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How to prevent diabetes: a step-by-step guide

Getting diagnosed with prediabetes is a wake-up call, but it doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get diabetes.

With a few simple changes, you can prevent Type 2 diabetes. Here’s our step-by-step guide.

how to prevent diabetes

Has your doctor or clinic sister told you that you could be prediabetic? Prediabetes is when  you have higher than normal blood sugar levels but they’re not high enough for a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Or perhaps you have a family history of diabetes and know you’re at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (watch this 1 minute video to find out!)

While this can feel overwhelming, the good news is that if you act quickly, and make a few changes to your lifestyle, there is a lot you can do to prevent diabetes.

How to prevent diabetes

The EEL of TEEL is what you need to remember to prevent diabetes:

  • Eat healthy food
  • Exercise, a little every day
  • Lose weight, if you need to

(The T stands for take your medication, which is only for people with diabetes who are on medication.)

normal blood sugar range

Eat healthy food to prevent diabetes

If you change how you eat, you can  lower your blood sugar. How?  By cutting back on sugar, junk food and refined carbohydrates. This means no sugar in tea and coffee, cutting back on fast food , and avoiding refined carbs: white bread, pasta, and white rice, and cakes, cookies, sweets and sugary drinks.

Instead, choose green vegetables and salad, lean proteins (chicken, fish, eggs, beans) and wholegrain carbohydrates. Get started now by taking a look at our simple Diabetes Food Guide for what foods to choose, and how to eat to prevent diabetes.

Expert tip: Try and break your sugar habit with a 21 day sugar-free challenge.


“Most of us feel excited by a challenge and a solid boundary often helps us reach our goals.
Try to  replace the ‘kick’ you get from sugar with exercise – they release similar feel-good hormones! This is the ultimate goal — more exercise and less sugar.”

Louise Ferreira, Dietician

Exercise, a little every day

So now you’re eating better. What’s next? Get moving and start doing some exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon or join a gym. It’s more important to find something you enjoy doing regularly, that fits into your daily routine. Over a few weeks, try to build up to doing 30 minutes of exercise every day. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood, download a fitness app, search for yoga or Pilates classes on YouTube, or read our guide for exercises that you can do at your desk — even during those Zoom calls that go on forever.

You can get plenty of ideas from our articles on exercise, including finding out why winter is no excuse for not exercising!

“Before I even look at a client’s diet, I talk about exercise. We need to move, and exercise is one of the most powerful things we can do to prevent diabetes. Getting into a good exercise routine does wonders for motivation levels, and once that’s in place, people are more ready to talk about changing their diets.”

Louise Ferreira, Dietician

Lose weight, if you need to

Your third tool to prevent diabetes is to lose weight if you need to. This is because excess fat, especially around the tummy, can contribute to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. (Here’s an explanation of insulin resistance). If you’ve started eating well and getting active, you may have noticed you’re losing a little weight already.

The next small, good habit is drinking 8 glasses of water a day – no fizzy drinks or juice. Find out our best weight loss tips here.

We said these changes were simple, and on one level they are. But we know that changing the way you eat, how much you move and your weight is also really challenging…  Please join the Diabetic South Africans community to meet other people going through the same thing.

The good news? As well as preventing diabetes, you’ll probably see a lot of other benefits from these changes:better sleep, improved moods, more energy and strength, and being able to cope with stress more easily. One step at a time!

What to read next?

Eat healthy for diabetes: The one article you need to read about diabetes and diet.

Exercise, a little every day: The ultimate guide to diabetic exercise, including how to make it fun!

How to lose weight with diabetes: Expert tips to help you succeed.

Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.