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The #1 Thing to Avoid If You Have Prediabetes

Prediabetes isn’t always obvious. In fact, 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 prediabetes can be reversed, and it doesn’t have to lead to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, says the CDC. Whether you have prediabetes or know you need help with blood sugar management, there is one small change that these two registered dietitians recommend.

Start doing it today to reduce your risk for or reverse prediabetes—and feel pretty great in the process.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar is higher than normal, but it is not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. You can be diagnosed with prediabetes based on one of the measures below, which is taken via blood test, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA):

  • Hemoglobin A1C level (average blood sugar 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. When you have prediabetes, your risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes and of developing heart disease and stroke, also increases.

Strategies to Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Make Time for Daily Physical Activity

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

Follow the Diabetes Plate Method

This nutritious and balanced meal pattern may help keep your blood sugar level within range. The ADA’s Diabetes Plate Method focuses on filling your plate or bowl with half nonstarchy vegetables, one-quarter protein and one-quarter carbohydrate foods, all alongside a glass of water or a no-calorie beverage.

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, nonstarchy veggies, nuts and legumes are digested more slowly, leading to a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This promotes blood sugar balance throughout the day and keeps your energy levels more steady.

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 keep blood sugar levels in check. Here’s why.

 

Negatively Impacts Blood Sugar Control

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

When you skip meals, your blood sugar may go on a roller-coaster ride. The result? Blood sugar that dips too low, the symptoms of which can manifest as a fast 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, either. Skipping a meal, particularly breakfast or lunch, also results in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels during other meals of the day, according to a 2019 research study published in The British Journal of Nutrition.

Can Lead to Increased Appetite

Your blood sugar level affects your hunger and appetite. When you skip meals, you could be hungrier later on during 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, M.S., RD, an Austin, Texas-based registered dietitian.

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

Consider Simple and Quick-to-Prep Food

When looking at what to eat for breakfast, turn to items that require little to no preparation, especially if you are on the run. “A full-fat yogurt with fruit, whole-grain toast and peanut butter, fiber-rich cereal with milk, an English muffin and an egg or two, or a tortilla with scrambled eggs and beans would all be great breakfasts,” Van Eck says.

Bring Easy-to-Store Foods on the Go

If eating breakfast is really hard before you leave for work, can you bring some options to work with you? For instance, a loaf of whole-grain bread to store in the freezer, a jar of nut butter for your desk and a package of deli turkey to stash in the fridge will help you keep healthy foods within reach. If a refrigerator isn’t available, consider carrying some oatmeal packets with nuts and fruit for breakfast.

Plan Ahead

“Never underestimate the power of planning ahead,” shares Loran. Thinking ahead one day can make a difference and decrease your likelihood of skipping your meal. Check out our 18 Pack-and-Go Healthy Lunch Ideas for Work for additional inspiration. Aiming to incorporate regular meals that include protein and fiber can help support healthy blood sugar levels.

The Bottom Line

Managing or reversing prediabetes requires making lifestyle changes. Skipping meals is one habit to avoid if you have prediabetes. Eating irregularly may contribute to blood sugar swings and overeating, which can affect insulin sensitivity.

Focusing on healthy, low-prep foods, carrying food with you and planning ahead can help you take the time to eat a meal whether you’re at home, at work or on the go, giving you the energy you need for your day.

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