Your Game Plan to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes prevention is proven, possible, and powerful. Taking small steps, such as eating less and moving more to lose weight, can help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and related health problems. The information below is based on the NIH-sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) research study, which showed that people could prevent or delay type 2 diabetes even if they were at high risk for the disease.

Set a weight-loss goal

If you are overweight, the keys to preventing type 2 diabetes are to lose weight by choosing foods and drinks that are lower in calories, and to be more active. Set a weight-loss goal that you can reach. Try to lose at least 5 to 10 percent of your current weight within 6 months. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 10 percent weight-loss goal means that you will try to lose 20 pounds. A good short-term goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Calculate your BMI to learn whether you are overweight.

Find your weight-loss goal

Find your current weight in the first column to see how much weight you would need to lose for a 5-, 7-, or 10-percent weight loss. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and want to lose 5 percent of your current weight, then you would need to lose 10 pounds.

Your current weight in pounds Pounds to lose 5 percent of your weight Pounds to lose 7 percent of your weight Pounds to lose 10 percent of your weight
150 8 11 15
175 9 12 18
200 10 14 20
225 11 16 23
250 13 18 25
275 14 19 28
300 15 21 30
325 16 23 33
350 18 25 35

Calculate your weight-loss goal

Use the example below to learn how to calculate your exact weight-loss goal. In this example, the goal is for a 240-pound person to lose 5 percent of his or her weight.

As shown in the example above, a 240-pound person who wants to lose 5 percent of his or her weight would lose 12 pounds and weigh 228 pounds.
Step Number Action Result
Step 1 Weigh yourself to get your current weight. "My weight is 240 pounds."
Step 2 Multiply your weight by the percent you want to lose. "I want to lose 5 percent of my weight."
 240 pounds (current weight)
x .05 (5 percent weight loss)
12 pounds to lose
Step 3 Subtract the answer in Step 2 from your current weight. 240 pounds (current weight)
- 12 pounds (amount to lose)
228 pounds (weight-loss goal)

Watch a video that explains how breaking down a goal into small steps can make achieving it easier.

Follow a healthy eating plan for weight loss

Research shows that you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing weight by following a low-fat, reduced-calorie eating plan and by being more active. Following an eating plan can help you reach your weight-loss goal. There are many ways to do this. Remember that the key to losing weight and preventing type 2 diabetes is to make lifelong changes that work for you. Many popular weight-loss plans promise “quick fixes” and haven’t been proven to work long-term or to prevent type 2 diabetes.

The four most important steps to eating healthy for weight loss are:

  1. Eat smaller portions than you currently eat of foods that are high in calories, fat, and sugar.
  2. Eat healthier foods in place of less-healthy choices.
  3. Choose foods with less trans fat, saturated fat, and added sugars.
  4. Drink water instead of drinks with sugar such as soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice.

Pay attention to portion sizes

Using the plate method can help you manage your portion sizes. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fill one quarter with a lean protein, such as chicken or turkey without the skin, or beans. Fill one quarter with a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.

Image of the plate method showing proper portions of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

You can use everyday objects or your hand to judge the size of a portion. For example:

  • 1 serving of meat or poultry is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards
  • 1 3-ounce serving of fish is the size of a checkbook
  • 1 serving of cheese is like six dice
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta is like a rounded handful or a tennis ball
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is like a ping-pong ball

Resources to learn more about portion sizes

Recommended daily calories and fat grams

The table below shows how many calories and fat grams to eat each day to lose weight. Your needs may be different, but these are good starting points. The amounts are based on the eating patterns used in the Diabetes Prevention Program research study.

*Eating less than 1,200 calories a day is not advised. Source: DPP Lifestyle Manual of Operations
Current Weight Calories Per Day* Fat Grams Per Day
120-170 pounds 1,200 33
175-215 pounds 1,500 42
220-245 pounds 1,800 50
250-300 pounds 2,000 55

You can also use the Body Weight Planner to make a calorie and activity plan that can help you reach your weight-loss goals within a set time frame.

How to read the food label

When making food choices, use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages to see how many calories and fat grams are in the foods you choose.

Resources to learn how to read and understand a food label

Eat foods from each food group

Your eating plan should include a variety of foods from each food group. Use this chart from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to learn more about which foods to eat.

Graphic with tips for choosing foods from each food group and examples of serving sizes in each food group.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Eating tips for weight loss

  • Try to get as close as possible to your daily calorie and fat gram goals.
  • Eat meals and snacks at about the same time each day to keep from getting too hungry.
  • Eat your meals on smaller plates and put your drinks in smaller glasses to make portions look bigger. Don’t worry about cleaning your plate.
  • Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain that you are full.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages. If you drink alcohol, choose light beer or wine instead of mixed drinks.

Here are more tips on healthy eating.

Tips for eating at home

  • Use low-fat, light, or fat-free sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheese, and salad dressing.
  • Cook with a mix of spices instead of salt.
  • Refrigerate extra portions of food right after cooking so that you’re less tempted to go back for seconds.
  • Freeze extra portions of food to have meals ready on days when you’re too busy or too tired to cook.
  • Share a bowl of fruit with family and friends instead of cookies or chips.
  • Eat fat-free or low-fat frozen yogurt or sherbet instead of ice cream.

Tips for eating at work or on the run

  • Take your lunch to work or meetings to stay in charge of what you eat.
  • Pack your lunch the night before so it’s ready to go when you are.
  • Make a sandwich on whole-grain bread with turkey or lean beef.
  • Use mustard or hummus instead of mayonnaise as a sandwich spread.
  • Add carrots and celery sticks to your lunch instead of chips.
  • Drink water instead of juice or regular soda.
  • Pack a snack like an apple or fat-free yogurt to eat if you get hungry.

Tips for eating in-between meals

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, or a small handful of unsalted nuts instead of chips or candy.
  • To reduce calories, drink water instead of regular soda, sports drinks, or juice.
  • Chew sugar-free gum between meals to help reduce your urge to snack.

Tips for food shopping

  • Make a list of what you need before going to the store, and stick to your list.
  • Eat a healthy snack or meal before shopping for food. Don’t shop on an empty stomach.
  • Compare nutrition facts on food labels and choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium.
  • Buy a new fruit or vegetable to try each time you go to the store. Use it to add flavor and color to soups, stews, or salads.
  • Buy reduced-fat or light versions of mayonnaise, cheese, and salad dressing.
  • Buy fat-free, low-fat, or soy milk instead of whole milk.

Tips for eating when dining out

  • When possible, plan ahead by looking at the menu and nutrition information online.
  • Take time when reading the menu to choose healthier meal options.
  • Order from a menu instead of a buffet, where it is harder to control how much you eat.
  • Ask about the portion size, amount of fat, and number of calories in menu items when deciding what to order.
  • Ask to have your meal prepared with less fat, salt, or added sugars.
  • Choose foods that are baked, steamed, grilled, or broiled instead of fried.
  • Choose healthier foods at fast food restaurants. Eat grilled chicken (without the skin) instead of a cheeseburger.
  • Order a salad for starters, and share your main dish with a friend or have the other half wrapped to go.
  • Order sauces, salad dressing, or spreads on the side to reduce the amount used on your meal.
  • Ask to have the amount you don’t want to eat put in a take-home container.
  • It’s okay to have a small portion of high-calorie foods once in a while. Just keep your weight-loss goal in mind.

Watch a short video about Latecia, who after seeing her mom live with diabetes, knew she needed to make changes in her life to prevent the disease.

Resources to learn more about choosing an eating plan for weight loss

Move more

When you move more every day, you will burn more calories. This can help you reach your weight-loss goal and keep the weight off. Even if you don’t lose weight, being more active may help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Find ways to be active for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Walking is recommended for most people. Check with your health care team about other exercise programs.

Use these tips to get started, and keep moving:

  • Dress to move. Wear walking shoes that fit your feet and provide comfort and support. Your clothes should allow you to move and should keep you dry and comfortable. Look for fabrics that take sweat away from your skin to keep you cool.
  • Start slowly. Start by taking a 5-10 minute walk (or doing another activity that you like) on most days of the week. Slowly, add more time until you reach at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 days a week. Moderate-intensity activity will increase your heart rate and breathing. To check your intensity, use the Talk Test: a person doing moderate-intensity activity is able to talk but not sing.
  • Add more movement to your day. There are many ways you can add more movement to your day. If you have a dog, take your dog for a brisk walk in the morning or evening. When going shopping, park further away from the store’s entrance to increase your walk time. If you ride the bus, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way if it is safe.
  • Try to sit less in your day. Get up every hour and move. When you watch TV, walk or dance around the room, march in place, or stretch.
  • Move more at work. Take a “movement break” during the day. Go for a walk during lunchtime. Deliver a message in person to a coworker instead of sending an email. Walk around your workplace while talking on the telephone. Take the stairs instead of the elevator to your workplace. Use the alarm on your phone, watch, or other device to remind you to take “movement breaks.”
  • Count your steps. You may be surprised to learn how much walking you already do every day. Use a pedometer or other wearable device to keep track of your steps. A pedometer is a gadget that counts the number of steps you take. Work up to 7, 000-10,000 steps per day.
  • Keep your muscles strong. Do activities to strengthen your muscles, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands 2 or more days a week.
  • Stretch it out. If your body aches or is sore, you are less likely to move more. To reduce stiff or sore muscles or joints, consider stretching after being active. Don’t bounce when you stretch. Perform slow movements and stretch only as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Make it social. When you bring other people into your activities, you are more likely to stick to your plan. Make walking “dates” with friends or family members throughout the week. For family fun, play soccer, basketball, or tag with your children. Take a class at a local gym or recreation center to be active with other people. Start a walking group with your neighbors, at work, or where you worship.
  • Have fun. Being active doesn’t have to be boring or painful. Turn up the music and dance while cleaning the house. Go dancing with friends and family members. Play sports with your kids or grandkids. Try swimming, biking, walking, jogging, or any activity that you enjoy that gets you moving. Find different ways to be active so you won’t get bored.
  • Keep at it. Reward yourself with nonfood treats, such as watching a movie, to celebrate your small successes. The longer you keep at it, the better you’ll feel. Making changes is never easy, but being more active is one small step toward a big reward: a healthier life.

Watch a video with physical activity tips and tips on taking small steps to become and stay more active.

Resources to learn how to get started with becoming more active

Track your progress

Research shows that people who keep track of their weight and activity reach their goals more often than those who don’t. Weigh yourself at least once a week. Keep track of what you eat and drink, how many minutes of activity you get each day, and your weight.

The examples below show how to record your daily activity and food intake.

Daily Activity
Type of Activity Minutes
Walking 10
Stationary bike 20
   
Daily Total 30
Daily Steps
Number of Steps Taken 7,450
Daily Food and Drink Intake
Time Amount Food Item Calories Fat Grams
8:00 a.m. 1 cup Oatmeal 160 3.5
½ cup Strawberries 25 0
6 oz. Light yogurt 90 0
1 cup Tea with sugar-free sweetener 0 0
11:00 a.m. 10 Almonds 70 6.0
12:30 p.m. 2 slices Wheat bread 160 2.0
4 oz. Ham 125 3.0
2 tsp. Mustard 5 0
1 oz. slice Cheese 110 9.0
1 oz. Potato chips 160 10.0
10 Cherry tomatoes 30 0
4:00 p.m. 4 squares Graham crackers 120 3.0
1 tbsp. Peanut butter 95 8.0
6:30 p.m. 3 oz. skinless Chicken breast 140 3.0
1 cup Cooked broccoli 55 0
½ cup Brown rice 110 1.0
1 cup Pineapple chunks 80 0
1 cup Nonfat milk 90 .5
Daily Total 1,625 calories 49.0 grams

Resources to record your meals and how much you move each day

You can also download an app to your smartphone or tablet that helps you track what you eat, your activity, and your weight.

Talk with your health care team

People are usually more successful at weight loss and being more active if they have regular contact and support from health professionals. Talk with your health care team about the changes you want to make to prevent type 2 diabetes.

  • Tell your health care team about your progress with weight loss and activity, and if you are having trouble sticking with your plan.
  • Ask your health care team if you should take a medicine called metformin. Research shows that taking metformin can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. It is most helpful in younger people who are overweight and have prediabetes, and for women who have had gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.
  • Contact your health insurance provider to learn what benefits are offered for weight-loss programs, diabetes-prevention programs, nutrition counseling, or fitness programs.
    • Some people with Medicare may be eligible for Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity. This service includes up to 1 year of in-person weight-loss counseling visits with a health care professional.

If you smoke or use other tobacco products, you should stop. Even though quitting smoking can make it hard to manage your weight, it is a very important step to improve your health. Ask your health care team to help you create a plan for quitting. You can start by calling the national quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669). For tips on quitting, go to SmokeFree.gov.

Get support for changing your lifestyle

Making big changes in your life is hard. You don’t have to change everything at once. You can make it easier by taking these steps:

  1. Think about what is important to your health. What are you willing and able to do?
    Example: I know that being more active can help me lose some weight.
  2. Decide what your goals are. Choose one goal to work on first.
    Example: I want to see if I can work up to getting 30 minutes of walking in a day on at least 5 days of the week.
  3. Decide what steps will help you reach your goal.
    Steps to reach your goal Example
    Set a time frame and deadline for making lifestyle changes. I’ll start this week by walking for 10 minutes at lunch time.
    Plan what you need to get ready. I need to take walking shoes to work.
    Think about what might prevent you from reaching your goals. In bad weather, I won’t want to walk outside. I can walk inside instead.
    Decide how you will reward yourself when you do what you have planned. If I stick with my plans this week, I’ll watch a movie.
  4. Pick one step to try this week.

Add one or two healthy changes every week. Don’t get upset with yourself if you have a setback or lose control of your plan. Everyone has slips. Injury, illness, or being too busy can make it hard to stick to your plan. It’s not easy to make lifelong changes in what you eat and drink and in how often you are active. The important thing is to review your Game Plan and get back on track as soon as possible.

Resources to plan your lifestyle changes

You don’t have to do it alone

Find family and friends who will support and encourage you in preventing type 2 diabetes. Join with a neighbor or coworker in changing your lifestyle. Talk with your health care team to learn about programs that may help, such as the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

February 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

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