What do I eat if I have prediabetes?

Today’s column comes from a reader who I meet in the hall from time to time. She often has a comment on a column that I have written and so I had asked her for suggestions for topics for future columns. Today’s topic is per her request. She said that she would like a review on good foods for a prediabetes food plan. That is a good topic to cover; thanks for the suggestion AJ.

It’s estimated that 86 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition that raises the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. It may also be referred to as impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance, and it occurs when your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are higher than the normal range but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. If left untreated, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years.

Fortunately, changes in lifestyle such as managing food choices, losing weight and increasing physical activity can help return blood glucose levels to normal. Studies have identified two effective strategies to help manage prediabetes. One strategy is to lose weight if you are overweight. If you are overweight, even losing 7 percent of your body weight can significantly help you toward managing your blood glucose levels. The second strategy is to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. A great way to get started is by walking. A brisk walk of 30 minutes five times per week can be a step in the right direction.

Managing food choices for prediabetes consists of the same recommendations as managing food choices for Type 2 diabetes. Following a balanced diet with a consistent amount of carbohydrate containing foods can help with weight loss and blood glucose control. Eating smaller amounts at consistent times of the day can also be helpful. Glucose comes primarily from the foods that we eat. Carbohydrate containing foods affect blood sugars more quickly than protein and fat containing foods do. Concentrated carbohydrates, such as candy, cookies, pop, sugar and honey can affect it quite quickly. Other carbohydrate — containing foods such as grains, milk and fruit also impact your blood sugar level, although usually not as quickly, as it does depend on the type of food and the portion size. While carbohydrate-containing foods all affect your blood sugar, they are also important sources of energy and nutrients. So, the goal with a diet for diabetes or prediabetes is to manage the amount of carbohydrates you eat at a given time so that your blood sugar level does not go too high.

When putting together a meal plan, use the My Plate graphic as your guide and include a variety of the following foods:

• Grains — whole-grain pasta, breads, cereals and brown rice

• Vegetables — greens, carrots, green beans, tomatoes and other colorful vegetables

• Fruit — whole pieces of fresh fruit, canned or frozen fruits in their own juice

• Dairy — low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese

• Protein — lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, lentils and dried beans

• Fat — polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils, such as olive oil or canola oil, walnuts and avocado

Summer is a great time to start incorporating these principles into our daily meal habits. With the abundance of high quality, seasonal fruits and vegetables available, now is a great time to include them in your meal plans so as to turn them into habits going forward. Making lifestyle changes that you can live with for the long-term is your best bet for accomplishing nutrition goals that last.

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.