Living with diabetes doesn’t mean you’ll have to say goodbye to breakfast — in fact, eating a clean and balanced breakfast is crucial to get your day started right. “Insulin levels are generally a bit higher in the morning, and eating a well-balanced breakfast helps regulate blood sugar levels and keep them stable throughout the day,” explains Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian specializing in sports nutrition and plant-based lifestyles. Research also suggests that people with diabetes who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day. Cycling through supercharged breakfast dishes can further aid your weight management (and encourage weight loss, too!). But most importantly, creating a healthy breakfast plan promotes greater recognition of satiety as well as appetite cues to improve blood sugar levels throughout the day, keeping meal and snack times regulated.
“Because people are so different and nutrition is often individualized, the American Diabetes Association has moved away from recommending certain grams of carbs to eat at each meal, though, where instead, they use a Diabetes plate method to help people figure out portions at meals,” Rizzo says.
The new guidelines are pretty simple, so you can use them to create a list of diabetic breakfast ideas that will satisfy your belly and meet the requirements. They suggest filling half of your plate with non-starchy veggies, 1/4 of the plate with healthy carbohydrates, and the last quarter of the plate with a lean protein source. “They also recommend eating a largely whole food diet that consists of non-starchy veggies, fruits, healthy fats and lean proteins, as they consider foods that are richer in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber to be ‘superfoods,’” Rizzo adds. Examples include beans, dark leafy greens, citrus, sweet potato, berries, tomatoes, fatty fish, nuts, whole grains as well as dairy products, like milk and unsweetened Greek yogurt.
It’s best to eat upwards of 15-25g of protein to stay fuller longer, especially important if you tend to go for a walk in the morning or workout, as you need to repair and strengthen muscles as well as replenish lost electrolytes and nutrients afterward. Think staples like: avocado, salmon, peanut butter, smoothies, yogurt or chia seed pudding bowls.
“I would recommend avoiding breakfast foods that have more than 3-4 grams of added sugar, like sweetened yogurt, cereal or oatmeal, but in general, whole-food carbs, like plain oats or yogurt, are an acceptable part of a breakfast,” Rizzo adds. This helps avoid any blood sugar spikes for those who are diabetic — and going for natural sugar, found in fruit rather than added sugar (which is found in processed foods) is healthier for your body in general too.
And the more fiber in those breakfast recipes, the better! You need about 28 grams of fiber throughout the day, so aim to get at least 7 grams at breakfast to fill you up until your next meal. Below, we’re exploring the best recipes for high-fiber, high-protein, and low-sugar breakfasts that are perfect for diabetic dieters.
Oatmeal is best when it’s made with whole grain oats, which are full of fiber so they won’t spike your blood sugar. “I also like that [this oatmeal] is topped with berries and walnuts, both of which are beneficial for those with diabetes. With their low carbohydrate value (4g/oz) and mix of protein (4g/oz), fiber (2g/oz), and good fats, walnuts can fit into many styles of eating and they’re heart-healthy, too,” says Rizzo.
If you haven’t heard of it yet, shakshuka is a deliciously spiced breakfast of poached eggs in a tomato-based sauce. The saucy, savory breakfast is a great option for those with diabetes because it combines protein-rich eggs with nutrient-rich veggies. “It doesn’t have any starchy veggies or added sugar, so it won’t spike your blood sugar,” Rizzo adds.
Chia seed pudding is incredibly easy to make and is loaded with healthy fats and protein found within the seeds. “For people with diabetes, I would recommend cutting the amount of honey in this recipe in half to reduce sugar intake. It will still taste good because of the other fruits and nuts,” suggests Rizzo.
Classic Omelet and Greens
It’s a classic for a reason — eggs are high in protein to keep blood sugar levels stable. This diabetic-friendly breakfast is low in carbs and free of added sugars. Plus, you can customize it as you like throughout the week: Add in your choice of cheese, more veggies, and a lean protein from time to time to keep things interesting.
Homemade Granola Mix
For those living with diabetes, skipping convenient packaged foods is a must. Store-bought granola can be high in sugar, but this one is more nutritionally dense and packed with nuts and seeds. Plus, you can omit the raw sugar if need be. The biggest consideration here is portion size, so only put a spoonful into your Greek yogurt bowl in the morning, along with additional nuts or nut butter — not fruit.
Sheet Pan Breakfast Bake
Perfect for lazy weekend mornings, a sheet pan bake can be a special breakfast (or brunch!) to power you through a long day. This combination breakfast is diabetic approved as it has solid protein from the sausage (go with lean whenever possible) and choline from the egg to boost cognition, while it is still low in sugar. Plus, you can lower carb count by omitting the toast or going for a low-carb bread option.
If you’re vegan or trying to adapt more plant-based recipes into your routine, tofu is a great option for you. In the morning, you can incorporate it by substituting it for eggs frequently throughout the week; it’s a good low-sugar, high-protein source for a diabetic breakfast. Plus, you can play around with spices, herbs and veggies for even more antioxidants.
Rethink this classic sweet breakfast! Focusing on adding naturally sweet ingredients (in this case, pumpkin) alongside protein-packed staples is key. There are six main ingredients in this nutritionist-approved pancake recipe; spices, baking powder, cottage cheese, eggs, pumpkin purée, and plenty of oats. The result is a cake that contains 16g of protein. Go easy on the syrup — less is more here.
A fresh way to enjoy a veggie-heavy egg dish. Greens have iron and fiber, while sweet potatoes have antioxidants to improve heart health. Plus, it’s low in added sugar so blood sugar will stay balanced afterward.
Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
Sausage and Pepper Skillet
Yogurt Parfait Bowls
Creating a blitzed yogurt bowl is a play on the acai trend in the best way possible. Utilizing no-sugar-added frozen fruits in the morning is a great way to save yourself time and from sugary grab-and-go-options. This bowl is made with a budget-friendly berry medley and is sweetened naturally, with just a touch of vanilla for optimal yum flavor.
Cottage cheese is very underrated at the breakfast table, as it is very high protein while being low in sugar and carbs. You can make this breakfast either savory or sweet; berries are a welcome addition, as is savory items like tomatoes or robust walnuts. Feel free to eat it on a slice of whole-grain toast if the creamy texture is too much for you alone.
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