Updated: Aug 25
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, you’re probably worried. You never thought this would happen to you. And now you’re not sure what to do.
And if your doctor told you to just “wait and see”, you might be feeling helpless and out of control.
Don’t panic. You have a powerful tool that can make a HUGE difference with your blood sugar management: FOOD.
Yes, a prediabetes or type 2 diabetes diagnosis is scary. But you are far from helpless. And what you eat makes all the difference. I get it. And I can help. In my practice, I help patients manage their blood sugar and take control of their health all the time.
While it's important to work with a practitioner to personalize your diet to make sure your body’s specific nutritional needs are met, there are some strategies you can implement right now that will get you headed in the right direction.
This article will cover some general dietary recommendations and is not meant as personalized medical advice. If you’re ready for specific recommendations tailored just for you, book a free discovery call here.
Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients
Every bite you eat gets broken down by your digestive system so your body can use the calories and nutrients for energy, bodily functions, growth, and repair.
There are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Let’s break this down. A quick google search will give you the dictionary definitions of these words from Oxford Languages:
Nutrient — “a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.”
Macronutrient — “a type of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the diet.”
Micronutrient — “a chemical element or substance required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms.”
Macronutrients (macro meaning large) are nutrients you need in relatively large quantities. And this includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are the smaller nutrients that you only need a little bit of, like vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to blood sugar management, both are important. This week we’ll cover the macronutrients and how you can tweak the balance to help manage your blood sugar. Then next time, we’ll talk about the micronutrients and the important roles that they play.
Which macronutrients should I eat?
The short answer: all of them. But the balance matters. In fact, macronutrient balance is key to controlling blood sugar/insulin response.
If you want to really move the needle on improving your blood sugar, carbs are the place to start. Of the three macronutrients, carbohydrates have the biggest effect on blood sugar.
When you eat carbs — bread, pasta, fruits, sugar, etc. — your body breaks them down into simple sugars (glucose) and then sends them on their way to provide energy to your cells. When these sugars hit your bloodstream, your blood glucose goes up. Then your body produces insulin to make sure the glucose is shuttled into your cells.
If you aren’t prediabetic or diabetic, your body takes this in stride. Your blood sugar gently rises after you eat, and then gently falls as your body produces insulin and shuttles the sugar into your cells.
But if you have blood sugar dysregulation, as is the case with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, this process doesn’t go as smoothly. Your insulin resistance makes it hard for the sugar to leave your blood and enter the cells. For more information about insulin resistance and prediabetes, read this article.
If you want to level out your blood sugar, consider eating fewer carbs.
Lowering the amount of carbohydrates you eat can help regulate your blood sugar. In one study, 11 women who were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes lowered their carb intake to under 30 grams per day over 90 days. This short-term intervention functionally reversed the diabetes diagnoses based on their HbA1c levels. They also lost weight, improved their blood pressure, and had favorable changes in their blood lipids.(1)
I’m not suggesting you eliminate carbs, or even lower your carb intake forever. But eating fewer carbs can be a very effective tool for helping to regulate blood sugar.
It’s important to work with a practitioner any time you try a therapeutic diet that’s designed to affect your health. And I never encourage patients to eliminate an entire food group.
Many therapeutic diets are done temporarily to accomplish a specific health goal. And then your practitioner will ease you into a more moderate approach.
If you want to eat fewer carbs without feeling deprived, consider making some of these food swaps:
Let’s be honest. Pasta is usually just a vehicle for whatever you’re putting on top of it. So if you can find a substitute that will carry your sauce and have a similar texture, switching out pasta is manageable for most people.
I recommend zucchini noodles, also known as zoodles. You can use a spiralizer to make your own, or buy them pre-packaged. Or if you don’t like zucchini, there are plenty of other varieties available.
Another great pasta alternative is spaghetti squash. Once the squash is roasted, you can use a fork to remove the long strands and top them with your favorite sauce.
Rice is starchy and high in carbs. Many people try cauliflower rice as a replacement. Pre-riced cauliflower is available in both the refrigerated and freezer sections of many stores.
No, it doesn’t taste like rice. But it can still serve as a bed for certain dishes.
If you want a low-carb sandwich, consider making a wrap! A hearty green leafy veggie like collard greens or butter lettuce will work. Layer at least two or three leaves, add your sandwich fixings, roll up, and eat! These are usually best served right away. If you need to pack it to go, add any sauce or condiments right before you eat so the wrap doesn’t get soggy.
Carbohydrates are an important part of your diet. And if you eat them in the form of veggies, you also get some of the important vitamins and minerals your body needs. (More on that next time). I recommend getting your carbs from non starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Cutting down carbs can be challenging. But it helps to turn the focus from what you’re giving up to the other delicious foods still available to you.
High protein foods like meat, chicken, fish, and eggs have a relatively small impact on your blood sugar.
I encourage my clients to eat adequate amounts of protein for 2 reasons:
Protein helps build muscle. More muscle means you have more room to deposit glucose (blood sugar) and get it out of the blood.
Protein has a limited effect on insulin. Carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin because of the way they are broken down. But proteins aren’t converted into glucose in the same way. So they have a much smaller impact on blood sugar.
Protein also helps keep you fuller longer!
Up until recently, most people thought eating fat was bad. In fact, for several decades, people were encouraged to eat low-fat diets to lose weight and improve their health. But now we know better.
Fats are good for you! Yes, it’s important to eat them in moderation and make sure you’re eating the healthy varieties. But fat is an important part of a healthy diet, especially if you are working to regulate your blood sugar.
✔ Have the smallest effect on insulin out of all the macronutrients.
✔ Help fill you up and keep you satisfied without negatively affecting your blood sugar.
✔ Have a positive effect on inflammation.
✔ Taste good.
I encourage my patients (in general) to add some healthy fat to each meal. There are lots of ways you can do this:
😊 Have a salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
😊 Add some butter to your veggies.
😊 Top your chicken with some fresh guacamole.
😊 Use healthy oils like avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, and extra virgin olive oil when you cook.
Be careful though. Not all fats are good for you. Avoid highly processed oils like vegetable, canola, and anything that contains trans fats. These types of oils can cause inflammation.
There’s hope even with a prediabetes or type 2 diabetes diagnosis
Studies show that changing your diet can make a significant difference in your outcomes if you have prediabetes or diabetes. The power is in your hands!
Tweaking the balance in your macronutrients is an important first step in improving your blood sugar management. But it’s not just the macronutrients that matter.
Stay tuned for my next article where we’ll talk about the critical role that micronutrients like vitamins and minerals play in blood sugar management. It might surprise you!
You don’t have to figure this out by yourself. If you’re ready to develop a personalized approach to blood sugar management, let’s talk. I'm Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® and specially trained to help people just like you take control of their health through nutrition. Let's chat.
Did you know that a steam sauna can improve blood sugar?
Yes, that’s right! And there are many other ways to improve blood sugar. Addressing prediabetes doesn’t have to be hard. Ready to improve your blood sugar without changing your diet? Sign up for my FREE mini course, 10 Ways to Improve Blood Sugar Without Changing Your Diet. It’s a free email course, and it’s a fast and easy way to learn 10 impactful tips to begin balancing your blood sugar TODAY! Learn more