Many people who learn they have pre-diabetes believe that they will need to make drastic changes in the way that they eat. Actually, the components of a healthful pre-diabetes meal plan works much in the same way that any healthy eating plan would work. By following a few simple principles, the person with pre-diabetes can benefit considerably. A well thought out eating plan should focus on portion control and a variety of nutrient dense foods. Weight loss, blood sugar control and improved nutrition are the most obvious benefits when you begin to eat in this way.
Having pre-diabetes does not mean that you need to make separate meals or foods. Everyone has similar nutritional requirements, regardless of whether or not they have this condition. A pre-diabetic meal plan includes the same foods that everyone else can eat. Buying specialty or diet food is unnecessary.
To begin with, you do not have to give up all carbohydrates when you have pre-diabetes. Although carbohydrate foods have an effect on blood sugar, they are a necessary component of a healthy diet. It is the quantity as well as the type of carbohydrate that you include in your eating plan that will make the biggest difference.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. Simple carbohydrates include foods with added sugars, juices and fruits. Complex carbohydrates include grain products and starchy vegetables. When you have pre-diabetes it is recommended that most of the carbohydrate in your diet come from the complex carbohydrates. Use grain products or other carbohydrate foods that are high in fiber. In other words, look for whole grains, and use plenty of vegetables to get fiber. Refined or processed grains have much less fiber, and often have less nutritional value.
Fruit contains natural, simple sugars, and provides a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber. To get the most fiber from fruit, choose fresh fruit instead of fruit juice. Unsweetened frozen or canned fruit provides additional choices.
Milk or yogurt has natural sugar and are perfectly suitable to include in your eating plan. Choose low fat or fat free milk or yogurt. Read yogurt labels carefully for added sugars. Some fruit flavored or fruit on the bottom types of yogurt have quite a bit added sugar.
What about desserts or foods with added sugars? Trying to eliminate desserts entirely is not realistic and can make you feel deprived. Use good judgment and portion control with desserts, and reserve this type of food for occasional use. Be sure your blood sugar is well controlled if you decide to include an occasional dessert.
Carbohydrates are not the only consideration for pre-diabetes meal planning. High protein foods and healthy fats are essential as well. Choose lean sources of meat, chicken or fish. Vegetable sources of protein such as beans, lentils and soy provide good alternatives that are low in fat. Consider using the meatless vegetable proteins as an alternative once or twice weekly.
Selecting lean meat and low fat dairy food are good ways to cut down saturated fat and cholesterol. Include foods containing omega-3 fats such as salmon, sardines, walnuts or soy oil more often.
As you can see a pre-diabetic style of eating mimics many of the same principles of a general, healthy eating plan. Of greatest importance is to balance and control the amount of carbohydrates you consume each day. A Registered Dietitian can help you learn correct portion sizes and the amount of food that’s right for you.
© 2012 Gretchen Scalpi. All rights reserved. You are free to reprint/republish this article as long as the article and byline are kept intact and all links are made live.
Gretchen Scalpi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and author of “The Everything Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd ed.” Gretchen operates a private nutrition practice and and has offices in New Windsor and Beacon, NY. Learn more about good nutrition and diabetes at http://www.nutritionxpert.com/products.