Starting out the day with a wholesome breakfast could benefit just about everyone, but this healthy habit is especially important for people with diabetes. There is even evidence to suggest that eating a healthy breakfast can support weight loss, which can positively improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
“Some studies find that breakfast eaters are slimmer, have overall diets with greater nutritional quality, and have less insulin resistance,” says Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, a Virginia-based registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who is the author of “Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week.”
Skipping breakfast may be associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a recent meta-analysis published in Public Health Nutrition. Regular breakfast consumption may even be used as a prevention tactic.
Know Your Numbers
Everyone with diabetes should know their numbers, or the amount of carbohydrates they should aim to eat at every meal. Because this is so individualized, if you do not already know your numbers, speak with your healthcare provider. Your doctor and dietitian can provide guidance. These target goals may be expressed either as grams of carbohydrates per meal or number of exchanges per meal.
Knowing your numbers is important when planning your meals. “Sometimes people with type 2 diabetes are more insulin resistant in the morning than at other times of the day, but this is not always the case,” says Weisenberger. “[Carb goals are] individualized based on preferences, blood sugar control, blood sugar goals, medications, and more.”
7 Easy Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Options
Once you know your numbers, stock your kitchen with diabetes-friendly breakfast staples. While breakfast is important, choosing a healthy option when you’re short on time can be difficult. Keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy foods can help you avoid impulse eating. Here are some fresh ideas to keep your plate full of flavor first thing every morning.
- Hard-boiled eggs are a great on-the-go option. To save you time in the morning, make a batch early in the week. All you’ll have to do in the morning is grab one on your way out the door. Though people with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease, research has shown that eating six or fewer eggs a week does not significantly impact cholesterol. Buying anti-inflammatory omega-3-rich eggs is even better.
- Oatmeal is another great breakfast staple. Not only is it fast and easy to make, but also studies suggest that it may help decrease insulin resistance in some individuals. Add nuts or seeds, a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt, or berries to hit some additional food groups. These toppings also increase the fiber and protein, all of which help to provide a more subtle increase in blood sugar rather than a spike.
For easy preparation, use a rice cooker to make enough for several days and then portion out into single-serving containers. Uncooked oats, such as muesli, another great breakfast choice, have an added benefit, says Weisenberger. “[They] contain resistant starch, so less carbohydrate goes into the bloodstream. Also, resistant starch is good for the gut, gut bacteria, and insulin resistance.”
- A whole-grain English muffin with a tablespoon of peanut butter, almond butter, avocado, or low-fat ricotta is another quick option. You can buy extra English muffins and store them in the freezer. Then just defrost one and heat it in the toaster when you’re ready.
- Low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt mixed with fruit is another good way to get the morning going. Greek yogurt has more protein and less carbs than traditional yogurt, and is a great option for people with diabetes. Consider buying single serving yogurts to help control your portions. If fresh produce isn’t practical for your lifestyle, stock your freezer with frozen fruit. Just be sure to choose products with no added sugar and skip the fruit juice.
- An omelet is a great choice, especially if you are having breakfast out at a restaurant. One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, according to the Egg Nutrition Center. When building your omelet, skip the bacon, sausage, and cheese. Instead, add your favorite veggies.
- If you’re hankering for French toast or pancakes, ask if it can be made with whole grain bread, or make it yourself with your whole grain options at home. Just remember to watch your portion-size and toppings. Top your French toast or pancakes with a tablespoon of peanut butter or no-sugar-added fruit instead of sugary syrup.
- Cottage cheese is another great option. As with yogurt, you can add fruit or nuts to create a more balanced meal.
No matter what you’re eating, it’s important to measure your blood glucose both before eating and two hours afterward, to learn the effects of any food or meal. There are many delicious ways to make a healthy breakfast. If one meal doesn’t work for you, have fun exploring other options.