The #1 thing to avoid if you have prediabetes

By | April 3, 2024

This habit sends your blood sugar levels on a not-so-pleasant rollercoaster.

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Reviewed by dietitian Emily Lachtrupp, MS, RD

Prediabetes is not always obvious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes but have no idea.

The good news is that prediabetes can be reversed and does not necessarily lead to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, the CDC says. Whether you have prediabetes or know you need help managing your blood sugar, there’s one small change these two registered dietitians recommend. Start today to reduce or reverse your risk of prediabetes – and feel pretty good about it.

Related: Best and Worst Foods for Prediabetes

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), you can be diagnosed with prediabetes based on one of the measures below, which are done through a blood test:

  • Hemoglobin A1C level (average blood sugar level over two or three months): 5.7% to 6.4%

  • Fasting plasma glucose: 100 to 125 mg/dl

  • Oral glucose tolerance test: 140 to 199 mg/dl

Certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low levels of HDL cholesterol, are risk factors for prediabetes. If you have prediabetes, your risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes and developing heart disease or stroke also increases.

Strategies to lower blood sugar levels

Make time for daily physical activity

Being active encourages muscle cells to use glucose (also called sugar) in the bloodstream for energy. This helps improve insulin sensitivity to lower blood sugar levels, according to the ADA. The CDC recommends being active for at least 150 minutes per week, which amounts to about 30 minutes per day, five times per week.

Follow the Diabetes Plate Method

This nutritious and balanced meal pattern can help keep your blood sugar levels within range. The ADA’s Diabetes Plate Method focuses on filling your plate or bowl with half non-starchy vegetables, one quarter protein and one quarter carbohydrate foods, all in addition to a glass of water or a low-calorie beverage.

Related: Diabetes Meal Plan for Beginners

Choose low-glycemic foods more often

While all foods fit into a balanced and nutritious diet, foods with a lower glycemic index, such as high-fiber whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, nuts and legumes, are digested more slowly, leading to a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This promotes blood sugar levels throughout the day and keeps your energy levels more stable.

The #1 thing to avoid if you have prediabetes

Avoid skipping meals. Even if you stick to the lifestyle changes above, skipping meals makes it more challenging to control blood sugar levels. This is why.

Has a negative impact on blood sugar levels

Skipping meals can cause irregular blood sugar patterns throughout the day. Blood sugar levels can drop low when you skip meals and rise again when you do eat, says Jocelyne Loran, RD, CDCES, a board-certified diabetes care and education specialist at the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. “The body prefers it when blood sugar levels show steady fluctuations over the course of the day,” she explains.

When you skip meals, your blood sugar levels can go on a rollercoaster. The result? Blood sugar levels that drop too low, symptoms of which can manifest as rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating, nervousness, anxiety, irritability and confusion, dizziness or hunger, according to the CDC. It’s not just low blood sugar that’s a problem. Skipping a meal, especially breakfast or lunch, also results in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels during other meals of the day, according to a 2019 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition.

Can lead to increased appetite

Your blood sugar level affects your hunger and appetite. Skipping meals can leave you hungrier later in the day. “The hungrier you are when you start eating, the more likely you are to overeat or even binge eat,” says Emily Van Eck, MS, RD, an Austin, Texas-based registered dietitian.

As a result, it can become harder to truly be in tune with your body’s signals of appetite and satiety, which can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels. Over time, this eating pattern could disrupt insulin sensitivity, according to a 2023 study Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Simple ways to avoid skipping meals

Consider simple and quick-to-prepare foods

When considering what to eat for breakfast, choose items that require little to no preparation, especially if you’re on the run. “A full-fat yogurt with fruit, whole-grain toast and peanut butter, high-fiber cereal with milk, an English muffin and a few eggs, or a tortilla with scrambled eggs and beans would all make a great breakfast,” says Van Eck. say.

Our 7-Day Meal Plan: Easy 10-Minute Breakfast is also a great resource for easy, quick-to-prep breakfast ideas on the go.

Take easy-to-store food with you on the go

If it’s really hard to eat breakfast before work, can you take some options with you to work? For example, with a whole-wheat loaf of bread for the freezer, a jar of nut butter for your desk, and a package of turkey for the refrigerator, you can keep healthy food within reach. If a refrigerator isn’t available, consider packing some oatmeal packets with nuts and fruit for breakfast.

Plan ahead

“Never underestimate the power of planning ahead,” says Loran. Thinking ahead one day can make a difference and reduce the chance of skipping your meal. Check out our 18 Pack-and-Go healthy lunch ideas for work for extra inspiration. Aiming to include regular meals that contain protein and fiber can help support healthy blood sugar levels.

It comes down to

Controlling or reversing prediabetes requires making lifestyle changes. Skipping meals is a habit you should avoid if you have prediabetes. Irregular eating can contribute to blood sugar fluctuations and overeating, which can affect insulin sensitivity. By focusing on healthy, low-preparation foods, having food with you, and planning ahead, you can take the time to eat a meal whether you’re at home, work, or on the road, helping you avoid the get the energy you need for your day., April 2024

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