5 Habits to Add to Your Day to Prevent Prediabetes—And 3 to Avoid, According to Dietitians

plus size young latin woman running in park
plus size young latin woman running in park

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More than one in three Americans have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Having prediabetes can put you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The good news is, small lifestyle changes can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and other chronic health problems. Here's a look at five habits to add to your day and three to avoid in order to help prevent or even delay prediabetes.

Related: Best and Worst Foods for Prediabetes

Habits to Add to Your Day

1. Eat More Beans

"Long term consumption of about 5 cups of beans per week can yield consistently lower blood sugar levels as well as a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease which is a significant issue in people with prediabetes and diabetes," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook.

Harris-Pincus explains that this is likely due to the high fiber content of beans which can increase satiety (or the feeling of fullness). Feeling more full can help you reduce your overall food intake which can help with weight loss. "This combo can improve blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of progression to diabetes from prediabetes."

2. Increase Physical Activity

According to Lorena Drago, M.S., RDN, C.D.N., C.D.C.E.S. certified diabetes care and education specialist, physical activity is an important habit to develop. Work your way up to the World Health Organization recommendation of 150 minutes per week, which is about 30 minutes five days a week. A combination of cardio and weight training is recommended. Always ask your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

3. Keep a Food Journal

Rather than calorie counting (which can be confusing and ineffective), try taking stock of your overall eating pattern through journaling the foods you eat throughout the day. Drago also recommends to "Take an inventory of your plate through food journaling. Food journaling will help you assess what and why you are eating and help you achieve your health goals. The results from the Diabetes Prevention Program demonstrated that lifestyle changes focusing on healthy eating and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%."

4. Eat More Vegetables

Only 10 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Vegetables are filled with nutrients like fiber and antioxidants, and provide phytonutrients which are natural plant compounds that can help prevent and fight disease. Replacing foods that are high in saturated fat or added sugar with nutrient-dense vegetables can help improve your overall health, cardiovascular health and can also help with weight loss efforts. Check out these five easy ways to eat more vegetables if you need help getting started.

5. Plan Your Meals

Meal planning can help you avoid the "what's for dinner?" situation where you're so hungry you decide to go to the closest drive thru or order the quickest nearby restaurant delivery instead of making something at home. Meal planning helps you think ahead so you can have all your ingredients on hand and prepare a planned meal that's healthy and delicious. Plus, it can also save you money and help you cut down on food waste because you will be buying only what you need. The same goes for snacks—having pre-made or packaged nutritious snacks on hand like fresh fruit, hummus, vegetables, peanut butter, and whole grain crackers can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Habits to Avoid

1. Being Sedentary

"Prolonged sitting, including spending many hours watching tv or in front of a computer may accelerate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes," explains Drago. A lack of exercise is a major contributor of chronic disease. "Physical activity enhances insulin sensitivity, increases how the muscles use blood glucose (sugar), and improves insulin resistance." To help you get more exercise in your routine, focus on adding an activity you really enjoy. This can be anything from dancing to your favorite song to pilates or a walk around the neighborhood.

2. Binge Drinking

Overindulging is another habit to avoid, according to Drago. She defines binge drinking as having "four or more drinks in about two hours for women and five or more drinks for men." This can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. "The pancreas becomes inflamed and unable to secrete insulin as a result to excessive alcohol," explains Drago. Instead, alternate alcoholic drinks with water or try one of our delicious mocktail recipes.

3. Not Getting Enough Sleep

According to Harris-Pincus, "Research has shown that poor-quality sleep on a regular basis can contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes—exactly what you are trying to avoid." This can happen for folks who don't get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep or their sleep isn't restful. To help you catch some much-needed zzz's, check out these expert tips on how to get better sleep.

Related: 9 Foods to Help You Sleep

Creating Healthy Habits

Turning healthy tips into regular habits does take time. According to the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change, can take up to six months of doing the healthy habit regularly until it turns into a regular behavior. Drago provides some great recommendations for turning a healthy goal into something you do regularly.

  1. Find something you enjoy doing or eating: Whether exercise or food, select an activity or food you enjoy that's prepared in a healthy way you love.

  2. Have a plan: If your goal is exercise, plan when you're going to exercise and for how long. Plan where you will go and even what you will wear. This can also apply to food. If you choose to increase your vegetable intake, plan ahead so your snack has a vegetable in it.

  3. Have an accountability partner or partners: Making a behavior change together with a family member or friend or just telling them what you are doing may help motivate you. Make sure it's someone who gives you positive feedback.

  4. Make it easy: You're the one who has to do the healthy habit regularly so find the easiest way to get it done. One great way to do this is by attaching a new habit to something you already do.

  5. Set reminders: Use your smartphone alarm or mark the time and day on your calendar to remind you to get it done.

  6. Get back on the wagon: If you fail, don't self-flagellate. Give yourself some grace and try to get back into your routine at your next chance.