What carbs can I eat if I am prediabetic?

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you may be wondering what types of carbs you can still enjoy in your diet. The key is to focus on high-fiber, nutrient-dense carbs that digest slowly and help keep blood sugar levels steady. Avoid processed refined carbs and sugary foods that can spike blood sugar. With a little carb adjustment, you can still eat plenty of delicious foods.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, 88 million American adults have prediabetes. This condition puts you at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The good news is lifestyle changes like eating healthier carbs, losing weight, and increasing physical activity can often reverse prediabetes and prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

How do carbs affect blood sugar?

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar) during digestion. This causes an increase in blood sugar levels. In people with prediabetes, the body has a harder time managing spikes in blood sugar. Over time, these spikes can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Not all carbs affect blood sugar equally. The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly different carbs raise blood sugar. Low GI foods (55 or less) break down slowly while high GI foods (70 or more) cause rapid spikes. Focusing on low GI carbs is ideal for prediabetes.

Carb Choices for Prediabetes

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are Nutrition superstars- packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber with minimal effect on blood sugar. Some excellent choices include:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Aim for non-starchy veggies with every meal. They are very low in calories and carbohydrates.


All types of berries are great choices because they have a low glycemic impact. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are packed with antioxidants and fiber.

  • 1 cup blueberries: 21 grams carb, 4 grams fiber, GL 7
  • 1 cup raspberries: 15 grams carb, 8 grams fiber, GL 5
  • 1 cup blackberries: 14 grams carb, 8 grams fiber, GL 5
  • 1 cup strawberries: 12 grams carb, 3 grams fiber, GL 5

Enjoy berries fresh or frozen, in smoothies, salads or low-sugar parfaits.

Stone Fruits

Stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries have a low glycemic load when eaten whole. Avoid the juices which are high in sugar.

  • 1 medium peach: 15 grams carb, 2 grams fiber, GL 5
  • 1 medium plum: 15 grams carb, 2 grams fiber, GL 5

Apples and Pears

Apples and pears are higher in carbs with a moderate glycemic load. Stick to 1 small whole fruit or 1⁄2 large fruit.

  • 1 small apple: 21 grams carb, 4 grams fiber, GL 6
  • 1 small pear: 27 grams carb, 6 grams fiber, GL 8


Grapefruit has a low glycemic index of 25. Half a medium grapefruit has 11 grams of carb with 2 grams of filling fiber.

Stone-ground 100% Whole Grain Bread

Look for 100% real whole grain breads that list whole grains as the first ingredient. The stone-ground, dense texture helps slow digestion. Eat just 1 slice per meal.

  • 1 slice sprouted whole grain bread: 15 grams carb, 2 grams fiber, GL 7

Old-fashioned Oats

Steel-cut and old-fashioned oats have a lower GI than instant oats. The fiber helps slow the absorption of carbs. Enjoy 1⁄2 cup cooked oats with fruit and nuts or milk.

  • 1⁄2 cup cooked oats: 15 grams carb, 2 grams fiber, GL 8


Quinoa is a nutty whole grain that’s high in protein. 1⁄2 cup cooked quinoa has a moderate GL of 9.


Kidney beans, lentils, black beans and other legumes are excellent sources of fiber and plant-based protein. Measure out 1⁄2 cup portions to control carbs.

  • 1⁄2 cup cooked lentils: 20 grams carb, 8 grams fiber, GL 6
  • 1⁄2 cup canned kidney beans: 20 grams carb, 8 grams fiber, GL 6

Foods to Limit or Avoid

Some carbohydrate-rich foods can cause dangerous spikes and swings in blood sugar levels. It’s best to greatly limit or avoid:

Sugary Beverages

Sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks, and sweetened teas can contain shocking amounts of added sugar and sky-high glycemic loads:

  • 12 oz Coke: 39 grams carb, GL 26
  • 8 oz orange juice: 22 grams carb, GL 12

Drink mostly water and limit sugary drinks to occasional small portions.

White Bread, Rice, Pasta

Refined grains like white bread, white rice, and regular pasta are high GI carbohydrates. They digest very quickly, causing blood sugar spikes. Limit to 1⁄2 cup per meal max.

  • 1 slice white bread: 14 grams carb, GL 10
  • 1⁄2 cup white rice: 22 grams carb, GL 23
  • 1 cup cooked pasta: 43 grams carb, GL 27

Sugary Desserts and Snacks

Cookies, cakes, ice cream, candy and other sweets can send blood sugar soaring sky-high. It’s best to avoid these altogether when possible.

Starchy Vegetables

Higher carb veggies like potatoes, corn, peas and winter squash digest more quickly than non-starchy veggies. Limit to 1⁄2 cup per meal and be mindful of portions.

  • 1 small baked potato: 37 grams carb, GL 18
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked corn: 15 grams carb, GL 9

Processed Low-fat Foods

Packaged snacks, yogurt, cereals and baked goods made with artificial sweeteners and added sugars can still spike blood sugar. Read labels carefully.

Tips for Healthy Carb Eating

With prediabetes, you don’t have to severely restrict total carbs. Focusing on the right types of carbs in proper portions can help manage blood sugar while still allowing you to eat deliciously.

Here are some tips for healthy carb eating with prediabetes:

  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at meals.
  • Read labels and opt for whole food carbs like oats, quinoa, beans, and 100% whole grains whenever possible.
  • Limit refined grains like white bread, rice, crackers and pastries.
  • Enjoy fruit in moderation, sticking to 1 serving of lower GI fruits like berries, grapefruit, peaches.
  • Choose healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado to help slow digestion.
  • Drink water as your primary beverage and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Be mindful of portions of starchy veggies and legumes.
  • Skip the sugary treats and desserts.

Sample Menu for Prediabetes

Here is a sample one day menu with delicious diabetes-friendly carb choices:


  • Scrambled eggs with spinach, mushrooms and cheese
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with peanut butter
  • 1⁄2 grapefruit
  • Coffee with unsweetened almond milk


  • Turkey and avocado sandwich on 2 slices whole grain bread
  • Carrot sticks
  • Seltzer water


  • 3 oz baked salmon
  • 1⁄2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup roasted asparagus and broccoli
  • Tossed salad with vinaigrette dressing


  • 1⁄2 cup cottage cheese with 1⁄2 cup blueberries
  • Unsweetened iced tea


If you have prediabetes, pay close attention to the types and amounts of carbs you eat. Focus on whole, high-fiber choices like vegetables, fruits, beans, minimally processed grains, and limit sugary refined carbs. With some carb tweaking, you can design a tasty diet to help manage blood sugar and prevent type 2 diabetes.

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