Following portion guidelines and knowing your carbs will help you eat well for blood sugar control.

Healthy Eating Tips for Pre-Diabetes

If you have received a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, you’re at a crucial stage in the balance of blood sugar control. It’s time to examine your eating and lifestyle habits and consider where you can begin to make changes to avoid developing diabetes mellitus.

As a registered dietitian, my role is to assist in spearheading this process. Once you analyze where there is room for improvement, you can decide what changes are most sustainable and realistic.

In the interim, here are some suggestions to help you better balance and sustain blood sugar levels:

1. Understand Carbohydrates

You may discover the need to keep track of your carbohydrate intake. It’s important to identify yogurt, milk, fruit, and starches as carbohydrates. For example, one carbohydrate is equal to 15 gm; that’s equivalent to one eight-ounce glass of milk or 1 cup of raspberries. Corn, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are also considered carbohydrates.

2. Consider a Change in Your Daily Grains

Adjusting your diet to include primarily quality whole, sprouted, or stone-ground grains demonstrates how simple, but crucial changes can make a big difference. When consumed, whole grains remain intact much longer and take more time to digest, hence affecting the blood glucose at a steady rate. Research also demonstrates the benefit of their fiber content and its contribution in maintaining gastrointestinal, and possibly mental health.

Rice: If you enjoy white rice, consider brown, wild, black, or red rice instead. You can start with substituting half and half to give your taste buds time to adjust. Long grain varieties tend to have a smoother texture.

Breads, crackers, and pasta:  Make it a goal to identify and use 100% whole, sprouted or stone-ground grains. The same is true for gluten and wheat-free food products. Whole grains have an advantage over refined, because they contain increased amounts of fiber,  B vitamins, a measure of omega-3 fats, and trace minerals such as zinc and magnesium. Read your food labels for 100% whole wheat or grains, examine the ingredient list to understand what kind of flour or grain was used to make the product, and make efforts to consume foods with 3 gm of fiber or more per serving.

Explore new grains: Consider whole, yet versatile varieties such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and bulgar.

3. Pay Attention to Fruit Portion Size

Fruit is high in fiber and a host of essential nutrients. However, it can affect your blood sugar, so proper portion size is important. Consider a goal of 3 to 4 servings a day. Here are some examples of one serving of carbohydrate, or 15 gm:
•    1 cup of raspberries
•    half of a medium or large banana
•    a small or tennis ball sized apple, peach, nectarine, or orange
•    2 Tbsp of dried fruit
•    2 tangerines

4. Unlock the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) measures the rate at which food increases your blood sugar on a scale of 0-100. Foods with a high GI raise the blood sugar fairly quickly. It provides a useful way to identify foods that raise your blood sugar and foods that stabilize it.  Unfortunately, taste is not a proper measure of GI. For example, you might think carrots and tomatoes have high GI’s due to their taste, however they are relatively low (19 and 15 respectively), due to their fiber content.

Ashley Fortenberry is a registered dietician and health educator at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, providing nutrition education to individuals and groups, including nutrition education for physicians, work-site wellness, pediatrics, oncology, pregnancy, diabetes, renal disease, mindful eating, and eating disorders. She enjoys working with people to effectively motivate behavioral change, taking into account individual needs and equipping them to make informed nutritional choices and build their own path to wellness.