Sugary cereals, bagels covered in cream cheese, and high-fat bacon breakfasts are the subjects of many food fantasies. However, they are all poor choices for people with diabetes.
Diabetes management requires attention to sugar and carbohydrates. To optimize heart health, people with diabetes should also steer clear of high-fat foods that have little nutritional value.
This does not mean that people with diabetes have to have dull breakfasts. A number of classic breakfasts are excellent choices. A few minor tweaks to traditional breakfasts can make many of them healthful even for people with type 2 diabetes.
Classic breakfasts for type 2 diabetes
Breakfasts high in fiber, but low in added sugar, carbohydrates, and salt are excellent choices for people with diabetes. Nutrient-dense foods support feelings of fullness, which can help stop people snacking on unhealthful options.
Some healthful breakfast options include the following:
Fruit juices contain rapidly absorbed sugar and, sometimes, artificial sweeteners that can either trigger blood sugar spikes or affect insulin sensitivity and gut bacteria. Smoothies offer the same sweet taste as juice but contain lots of nutrients that help fight hunger.
There are many ways to include different nutrients in a smoothie. Load up on fiber by using spinach, kale, or avocado in a smoothie layer on sweetness by adding frozen berries, bananas, apples, or peaches.
Make sure to include some fat or protein to make the smoothie as filling as possible. This will also slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates.
Adding a scoop of a protein powder or one-half of a cup of Greek yogurt can make a smoothie even more satisfying.
Try this diabetes-friendly smoothie:
- Blend two cups of frozen raspberries,blueberries, and strawberries with an avocado, and one-half of a cup of kale.
- Add water to thin the consistency.
- Use chia seeds to add good fat and extra fiber to the smoothie. They won’t change the taste when balanced with fruit or yogurt.
Oatmeal is rich in fiber, which means it can slow blood sugar absorption, ease digestion, and fight hunger. It also contains almost 5.5 grams (g) of protein per cup of cooked oatmeal, making it a nutrient-dense breakfast option.
Sprinkle on cinnamon for flavor, but avoid loading oatmeal with honey or brown sugar. Instead, sweeten the oatmeal with raspberries, blueberries, or cherries. Fresh fruit is best.
Walnuts can add omega-3 heart healthful fats, protein and texture for an even more nourishing breakfast.
A large-sized boiled egg contains about 6 to 7 g of protein. Eggs may also help fight diabetes. According to a 2015 study, middle-aged and older men who ate the most eggs were 38 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate the least eggs.
Another study found that people with diabetes who ate eggs daily could reduce their body fat and BMI, without increasing hemoglobin A1c levels.
A hard-boiled egg seasoned with black or cayenne pepper is an ideal on-the-go breakfast snack. To increase fiber intake, people with diabetes can try a spinach or kale omelet.
Poached eggs are also a good option, and can be layered on sweet potato “toast.” People with diabetes who crave toast can use sprouted grain bread.
Instead of seasoning omelets and other egg breakfasts with salt, people should try peppers, such as cayenne or diced jalapeños instead.
Many popular cereals are incredibly high in sugar, including those that are marketed as “healthful.” Muesli with unsweetened almond milk, however, offers a fiber-rich, low sugar alternative. Use the 5-5 rule when navigating the cereal aisle: aim for at least 5 g of fiber and less than 5 g of sugar per serving.
Unsweetened yogurt is a perfectly healthful breakfast for people with diabetes. Greek yogurt, which contains about about 10 g of protein per 100 g, is even better. For those people who prefer sweet foods, sprinkle on some raspberries or blueberries and some pumpkin seeds. This is a protein-rich breakfast that also offers some fiber and some good fats.
Fruit can be a good option for breakfast, but large quantities of fruit can cause blood sugar spikes. On its own, most fruit isn’t very filling either.
Avocados are a major exception, offering about about 10 g of fiber per cup. Rich in heart-healthful fats, these hearty fruits offer a filling breakfast. People with diabetes can try filling an avocado with low-salt cottage cheese or an egg.
Diabetes-friendly takes on classic breakfasts
Sizzling bacon and sausage might smell great, but they are high in cholesterol and salt. This makes them bad choices for people with diabetes.
White bread toast, English muffins, and bagels are low in nutrients, but high in carbohydrates. Gooey cinnamon rolls can lead people with diabetes to a sugar-induced crash.
If someone with diabetes is craving an indulgent breakfast, they can try one of these options instead.
Bacon and sausage alternatives
Meat substitutes such as tofu and other plant-based proteins taste surprisingly similar to bacon and sausage, especially when mixed into another dish. Before trying a meat alternative, however, people with diabetes should check the salt content.
For a modern take on the classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato breakfast sandwich, people can try layering vegetarian bacon and ripe tomatoes on sprouted or whole grain bread.
Not all bread is bad for people with diabetes. The problem is that white bread is low in nutrients, and can elevate blood sugar. Sprouted grain and sourdough breads are the best bread choices for fiber, probiotic content and digestibility. However, some people with diabetes may find that any type of bread spikes their blood sugar levels
To increase the nutritional value of bread, people can consider one of the following breakfasts:
- Avocado sweet potato toast:Slice a sweet potato long-wise into one-quarter inch thick slices. Fully toast the slices and spread the avocado, adding a poached egg on top if desired. Increase the flavor by adding jalapeño slices or cayenne pepper.
- Bagel substitute:Try toasted sprouted grain bread with peanut or almond butter. Raspberries or walnuts taste great on top.
People with diabetes who love pastries can find a number of sugar-free alternative recipes online. With these, it is important to check the ingredients carefully and keep portions small.
When diabetes is otherwise well-controlled, it is fine to enjoy small pastries as an occasional breakfast treat. People should balance a sweet breakfast with foods that are high in fiber and, or protein, such as avocado or almonds. This will help control blood sugar.
Simple breakfast rules
A healthful breakfast for people with diabetes does not have to be limited to a small number of recipes. A few guidelines can help people to eat well no matter what their taste preferences are:
- Maximize protein intake. Protein can help people feel full. It also enables the development of healthy tissue and muscles. Nuts, legumes, and animal products, such as dairy and meat are excellent sources of protein.
- Fiber can combat blood sugar spikes, support feelings of fullness, and encourage digestive health. Most vegetables, many fruits, nuts, seeds, wheat bran, and oat bran are rich in fiber.
- Sugar isn’t just found in food, be careful of beverages too. Water is a more healthful choice than juice and other sweetened drinks. Sodas and sweetened coffees and teas can cause blood sugar to surge, so limit sweeteners.
- Eating two smaller morning meals 2-3 hours apart can reduce blood sugar level changes, while supporting a healthy weight. Many people with diabetes thrive on a diet that includes five to seven small meals a day.
- High-sodium diets can undermine heart health and elevate blood pressure. People with diabetes should be especially cautious about salt intake. Most salt comes from packaged foods, so it is better to stick to fresh and home-cooked foods instead. Potassium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, avocado and bananas will help to offset sodium’s effects on health.
- Watch portion size. A healthful breakfast can cause unhealthy weight gain when consumed in large quantities. People with diabetes should read the package or label to determine appropriate serving size.