Purpose The purpose of the study was to examine the associations between dietary behaviors and glucose metabolism in high-risk young adults to increase the precision of nutrition education to prevent early onset type 2 diabetes (T2D). Method Using a descriptive, cross-sectional study design, 106 overweight or obese sedentary young adults ages 18-29 years from the Atlanta metropolitan area were recruited to screen diabetes risk. Survey questionnaires, anthropometric assessment, blood pressure (BP), and laboratory data were collected in a clinical research unit. The Web-based HOMA2 calculator was used to calculate beta cell function and insulin sensitivity. Results The final sample included 103 participants. There were similar patterns of diet (caloric intake and dietary quality) between African Americans and non-African Americans, whereas African Americans showed hyperinsulinemia compared with non-African Americans. When young adults consumed a good quality diet (appropriate carbohydrate intakes; high fiber, low saturated fat but protein rich diet), their insulin resistance was decreased. There was a marginal interaction effect between insulin sensitivity and beta cell function by race. Systolic BP was higher in African Americans, and total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were higher in non-African Americans. Conclusion Findings are useful to develop age-specific nutrition guidelines to prevent early onset T2D in high-risk young adults.