Why you should eat in the morning when you have diabetes and the best breakfast foods to keep blood sugar stable.

Lainey Younkin, M.S, R.D.
February 20, 2020
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Breakfast is one of the most neglected meals of the day, and it's no surprise since most of us are rushing to get ourselves - and possibly others - out the door on time. But skipping breakfast isn't a good idea, especially if you have diabetes. "Research shows eating a balanced meal in the morning may help to promote more stable blood glucose levels the rest of the day. For individuals with diabetes, skipping the morning meal may lead to reduced energy levels, a higher risk of hypoglycemia, and an increase in food cravings/portions the remainder of the day," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet.

Pictured recipe: Avocado-Egg Toast

The key is to combine high-fiber carbohydrates with healthy fat and protein. This combo keeps your blood sugar from spiking and keeps energy sustained throughout the morning instead of that spike and crash effect you've probably experienced.

High-fiber carbohydrates include foods like oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, muesli, or a high-fiber cereal. Basically, skip simple carbohydrates - think the "white stuff" or foods high in sugar and low in fiber like pastries, muffins, white toast and bagels (learn more about complex carbohydrates and why they're so good for you).

Fat and protein are digested slowly, so they keep you full longer. Not to mention, the body actually burns calories digesting protein so remind yourself of that next time you're tempted to skip brekkie.

Here are the some of the best breakfast foods to eat when you have diabetes.

Avocado toast

"Rich in heart healthy, unsaturated fat, avocado has been shown to improve satiety after eating with a minimal impact on blood sugar levels," says Palinski-Wade. "The fat in avocado may also promote improved blood lipid levels, a win for people with diabetes who are at a greater risk for heart disease. I recommend pairing avocado with whole grain toast for an added boost of fiber along with carbohydrates for long-lasting energy."

You can also add eggs or other veggies like cherry tomatoes or asparagus to avocado toast to make it more filling. Check out our West Coast Avocado Toast or Caprese Avocado Toast for inspiration.

Eggs with veggies and avocado

You can get creative with this breakfast—make an omelet, scramble up a hash, or fry an egg and top it with veggies and avocado. Two eggs deliver 12 grams of protein, while avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, the heart-healthy kind that reduces inflammation in the body. Half of an avocado also has seven grams of fiber. When it comes to veggies, choose a variety of colors to increase antioxidant intake. Just remember potatoes, corn, and peas are starchier vegetables so choose a small portion of these and load up on non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, or spinach.

Don't have time to make eggs before work? Make a frittata or egg casserole like this Red Pepper Goat Cheese Frittata ahead of time and portion it out for the week. Or for a twist on scrambled eggs, try our delicious Mexican Breakfast Scramble.

Oatmeal with nut butter and berries

Oatmeal can be made quickly in the morning by simply adding ½ cup of old-fashioned oats and one cup of water to a bowl and microwaving for about two minutes (get our best tips for making oatmeal). Then add a scoop of nut butter or nuts and fruit such as apple, banana, or berries. If that's too time consuming for your busy mornings, prep overnight oats the night before. "This easy on-the-go breakfast is perfect for busy mornings," says Palinski-Wade. "Oats provide a good source of fiber, including soluble fiber which may improve cholesterol levels. Mix in almond butter for a boost of protein and fat for longer last fullness without adding to the carbohydrate load."

We love this Creamy Cherry Walnut Oatmeal (fun fact: walnuts have the most omega-3 fatty acids of any nut). Or try our Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats.

Greek yogurt

Not all Greek yogurts are created equally. Store-bought yogurt parfaits and some flavored brands could spike your blood sugar as much as white bread. Buy plain yogurt when you can and add your own lower-sugar fruits like raspberries. Then top with sliced almonds or walnuts or a sprinkle of granola. Spoon in almond or peanut butter for satiating fat. Choose Greek yogurt or Icelandic style for twice the protein of standard yogurt. This helps slow the rise of sugar in the blood. Finally, be a nutrition detective and always check yogurt nutrition labels before buying. Look for less than 10-15 grams of sugar per 6-8 ounces when possible. If you have diabetes you are better off with less sugar and higher fat, such as 2%, than choosing a non-fat yogurt full of sugar.

High-fiber cereal

Cereal is often shamed because of carbohydrates, but there are several cereals full of fiber with minimal to no sugar that will keep your blood sugar stable and fuel you for hours. Some favorites include muesli, Kashi cereals, Fiber One, All Bran, Shredded Wheat, and Bran Flakes. Eat with low-fat milk or mix into plain Greek yogurt for more protein. Add berries or ½ of a banana for natural sweetness. Try these Best Cold Cereal Brands for Diabetes.

Whole-wheat toast or English muffin

Satisfy your bread craving without spiking your blood sugar by choosing whole-wheat toast, whole-wheat English muffins, or whole-wheat waffles. Have one or two slices, depending on your personal carb count range, and top with a healthy fat like almond butter, peanut butter, or avocado, along with fruit or veggies based on what you are craving. We love our Waffle with Nut Butter, Banana, and Chocolate Chips. Craving savory? Spread a thin layer of goat cheese, ricotta, hummus, or avocado, add leftover roasted veggies, and drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.

Berry smoothie

A lot of people with diabetes think they can't have smoothies because they're high in carbs, but that's just not true. You may need to blend up smarter smoothies though. "One of my favorite breakfast options is to blend together 1 cup of frozen mixed berries, ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, and 1/3 of an avocado," says Palinski-Wade. "The creaminess from the avocado provides a rich texture along with filling, plant-based fats which also act as a 'nutrient booster' helping to enhance the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A.

The berries provide sweetness, fiber, and antioxidants while the Greek yogurt boosts the protein content of the smoothie so you can feel satisfied for hours. This sweet smoothie is low in carbs with no added sugars, making it the perfect combo to fill you up without spiking blood sugar levels." If this doesn't sound filling enough for you, add chia seeds, flaxseed, or hemp seeds for more healthy fats and a protein powder to ensure you stay full until lunch. One smoothie hack is to blend it thickly with milk of choice (like oat or almond), pour it into a bowl, and eat it with a spoon. People tend to feel full for longer when eating things instead of drinking them. Try these recipes for healthy avocado smoothies.

Breakfast hash

Similar to the egg and veggie breakfast combo mentioned above, a hash is simply a scramble of eggs with vegetables and potatoes. However, you can swap eggs for tofu, like we did in our Poblano Tofu Scramble, for more plant-based protein and a different flavor profile. Don't be afraid of the carbohydrates in potatoes; just factor them into your carb count. Potatoes are nutrient-rich and high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.

Bottom Line

Breakfast doesn't have to be boring when you have diabetes. There are a variety of breakfast foods to choose from, but always be sure to combine high-fiber carbohydrates with healthy protein and fat to keep blood sugar stable and your belly full until lunch.