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Prediabetes Diet

writtenByWritten by: Skye Kalil
Skye Kalil

Skye Kalil

Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Leann Poston, M.D.
Reviewer

Leann Poston, M.D.

Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.

October 25, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is the precursor stage before type 2 diabetes develops. Prediabetes means you have a higher-than-average blood sugar level. Blood sugar levels are not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes, but you are likely to develop type 2 diabetes without making significant lifestyle changes. However, progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is not inevitable. You can reverse prediabetes with a prediabetic diet and exercise. 

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Prediabetes Diet Recommendations

There is no one-fits-all diet plan for everyone with prediabetes. However, there are some general prediabetes diet guidelines. They will generally include healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, fish, and “good” fats. A diabetes diet is centered around eating three meals per day at regular times. This helps your body to better regulate the insulin that it produces. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best foods to add to a prediabetes diet include:

  1. Healthy carbohydrates

Sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood glucose during digestion. Focus on healthy, complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, sweet potatoes
  • Legumes, such as beans and peas
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as milk and cheese

Avoid less healthy carbohydrates, such as foods or drinks with added fats, sugars, and sodium.

  1. Fiber-rich foods

Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber moderates how quickly your body digests food, and therefore, helps control blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Legumes, such as beans and peas
  • Whole grains
  1. Healthy proteins

Protein slows the rate that carbohydrates enter your bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels steadier. Eating protein at every meal can help you feel full and reduce the urge to snack.

  • Eggs
  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Part-skim cheese and cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Nuts and seeds
  1. Heart-healthy fish

Eat heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may prevent heart disease.

Avoid fried fish and fish with high levels of mercury, such as king mackerel.

  1. ‘Good’ fats

Foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Canola, olive, and peanut oils

But don’t overdo it, as all fats are high in calories.

What Foods to Avoid if You Are Prediabetic?

Certain foods should be avoided if you have prediabetes, as diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The following foods should be avoided, as they are not good for heart health:

  • Saturated fats. Avoid high-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as butter, beef, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon. Also, limit coconut and palm kernel oils.
  • Trans fats. Avoid trans fats found in processed snacks, baked goods, shortening, and stick margarine.
  • Cholesterol. Cholesterol sources include high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, liver, and other organ meats. Aim for no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day.
  • Sodium. Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Your doctor may suggest you aim for even less if you have high blood pressure.

Prediabetes Diet Plan

When you are planning your meals, it is important to take your whole day into account, including your activity level. The following example is created for someone aiming for 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day. Here is an example of a sample prediabetes diet menu:

What Is a Good Breakfast for a Prediabetes Diet?

  • Whole-wheat bread (1 medium slice) with 2 teaspoons jelly
  • 1/2 cup shredded wheat cereal with a cup of 1 percent low-fat milk
  • A piece of fruit
  • Coffee

What Is a Good Lunch for a Prediabetes Diet?

  • Roast beef sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce, low-fat American cheese, tomato, and mayonnaise
  • A medium apple
  • Water

What Is a Good Dinner for a Prediabetes Diet?

  • Salmon with 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Small baked potato
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • Medium white dinner roll
  • Unsweetened iced tea
  • Milk
  • Snack: 2 1/2 cups popcorn with 1 1/2 teaspoons margarine

Weight Loss and Prediabetes

Weight loss can be very beneficial in preventing prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes. Exercise for prediabetes should be sustainable, and you should  take steps to establish a routine. Make small changes at first, like taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or purposefully parking far away from your destination. Then gradually you can start walking, or join a fun workout group like yoga or swimming. The options are endless, but the most important thing is to begin. 

Exercise is not the only thing you can do. There are other lifestyle changes that also make a big difference. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following activities are the best things to do to prevent prediabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes: 

  • Eat healthy foods. Choose foods low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat a variety of foods to help you achieve your goals without compromising taste or nutrition.
  • Be more active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.
  • Lose excess weight. If you’re overweight, losing just 5% to 7% of your body weight — about 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms) if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kilograms) — can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Take medications as needed. If you’re at high risk of diabetes, your doctor might recommend metformin (Glumetza, others). Medications to control cholesterol and high blood pressure might also be prescribed. 

Related: Nutrition for Weight Management


  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Talk to a Doctor About a Prediabetes Treatment Plan

If you have prediabetes, you should talk to a doctor. Doctors can help you make a plan to prevent prediabetes from turning into type 2 diabetes. A doctor can help you put together a prediabetes diet based on your lifestyle, health goals, and personal preferences and tastes. They can help you with other prevention methods, and prescribe mediation if necessary. 

PlushCare doctors are available for prediabetes consultations via online appointments. You can make a virtual appointment with a doctor who can diagnose and treat you all from a video chat appointment from your phone or computer. Our doctors are all graduates of the top 50 medical schools in the United States, and have an average of 15 years of experience. 

Click here to book an appointment with an online doctor. 


Read More About a Prediabetes Diet


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

What to Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed October 12, 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-to-eat-if-youve-been-diagnosed-with-prediabetes/

Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan. Mayo Clinic. Accessed October 12, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-20044295 

Nutrition Therapy for Adults With Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report. Alison B. Evert, Michelle Dennison, Christopher D. Gardner. Diabetes Care May 2019, 42 (5) 731-754. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/42/5/731

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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