certain foods group different things together, making it difficult to figure out the portions.
It can be tricky applying the diabetes plate method to meals such as pasta, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles. Not to mention pizza!
The good news is that when you’re dealing with combination foods, you can still apply the plate method. You’ll just have to think about the foods a little bit differently than you normally would.
How to Do Pizza With Prediabetes
Let’s say that you’re about to enjoy a delicious slice of pizza. How can you stay true to the diabetes plate method?
Think of the crust as carbohydrate food. Any of the meats on the pizza will be your protein foods. The cheese will also count towards protein.
The tomato sauce and vegetables would be your non-starchy vegetable choices. When you’re choosing combination dishes, try to choose portions that make sense.
Choose a thin-crust pizza to help cut down on your portion of carbs. You could make sure that there are extra vegetables on top of your pizza instead of only meat.
If you’re going to go with meat, choose a lean meat option. Chicken can be a great pizza topping, and it’s a smart pre-diabetic choice.
If you’d normally have 4-5 slices of pizza, cut it down to 1-2 slices. Serve your tasty slices of pizza with a wholesome side salad. Now half of your plate will be full of non-starchy vegetables.
See how easy it is to have fun eating while still making smart choices? You don’t have to give up all of the foods you love; you just have to learn how to balance them.
Going Beyond Diet for Prediabetes
Now you know some of the best tips to create a fun diet for prediabetes. The Desert Wellness Center is dedicated to helping clients feel their best. Our physicians offer exceptional care while also educating you on all of your treatment options.
If you think you could benefit from a wholeness plan, then we’d love to speak to you. Our patient coordinators are always available to answer any questions you might have.
You deserve to feel great, and we can help. Reach out to our team today to get started feeling your best.