Although kids and teens might be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by managing their weight and increasing physical activity, other risk factors for type 2 diabetes can't be changed. Kids with one or more family members with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk for the disease, and some ethnic and racial groups are more likely to developing it.
Download this Shopping List for Diabetics, created by the doctors and dietitians at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami. Since 1975, the renowned Pritikin Center has been helping people with diabetes launch new lifestyles that maximize health and minimize the need for pills and insulin. It's all about keeping blood sugar and A1C at normal levels, naturally.
While some people attempt to manage their type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone, this may not work for everyone. In fact, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 16 percent of people with diabetes don't take medication, the majority of people with diabetes require insulin or oral meds at some point, often at diagnosis.
But some pleasant news: When consumed in moderation and made with whole ingredients and without added sugar, fruit smoothies can be a good food for diabetes. Consider stocking your fridge with unsweetened frozen fruit so you can whip up one in a hurry for breakfast. Adding ingredients with protein, such as yogurt or a small amount of nut butter, will also help your body break down the carbohydrates more slowly, leading to less of a spike in blood sugar.
More recent findings from the Nurses Health Studies I and II and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study suggest that swapping whole grains for white rice could help lower diabetes risk: Researchers found that women and men who ate the most white rice—five or more servings a week—had a 17 percent higher risk of diabetes than those who ate white rice less than one time a month. People who ate the most brown rice—two or more servings a week—had an 11 percent lower risk of diabetes than those who rarely ate brown rice. Researchers estimate that swapping whole grains in place of even some white rice could lower diabetes risk by 36 percent. (25)
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advocates for a healthy diet with an emphasis on balancing energy intake with exercise. Historically, they have advocated for the majority of calories coming from complex carbohydrates from whole grains such as whole-grain bread and other whole-grain cereal products and a decreased intake of total fat with most of it coming from unsaturated fat.
As for packaging, frozen veggies without sauce are just as nutritious as fresh, and even low-sodium canned veggies can be a good choice if you’re in a pinch. Just be sure to watch your sodium intake to avoid high blood pressure, and consider draining and rinsing salted canned veggies before eating, per the ADA. If possible, opt for low-sodium or sodium-free canned veggies if going that route.
"Many people with type 2 have had type 2 for a while prior to diagnosis," says Anne Peters, MD, director of the University of Southern California Clinical Diabetes Program and an author of the ADA's position statement on the management of type 2. A person who has had diabetes for five years before being diagnosed may have complications that require good blood glucose control—pronto. It will most likely take medications to achieve a quick improvement. Plus, you can always stop a medication once you've started it if lifestyle changes lead to on-target blood glucose levels—with your health care provider's guidance, of course.
Meanwhile, saturated fats and trans fats can harm your heart and overall health, according to the American Heart Association. To spot trans fats, look for the term “hydrogenated” on labels of processed foods, such as packaged snacks, baked goods, and crackers. “I always tell my clients to double-check the ingredient list to make sure they don’t see any partially hydrogenated oil in their food products,” Massey says.
A vegetarian or vegan diet can be a good choice for people with diabetes. Vegetarian and vegan diets are typically high in carbohydrates - about 13% higher than a diet with that includes both plant and animal products (omnivorous) – which we generally think is bad for diabetes. However, a vegetarian or vegan diet is typically higher in fiber and lower in calories and saturated fat, so the inflammatory risks associated with high meat consumption are avoided. Research studies that have tested vegetarian and vegan diets for people with diabetes; have found them to be beneficial at reducing blood sugar.12
Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. If you have type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and can cause other serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Smoking 16 to 20 cigarettes a day or more can increase a person's risk of developing diabetes to more than three times that of nonsmokers. The exact reason for this isn't well understood. It may be that smoking directly decreases the body's ability to utilize insulin. Moreover, it has been observed that after smoking, blood sugar levels increase. Finally, there is also an association between smoking and body fat distribution, smoking tends to encourage the "apple" shape, which is a risk factor for diabetes.
Animal products contain fat, especially saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, and certain forms of cancer. These products also contain cholesterol and, of course, animal protein. It may surprise you to learn that diets high in animal protein can aggravate kidney problems and calcium losses. Animal products never provide fiber or healthful carbohydrates. A vegan diet is one that contains no animal products at all. Therefore, you’ll have to avoid red meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
There are a few methods that can be used for diabetic meal planning. It is good to research more than one, but also important to remember that diabetic diet needs are going to vary based on your sex, age, activity level, medications, height, and weight. If you have not yet met with a registered dietitian, seek one out who can help you develop an individualized meal plan that will meet all of your specific needs.
If your mood, sleep, blood sugar, and energy are being affected, limiting intake may be advised. The most important thing when choosing coffee for people with diabetes or those managing their weight is to pay attention to the carbohydrate content from milk and added sweeteners. Cutting back or eliminating artificial sweeteners is advised as these have shown to disrupt gut bacteria, cause cravings and overeating, and negatively impact weight and blood sugar management.
Sugars and starches that you get from your diet enter your bloodstream as a type of sugar called glucose. In prediabetes, your body has trouble managing the glucose in your blood due to resistance to a hormone called insulin. Normally, insulin is able to help your body keep blood glucose levels in check, but the effect is weaker if you have prediabetes, so blood glucose rises.
It’s best to get fiber from food. But if you can’t get enough, then taking fiber supplements can help. Examples include psyllium, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin, and calcium polycarbophil. If you take a fiber supplement, increase the amount you take slowly. This can help prevent gas and cramping. It’s also important to drink enough liquids when you increase your fiber intake.