Pre-Diabetes diet

Posted: April 24, 2011 by amygilman in Nutrition Q & Amy
Tags: , ,

I am a Nutrition Editor at, a website designed to help people with diabetes.  Here is a question I recently received:


I was recently diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes and was wondering how strict my diet really needs to be?  Does every meal and snack need to be completely sugar and carb free?”


When newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes, one may require changes in eating patterns and lifestyle such as improving health through healthy food choices and increasing physical activity.  The goal would not be to completely cut out all carbohydrates, rather improve the quality of the carbohydrate. 

Typically, a Registered Dietitian or a Certified Diabetes Educator would sit down with a client newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes and would calculate how many grams of carbohydrates that person would need in a day (because carbohydrates are needed for energy). 

How Does It Work?

The next step would be to distribute the carbohydrates evenly throughout the day to help keep blood sugars stabilized. 

  • For example, let’s say a dietitian calculated that the client needs 225g of carbohydrates per day (calculation is based on a percentage of total calorie needs; your carbohydrate needs may be higher or lower). 
  • To distribute:  First decide how many meals and snacks are consumed throughout the day.  Let’s use 3 meals and 2 snacks for this example.  This is helpful for better blood sugar control because typically it allows a person to eat smaller, more frequent meals with a consistent amount of carbohydrates throughout the day.  The more consistent you can be with your carbohydrate intake, the happier you will make your pancreas (this is the organ that is supposed to produce insulin when you ingest carbohydrates).  Now to calculate:  one option would be to give a larger amount of carbohydrates to the 3 meals (60g each), then a smaller amount for the two snacks (one snack at 25g and the other snack at 20g).   You could also distribute the 225g evenly for each of the 5 small meals, which would give you 45g at each sitting.  A dietitian can help you figure out the best option and meal plan for you.
  • Type of carbohydrate:  The quality of the carbohydrate may make a difference.  Meaning, there are some sources of carbohydrates that contain vitamins/nutrients and fiber (such as brown rice, sweet potatoes) and there are some sources of carbohydrates that may be empty calories (such as candy, pastries).  Yes both of these sources are digested and turn into glucose and wait for the insulin to move it out of the blood and into the cells. However, good health depends on what you put into your body, so why not strive for maximum health benefits and go for the sources with the vitamins/nutrients and fiber.  In other words, get some bang for your buck.

Now that you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you have an opportunity to learn how to control you blood sugar levels by keeping it within a certain range (work with your doctor to figure out what your range is).  The closer you get to this range, the lower your risk may be for developing diabetes and/or long-term health problems associated with diabetes. 

I wish you much health and happiness.  Remember, this carbohydrate counting and distributing thing may seem overwhelming at first, but stick with it and it will make sense over time.


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