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Published on August 09, 2021

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

healthy foods

Eating Right is One Key to Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

By 2050, 1 in 3 adults could suffer from type 2 diabetes if current obesity and sedentary lifestyle trends continue.

That prediction doesn’t have to come true, however, because individuals can greatly lower their risk of type 2 diabetes by making basic lifestyle modifications – eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the type 2 diabetes epidemic in our country, including:

  • A highly processed food supply, including a large number of refined foods high in sugar and carbohydrates
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as fruit juice, soda and energy drinks, which often come with free refills when you dine out
  • A dramatic increase in portion sizes
  • A more sedentary lifestyle for both children and adults, who often spend large amounts of time in front of a computer or television.

Development of type 2 diabetes is more common in people who are overweight and not physically active.

There are also other risk factors, such as your ethnicity, whether you have a family member with type 2 diabetes, and a past history of gestational diabetes.

Despite these risk factors, many people can avoid moving from pre-diabetes into full-blown type 2 diabetes by making better choices.

To help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, follow these recommended ways of eating:

Follow a healthy eating plan, such as the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate guideline. Every day, eat 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, up to 11 servings of whole grains, and choose lean protein and low-fat dairy sources.

Watch portion sizes. Know the difference between serving sizes and portion sizes. A large apple might be two fruit servings, or a bagel could be four bread servings. Keep portion sizes to about the size of your palm.

Don't serve adult-sized portions to kids or use the “clean plate club” instead of letting kids stop eating when they are full.

Choose a variety of foods. Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and lean protein and dairy are all good choices. Parents need to present kids with a variety of healthy choices and lead by example in eating them.

Read food labels, keeping an eye on the amount of fat, sugar and salt in your foods. Low-fat foods are not always lower in calories, so read labels carefully.

Eat breakfast. Have some protein, such as an egg, a cheese quesadilla, or peanut butter on toast or an apple. In terms of getting your metabolism going, it really is the most important meal of the day.

Make healthy snack choices – fruits, vegetable, whole grains – and limit the cookies, candy and chips. Snack choices are especially important for kids, who need to eat throughout the day. Teach moderation but don't deny kids their favorite snacks, because it can lead to overindulging later.

Eat meals as a family. You are more likely to cook healthy food at home and avoid oversized restaurant portions, and you show your kids how to make healthy choices.


Resources for more information about type 2 diabetes risk or prevention:

American Diabetes Association (ADA)

Center for Disease Control - Pre-diabetes

National Diabetes Education Program

Harvard School of Public Health Diabetes Prevention Toolkit


These recipes from the Prevention Diabetes Diet Cookbook are good choices for anyone who wants to eat well.

Turkey Tacos with Avocado-Corn Salsa

Chicken Roll-Up with Spinach and Sundried Tomato

Exercise and the Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes

Exercise can be a powerful weapon to ward off type 2 diabetes.

Studies show that moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5-10 percent reduction in body weight, reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Diet and exercise were more effective than medication in preventing type 2 diabetes.

Types of exercise to choose

The level of physical activity we’re talking about is not Olympic in nature, although it can produce medal-worthy results when it comes to your health and quality of life. Even 30 minutes of walking a day can make a difference.

Exercise is recommended in two key areas: cardio and strength training.

Cardio and aerobic exercise gets your heart rate up as it stretches the large muscles in your body. Strength training is used to build muscle mass and strengthen your bones.

You can rotate cardio workouts and strength training throughout the week for variety and adaptability to your schedule.

Cardio: Power walking, swimming and biking are all great ways to get your blood flowing and your heart pounding. When you get your heart rate up, you burn any extra glucose the body doesn’t need. This helps with fat loss and weight control, which are both key factors in preventing type 2 diabetes.

Strength/Weight Training: Strength training can improve both insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, which helps prevent the onset of diabetes.

A word of caution

If you don’t already exercise regularly, you should consult a doctor or a trainer before beginning. A pre-exercise medical assessment can help you identify first steps and set appropriate and realistic goals.

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