It’s often called the most important meal of the day. That may be even more true for people with diabetes. A morning meal helps to keep your blood sugar steady all day long. One study found that skipping it caused bigger blood sugar spikes after lunch and dinner. But not all breakfasts are created equal. To start your day off right, your breakfast should include fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats.
High in fiber, oatmeal can help keep blood sugar levels in check. Choose rolled or steel-cut oats. They’re less processed than the instant kind. Top them with fruit for sweetness and nuts for an extra dose of protein. Don’t have time to cook in the a.m.? Try overnight oats. Mix one part oatmeal with two parts water or low-fat milk. Leave it in the fridge for a creamy bowl in the morning.
Nut Butter and Fruit
Give the classic PB&J a healthy upgrade. Spread no-sugar-added peanut, almond, or other nut butter on whole-grain toast. Look for bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice. Top with fresh fruit, such as slices of strawberries or raspberries. You can also swap the bread for whole-grain waffles or pancakes. If you’re using the frozen kind, check that the label lists a whole grain as the first ingredient.
Scrambled, boiled, or poached, eggs are packed with protein -- there’s 6 grams in a large one. Protein takes longer to digest, which may help keep blood sugar levels steady. For an on-the-go meal, make a sandwich with a scrambled egg, low-fat cheese, and tomato slice on a whole-wheat English muffin. You can add a slice of lean meat, such as low-sodium ham or turkey, for extra protein.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Creamy Greek yogurt has less sugar and fewer carbs than the regular kind. It’s also high in protein, with 23 grams per cup. Layer non- or low-fat plain yogurt with fiber-rich berries and nuts, such as walnuts and almonds. The nuts add crunch and healthy fats. Bonus: Eating nuts regularly can lower your chances of having heart disease -- a condition that diabetes puts you more at risk for.
Sweet Potato and Chicken Sausage Hash
Bacon and beef sausages are high in saturated fat and salt. For a healthier breakfast, choose chicken or turkey sausage. A three-link serving has 12 grams of protein, but half as much fat as the beef kind. Serve it in a hash: Sauté mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers until soft. Add spices, chicken sausage, and a splash of water. Cook for a few more minutes, and then toss in diced cooked sweet potato for extra fiber and vitamin C.
Pile on non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and tomatoes. They’re low in carbs and high in fiber and nutrients. They’re also good sources of vitamin C, and research suggests that getting enough of the vitamin can help your body manage blood sugar. Add cooked vegetables and low-fat cheese to eggs. Serve the omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast.
Morning oats don’t have to be sweet. You can top them vegetables and lean protein for a risotto-like dish. You can use dinner leftovers, such as roasted chicken, tomatoes, and spinach with a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil. Or add sautéed kale and mushrooms and a cooked egg. Finish with a little low-sodium soy sauce and sesame seeds.
You can have tacos in the morning, too. Scramble eggs with spinach. Mix in black beans, which add 8 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein per half-cup. Serve in a whole-grain corn or whole-wheat tortilla. For extra flavor, add salsa and chili sauce. The hot peppers add spice and may help with diabetes: One study found that eating them may lower the spike in insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar, after meals.
This creamy green fruit is loaded with nutrients and heart-healthy fats, and each half has 7 grams of fiber. That combo helps you stay full for longer, which promotes weight loss. Smash half an avocado onto a slice of whole-grain bread. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Top with a hardboiled, fried, or poached egg.
Cottage Cheese with Fruit
Cottage cheese is a protein superstar. One cup of the low-fat kind packs in 28 grams of protein for only 6 grams of carbs. For a quick and easy breakfast, serve low-fat cottage cheese with fruit and nuts. A combo to try: Fresh or thawed sliced peaches and pistachios.
Whole-Grain French Toast
French toast can be an occasional breakfast treat. But thick slices doused in syrup are high in carbs. For a healthier spin, dip whole-grain bread in a mixture of eggs, skim milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Skip the sugary syrup and top them with a little peanut butter and fruit. Or make your own jam by mixing together high-fiber chia seeds and mashed fruit. Let stand until it thickens.
Smoothies are a tasty way to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your day. For a blueberry-spinach version, put a half-cup blueberries, cup of spinach, and half a banana into a blender. Pour in a half-cup of low-fat milk. Blend until smooth. For a healthy boost, add a spoonful of ground flaxseed. High in fiber and omega-3 fats, flaxseed may help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
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Amy Kimberlain, RDN, certified diabetes educator; spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
American Diabetes Association Diabetes Food Hub: “Budget-Friendly Chicken Sausage Hash,” “Superfood Smoothie.”
American Heart Association: “Eating Nuts May Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk for People with Diabetes.”
CDC: “Diabetes and Carbohydrates.”
Mayo Clinic: “Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil.”
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements: “Effects of Vitamins C and D in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.”
Nutrition and Metabolism: “Metabolic Response of People with Type 2 Diabetes to a High Protein Diet.”
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effects of Chili Consumption on Postprandial Glucose, Insulin, and Energy Metabolism.”
Unites States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Services: “USDA Food Composition Databases.”
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