One in three adults in the US have prediabetes—and half of them go on to develop diabetes within 10 years. Here’s how your eats can make a big difference in preventing full-blown type 2 diabetes.
Worst breakfast: bagels, breakfast cereals, or bacon
Highly refined grains like bagels made from white flour and cereals are bad breakfast choices for your prediabetes diet because they lack the fiber that blunts your blood sugar response. (Besides, some cereals are packed with sugar; you have to look at the nutrition label carefully.) You can still eat these on occasion, but you should aim to limit these in your diet, says Jill Weisenberger, RD, author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week By Week. Bacon also shouldn’t be an “everyday food,” she says. “People think, ‘oh, it doesn’t have carbs,’ but there are so many things about it that are not a good idea for prediabetics,” she says. For one, it’s linked to colon cancer, something people with type 2 diabetes are already at an increased risk of. These are the best foods for diabetics, according to science.
Best breakfast: eggs and avocado
Eggs are one food that Weisenberger likes to recommend to clients, mainly because there are so many ways to cook them. Besides being fast and easy to prepare, they’re also a good source of protein for people with prediabetes. And while you may be nervous about the cholesterol, research shows that in the context of a healthy diet, eating eggs doesn’t have a negative effect on your heart health. Avocado also tops this list because it’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, heart healthy fats that have been shown to improve fasting blood glucose levels.
Worst lunch: a deli sandwich
Veering away from processed meats, including deli meat, is a good idea for your prediabetes diet. In one 2010 Harvard review of the research, people who ate about 2 ounces of processed meats per day had 19 percent higher odds of type 2 diabetes, and 42 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease. (Unprocessed meats didn’t up likelihood of either disease, the researchers discovered.) Sodium and nitrates in processed meats may impair artery health, insulin secretion, and glucose tolerance, say study authors. Make sure you avoid these eating habits that are the worst for diabetics.
Best lunch: a mega salad
So cliché, but hear us out. Non-starchy veggies should make up the largest food group on your plate, says Weisenberger. “Your goal should be to eat more non-starchy vegetables than anything else. If you’re still hungry, eat more of them,” she says. These include picks like leafy greens of any type, zucchini, broccoli, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Not only does a larger intake of produce helps drive down type 2 diabetes risk, but these foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, plus thousands of phytonutrients, which work in numerous ways to protect your heart and keep blood sugar under control. Feel free to top your salad with legumes, like lentils or beans, or lean meats like sliced chicken, plus an olive oil-based vinaigrette.