Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes does not have symptoms or warning signs, so it is important to consult your doctor if you are at risk (find out the risk factors for prediabetes here).
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, it may be possible to prevent this diagnosis by adopting certain lifestyle changes; such as good nutrition, exercising and weight management.
In this article, we will cover some beneficial foods that you can eat if you are a person living with prediabetes; including nutrition tips and specific recipes.
What kinds of foods are the best for a prediabetes diet?
In order to manage prediabetes, it is important to eat a variety of foods that make up a healthy and nutritious diet. These foods help manage prediabetes in different ways, such as lowering your blood glucose and assisting with weight management.
Foods from the five food groups
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that you adopt a diet with foods from all five of the food groups, which are;
- Grain foods, including whole grain bread, cereal, pasta, rice, etc.
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese or any alternatives
It is also important that you are eating the right serving sizes as well. This is to make sure that your body gets the right amount of nutrients without overeating, as this can cause weight gain and affect blood glucose levels.
Foods with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
These kinds of fats are considered ‘good fats’ because they help reduce the buildup of cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol can lead to the clogging of blood vessels; which not only increases your risk factor for prediabetes, but can also contribute to heart disease as well.
Foods with monounsaturated fats include:
- Olive, peanut and canola oils
- Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, etc.
- Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, etc.
Foods with polyunsaturated fats include:
- Oils such as sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed, etc.
- Flax seeds
- Fish (omega-3, which fish is particularly known for, is a type of polyunsaturated fat)
Foods with low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates
Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to provide your body with energy. Glycemic index (GI) is a value used to measure how quickly specific carbohydrate based foods increase your blood sugar levels. The glycemic index ranks food on a scale from 0 – 100. The lower the food ranks on the scale (low GI) the longer it takes to digest and absorb causing a slower rise in blood glucose levels, which will also leave you feeling fuller for longer (Source: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/diet-trends/what-is-glycemic-index ).
Examples of low GI foods include;
- Traditional rolled oats
- Dense whole grain breads
- Lentils and legumes
- Sweet potato
- Most types of fresh fruit
Foods that are good sources of protein
Protein is an essential nutrient that helps the body grow and repair. There are two types of protein;
Plant-based protein is found in foods such as;
- Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, soybeans, etc.
Animal-based protein is found in foods such as;
- Fish and seafood
- Poultry such as chicken, turkey and duck
- Red meat such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, etc.
- Dairy such as milk, cheese and yoghurt
Red meat should be limited to three meals a week at most (Source: Health Direct), as there is a link between excessive red meat and heart disease. When selecting dairy products,consider the low-fat varieties.
What are some examples of Prediabetic meals you could eat?
The Life! program Health Hub provides various recipes that you can easily prepare to manage prediabetes. These recipes cover all meals of the day; including breakfast, lunch and dinner, making it easy for you to decide what to prepare.
Examples of these recipes include;
- 1 slice wholegrain bread, toasted
- 1 tbs avocado, mashed
- 1 handful rocket or baby spinach
- 1 medium tomato, sliced
- 1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and sliced
- sprinkle Tabasco sauce, optional
- pepper, to taste
- Spread avocado on toast.
- Top with rocket leaves, sliced tomato and egg slices.
- Add a sprinkle of Tabasco sauce, if using and pepper.
- 4 slices thick wholegrain bread
- 2 tsp basil pesto
- 1 cup baby spinach, rocket or butter lettuce leaves
- 2 small tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup fat-free semi-sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1/4 cup marinated artichokes (97% fat-free), drained and chopped
- 1/4 small red capsicum, thinly sliced
- 8 basil leaves, roughly torn
- 4 slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese
- Spread 2 slices of bread with pesto.
- Place half of the remaining ingredients on each slice before finishing with the remaining slices of bread
- Cut the sandwich in half
- 1/2 cup brown rice (uncooked)
- 1 capsicum, chopped
- 2 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 tbs sultanas
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tbs reduced-salt soy sauce
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 2/3 bunch bok choy
- 240 g salmon fillet
- spray olive or canola oil spray
- Cook rice according to packet instructions (can take around 30 minutes). Once cooked and cooled, add to a large bowl with the capsicum, celery and sultanas.
- To make dressing, combine soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic in a cup. Pour over salad and stir through well.
- Put the bok choy in a microwave-proof dish with a lid (or cling film cover) with a tablespoon of water and cook on HIGH for 2 mins or until tender but still bright green.
- Meanwhile, heat a barbecue grill or large non-stick frypan on high. Lightly spray each side of salmon with oil, reduce heat to medium and cook salmon for 3 minutes each side until golden brown and just cooked
- Serve salmon, bok choy and rice salad together
What foods should I limit for prediabetes?
If you want to manage your prediabetes, there are certain foods that we recommend to limit, and this is for everyone, not only those with prediabetes or diabetes.
High in refined sugar
Foods that are high in refined sugar should be avoided because they can cause weight gain and contribute to high blood glucose levels.
These foods include;
- Cakes, muffins, scones and biscuits
- Ice cream, desserts, chocolate and lollies
- Some breakfast cereals and muesli bars
- Dried fruit
Saturated and trans fats
These are considered ‘bad fats’ because they can contribute to raised cholesterol levels and weight gain.
Foods with saturated and trans fats include;
- Certain meat products, such as the fat on red meat and the skin from poultry
- Dairy products such as butter, lard, dripping, cream, sour cream, copha, coconut milk, coconut cream and hard-cooking margarines
- Baked goods such as pastries, cakes, puddings, chocolate and cream biscuits
- Pre-packaged biscuits, savoury packet snacks, cakes, frozen and convenience meals
- Fried takeaway foods such as chips, fried chicken and battered fish
- Pies, sausage rolls and pastries
- Creamy sauces or dressings
- Creamy style soups
High GI foods
High GI foods should be eaten in moderation, as they break down quickly in the body which causes a spike in blood glucose levels.
Examples of foods that are high GI include;
- Certain types of cereals (check the label for a low GI rating)
- White bread
- Short grain white rice
- White potato
How can the Life! program help me achieve the best diet for prediabetes?
Life! is a free healthy lifestyle program that helps you improve your eating habits, increase your physical activity and manage stress. You can choose from a group course or the telephone health coaching service.
Our experienced health professionals will help you make small changes to your lifestyle so that you can achieve your health goals and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Life! is managed by Diabetes Victoria, and funded by the Victorian government. You can check your eligibility for the program here.
Elleni Kaias, Accredited Practicing Dietitian | Primary Care Engagement Lead
Kristie Cocotis, Head of Prevention and Health Promotion
Sarah Dubé, Strategy and Engagement Lead
Ria Cheripuram, Digital Communications Officer
Tegan Kohlman, Communications and Social Marketing Officer