Foods To Avoid If You Are Prediabetic

Just about everyone has heard of diabetes. But most people don't learn about prediabetes until they — or someone they love — is handed the diagnosis. It can be frightening and more than a little demoralizing. After all, most people know the general method of dealing with diabetes. Prediabetes is something new, something that feels like a guarantee that you're heading for diabetes down the road.

However, there is hope. Most people diagnosed with prediabetes may be able to put off the development of Type 2 diabetes or avoid it completely. Getting your A1Cs back on track is a job best tackled through a few different approaches. But one of the easiest and most important is changing your food choices. Weight and activity level both play their roles. But food is the foundation for it all. And some foods are bad news when you're prediabetic.

Before you start cleaning out your pantry, however, it's important to know that absolutely forbidding any food is almost certainly going to backfire. As SHAPE explained in 2020, cutting out certain foods only makes them more desirable. Because you can't have it, you want it even more. In fact, a 2012 report in the journal Steroids found that people who regularly indulged in small desserts were able to lose weight and keep it off. Those who banned sweets initially lost the weight but gained it back when they could no longer hold out against their cravings. So as you read through this list, think about reducing your intake rather than cutting these foods out entirely.

Unhealthy Oils

There are two main groups that prediabetics will want to cut down on: unhealthy fats and simple carbohydrates. According to the University of Michigan, unhealthy fats include high-fat meat and certain oils like palm and coconut.

Reducing your intake of high-fat meat usually involves substituting ground turkey, chicken, or lean pork for ground beef and opting for fish or poultry instead of steak. Avoiding unhealthy oils, however, can be a little bit trickier. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, palm oil is in roughly half of everything we buy.

Everything from prepackaged foods to cosmetics can contain palm oil, so cutting back could mean seriously reducing the amount of convenience food you eat. There is an added bonus to this, however. Palm oil production is a major driving force in global rainforest deforestation. So cutting back can help reduce the industry's impact.

Vegetable oil is also hard to avoid, especially if you're a fan of fried food. Opting for baked or steamed versions of your favorite foods is a good way to cut back on your intake. Fried options can then be saved for special occasions like festivals or fairs. Just keep an eye on premade or prepackaged foods, as vegetable oil is a common ingredient in both.

Simple Carbohydrates

Cutting back on prepackaged foods can help reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates as well. Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, spoke to the Cleveland Clinic in 2019 and explained that simple carbs are those that spike blood sugar without offering additional nutrition. The solution is choosing complex carbohydrates instead.

Women's Health Magazine lists whole grains, fruits, or vegetables as complex carbohydrates. These are carbohydrates that also pack fiber or protein. This combination takes longer to break down, making them easier on a person's blood sugar levels.

By comparison, a simple carbohydrate, according to Zumpano, is a food with lots of sugar or starch and not much else. She specifically calls out sugary drinks like soda, sweet coffee drinks, lemonade, and sweet tea. She also points to alcohol, since it breaks down quickly into sugar in the human body.

Zumpano also suggests that prediabetics cut back on "white" foods like white rice, white bread, and white or semolina pasta. Foods made with little more than white flour, such as pretzels and crackers, are also on the list. And of course foods that combine the two, such as baked goods and candy, should become treats for special occasions rather than part of a person's regular diet.

Changing your diet takes time. Throwing everything out and starting over is almost always too overwhelming. Instead, start with small changes. Sub out the ground meat in one meal. Add an apple to your lunch and swap in a regular drip coffee for your usual morning order. Small changes add up over time and may be the key to avoiding diabetes entirely.