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Pre-diabetes diets

Updated April 17, 2017

Pre-diabetes, also called glucose intolerance, affects 57 million people in the United States. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have pre-diabetes--a condition where the blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. A pre-diabetes diet does not have to be boring. We can still enjoy many of the foods we love by adjusting amounts, combinations and portion sizes.

Importance of the Pre-Diabetes Diet

A pre-diabetes diet is important for anyone with elevated glucose because modifying your diet and exercising regularly can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes by almost 60 per cent, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The Plate Method for Pre-Diabetes

Planning meals for pre-diabetes means more than just watching starches and sugars. One of the simplest ways to follow a pre-diabetes diet is called the plate method. With this eating plan, you fill the largest part of your plate with mostly nonstarchy vegetables. About half the plate should include any of the following: tomatoes, carrots, green beans, peppers, lettuce, spinach, carrots, lettuce, greens, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, salsa, onion, cucumber, beets, turnips, okra or mushrooms.

The rest of the plate should include about 25 per cent whole grains and 25 per cent lean protein. You can also add an 236ml glass of milk and a small piece of fruit.

For breakfast, you can adjust this idea to include about half the plate with whole grains or starch, a piece of fruit and a quarter of the plate with lean protein or yoghurt. Whole grains can include breads, such as whole wheat or rye, high-fibre cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat, rice, pasta, cooked beans, peas, potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, squash, low-fat crackers and snack chips, pretzels and fat-free popcorn.

Meats and proteins that are good to eat on the pre-diabetic diet include: --Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant and goose (all without skin) --Beef --Pork --Lamb --Veal (trimmed of fat) --Seafood: Most fish, shellfish and even imitation shellfish --Eggs --Beans and Lentils --Processed meat with less than 3 grams of fat per ounce can include hot dogs, sausage, lunch meats --Meatless products such as soy-based veggie burgers

More Diet Options

Another method of meal planning for pre-diabetes is called carbohydrate counting. This technique is used to track how many carbohydrates you can eat in a day, keeping a target glucose level in range. Most carb-counting diets for pre-diabetes have a target level of 45 to 60 grams per meal. Individual ranges vary depending on personal activity level, medication, weight and age. You and your doctor can work together to pick your specific carbohydrate level per meal.

Finally, a third method of pre-diabetes diet involves keeping track of the glycemic index, or GI--how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose. Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food, either glucose or white bread. Food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI.

This type of meal planning can be more complicated but works well if you are having trouble fine-tuning your glucose levels. Many people choose this as an option if the plate method or carb counting doesn't work well enough. Your health care professional can help you plan a glycemic index diet based on your specific needs if this option seems best for you.

Additional Considerations

Pre-diabetes can affect people without them knowing because symptoms develop so gradually and aren't always recognised; some people have none. Symptoms of pre-diabetes can include: a frequent desire to urinate, blurred vision or a feeling of being tired most of the time for no apparent reason. Your doctor can test you for pre-diabetes with a simple test called a fasting plasma glucose, or FPG, test, or the oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT.

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About the Author

Beth Richards, a freelance writer since 2002, writes about health and draws from her 25 years as a licensed dispensing optician. She has authored several books, writes for national magazines including "Country Living" and "Organic Family" and is a health and wellness features writer for several publications. She is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland.