Prediabetes Diet: What to Eat & Avoid (with 3-Day Meal Plan)

A prediabetes diet consists of consuming foods that are high in fiver, like fruits with their peel and seeds, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. You should also include lean protein and health fats into your diet, like olive oil, avocado oil and walnuts. 

These foods should have a low glycemic index, which will help to decrease the rate at which sugar is absorbed in the blood. It is important to maintain a health diet with regular physical activity. 

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If a prediabetes diagnosis is confirmed by the doctor, you should consult a registered dietitian to evaluate your nutritional necessities and form a custom meal plan. 

Food to eat

Prediabetes diets should include foods like: 

  • Lean meats, like fish, seafood, chicken, eggs and tofu
  • Vegetables and greens, like lettuce, carrots, peas, pumpkin, spinach and eggplant 
  • Fruits, ideally with the peel and seed, like strawberries, pears, mangos, guava, melon, oranges and apples 
  • Legumes, like beans, soybeans, chickpeas, peas, fava beans and lentils 
  • Whole grains, like whole wheat rice, whole grain pasta, wild rice, quinoa, corn and oats 
  • Low fat dairy, like skim milk, fat-free yogurt, and white cheeses (e.g. ricotta and cottage) 
  • Healthy fats, like olive oil, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and avocado oil 

Although yacon potatoes are a tubercle, they are low in calories and high in fiber which help to decrease blood sugar levels. They are an excellent addition to a prediabetic diet. 

In addition, you should also aim to drink 2 L of water per day. This helps to prevent the risk for dehydration and regular blood sugar levels. You can also incorporate teas to lower blood sugar into your daily hydration intake. Learn more about the diabetic diet for patients already diagnosed with diabetes. 

Food to avoid

Foods that should be avoided by prediabetes are those that are high in carbohydrates, sugar and fat. They tend to have a higher glycemic index (GI). Examples include: 

  • Sweets: sugar, honey, chocolate, caramel, jelly spreads, cakes, ice cream and puddings 
  • High GI carbohydrates: white bread, white rice, tapioca, potatoes, white rice and cookies 
  • Sweetened drinks: soda, processed juices, energy drinks, sweetened coffee and tea 
  • Processed foods: Pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, nuggets and fast food 
  • High fat foods: Sausages, ready-made sauces, yellow cheese, whole milk, whole fat yogurt and fried foods 

Alcoholic drinks, like beer, wine and champagne, should be avoided too. Alcohol increases the risk for hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar levels drop and cause symptoms like dizziness, nausea, confusion, palpitations and even fainting. Check out tips for lowering blood sugar and preventing spikes. 

How to put a meal plan together

To put together a prediabetes meal plan, you should try to consume carbohydrates together with high protein foods and/or foods with healthy fats, as follows: 

Breakfast and snacks

For breakfast, you are advised to consume food with whole grains, like oat pancakes or whole wheat bread. Aim to eat these with eggs, white cheese, pulled chicken or ground meat. This will help to decrease the rate which sugar is absorbed from these foods, which prevent blood sugar spikes. 

Small snacks can be achieved by combining one serving a fruit with skim yogurt, or with nuts like chestnuts, peanuts and almonds. Another option is to eat a piece of fruit with 2 or 3 squares of chocolate with 70% cacao. 

Lunch and dinner

Lunch and dinner should be rich in raw or sauteed vegetables, and olive oil (which contains many healthy fats). You should also have a serving of carbohydrates, like whole grain rice, whole grain pasta or quinoa. Alternatively, you can also eat small servings of 2 carbohydrates (e.g. half a cup of rice with half a cup of beans). 

In addition, you should aim to eat a serving of lean protein, like chicken, fish, tofu and eggs, at both lunch and dinner. After your meal you should opt for a piece of fresh fruit as dessert. 

In general, foods should be grilled, baked, boiled or steamed. You should avoid frying food in general. You should also use natural herbs or spices to add flavor, like oregano, rosemary, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, coriander, parsley, garlic and onion.

Sample meal plan

The following table outlines a sample 3-day meal plan for a prediabetic diet: 

Meal Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

1 cup of black coffee + 1 whole grain bun with 1 egg, scrambled with a dash of olive oil + 3 strawberries 

1 cup of coffee with skim milk and no sugar + 1 pancake made with half a banana, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of skim milk or milk alternative and 1 tablespoon of oats, topped with 1 tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter

1 lemon balm team + 1 omelet, made with 1 egg, onion, tomatoes and oregano + 1 orange 

Morning snack 1 baked apple (unpeeled), sprinkled with cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of chia seeds 1 fat free yogurt + 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds + half a banana  1 large slice of papaya + 2 teaspoons of flaxseeds 

2 tablespoons of whole grain rice + 2 tablespoons of beans + 1 chicken thigh, cooked with onion, garlic, turmeric and paprika + 1 side plate of salad, made with arugula, lettuce, cucumber and tomato and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and vinegar + 1 pear, unpeeled 

1 fish fillet + 2 tablespoons of quinoa + 4 tablespoons of boiled carrots, green beans and cauliflower, seasoned with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and lemon juice + 1 tangerine 

1 grilled chicken breast + half a cup of whole grain pasta with homemade tomato sauce + 4 tablespoons of salad, prepared with cabbage and carrots, seasoned with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and vinegar + 1 kiwi 

Afternoon snack 1 fat-free yogurt + 3 grapes + 1 Brazilian nut 

1 cup of unsweetened jello + 3 walnuts 

1 smoothie made with 150 ml of skim milk (or milk alternative), 2 tablespoons of diced avocado and 1 tablespoon of oat flour 

Dinner 1 omelet, made with 2 eggs, spinach and tomatoes + 4 tablespoons of salad made with red beans, coriander, olive oil, peppers and olive oil + 1 medium slice of melon  1 side plat of spaghetti squash with carrots, seasoned with homemade tomato sauce + 1 chicken leg with 3 tablespoons of cooked okra + 1 small slice of watermelon  1 medium eggplant grilled and stuffed with 200 of tofu, herbs and homemade tomato sauce + 2 tablespoons of whole grain rice + 1 side plate of salad, made with watercress, tomato and lettuce, seasoned with 1 tablespoon of olive oil + 1 fresh plum

This meal plan serves just as an example, as types of food and quantities may vary depending on age, sex, physical activity level and current health status. Patients are encouraged to consult a registered dietitian for a more thorough evaluation and customized meal plan that meets all nutritional needs.