• Lisa Jevens

Prediabetes can be a second chance for a healthy life


So you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes? Well, you’ve been given a second chance with your health.

Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Though it is a serious health condition, it is often reversible. Many people can prevent or delay getting Type 2 diabetes with simple lifestyle changes.

Look at this as a wake-up call. It is a gift of a longer, healthier life that you can give yourself. By avoiding diabetes, you will spare yourself its side effects and risks. These range from heart attack to blindness to losing a limb.

This is an opportunity to do what you may have been putting off. You can switch and ditch. Switch to healthier foods. Ditch the daily junk food and sweets. You are at a critical point. If you needed an excuse to change your diet, this is it!

When you were diagnosed, your doctor probably told you two things: exercise and eat a healthier diet. This is because lowering your weight by even a few percent can help reverse prediabetes.

The diet that will get you there is low in sugar and low in fat. It focuses on lean protein, limited carbs and lots of vegetables.

This makes food shopping a challenge. Unfortunately, a lot of the food you see in stores is full of sugar or sodium and lacks nutritious ingredients.

SHOPPING TIPS

When shopping, avoid sugared foods such as cookies, cake, candy, sweetened drinks, ice cream and syrup. Remember, starchy processed foods such as white rice and most bread/bakery products and many breakfast cereals raise your blood sugar. If you must buy bread products or cereal, choose unsweetened whole grain. Buy brown rice instead of white. This is because the fiber in whole grains helps regulate blood sugar.

You also must cut back on fat. Fat is not just the stuff you cut off your meat. Dairy products such as butter and whole milk and cheese are high in fat and calories. These should be skipped while trying to drop weight. You can substitute cooking spray for butter in the pan, use butter substitutes and switch to skim milk products. Choose only lean meats with no skin, such as chicken and turkey. No more than 28% (think one-quarter) of your calories should come from fat. Portion sizes are important too. Keep meat servings to the size of a deck of cards.

Even if you only have time to run to the local dollar store or mini-mart for a few quick items, you can make decent choices.

  • Choose plain, low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese.

  • Look for whole-grain crackers.

  • Choose oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with little or no added sugar for breakfast, or switch to eggs.

  • Buy nuts and plain popcorn for snacks.

  • Beans are OK in moderation. If canned, drain and rinse.

  • Frozen or canned vegetables have just as much nutrition as fresh.

  • Frozen fruit is OK, but beware of canned fruit — it usually comes in sugary syrup.

  • Choose canned tuna or other canned fish instead of fatty processed meat such as lunchmeat, bacon or hot dogs.

  • Avoid sugared sodas, fruit juice, energy drinks, chocolate milk, candy, chips, sweet cereal, jam, cookies, fried food and frozen meals.

  • Limit or eliminate alcohol.

Before you go to the store, do three things. Eat something, drink water and make a list. Include in the list a few breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas.

Don’t even go down the aisles that are full of snack foods, candy and desserts. Pretend they are not there. Avoid the frozen convenience meals, too.

If you are still unsure which foods to buy, ask your doctor to send you to a dietician. Remember, this way of eating is actually much more natural. Your body should respond positively to healthier food. It may eventually reward you with a diabetes-free life.

People can have prediabetes without showing any symptoms. Wondering if you or a loved one might have prediabetes and not know it? Take this Prediabetes Risk Test on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Then take control of the rest of your life.

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun on March 24, 2021.