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Can Waffles Be Part of a Diabetes-Friendly Diet?

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on April 24, 2020

Americans love waffles, so much that the restaurant chain Waffle House serves 145 waffles every minute. Yet while waffles might be a staple for breakfast for many Americans, that doesn’t make them healthy. And if you have diabetes, do they make the cut as part of your morning meal?

The short answer: Yes, they can -- if you’re willing to make some changes to make waffles fit into a diabetes-friendly diet.

Waffle Woes

Whether you have diabetes or not, you’d be hard-pressed to find any nutrition expert who would classify waffles as healthy. That’s because most waffle recipes don’t have many good-for-you ingredients. A classic Betty Crocker recipe, for instance, calls for all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, milk, vegetable oil or melted butter, and eggs.

The problem with these ingredients? Foods made with white flour generally have a high glycemic load, meaning they can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Studies have found that eating too many of these foods can raise your risk for type 2 diabetes, and send your blood sugar soaring if you do have diabetes.

There’s also concern about the butter, dairy, and eggs. The issue: saturated fat, which can clog your arteries. And the toppings that most people dump on their waffles, including butter and maple syrup, don’t help. One tablespoon of maple syrup has 13.4 grams of carbohydrates, which is a bit more than white sugar (12.6 grams of carbs per tablespoon).

If you’re someone who goes for chicken and waffles -- maybe even with bacon and cheese added -- you’re getting even more saturated fat. One national restaurant’s chicken, bacon, and cheddar waffles dish packs more than 1,700 calories, 700 which are from fat. That includes 77 grams of saturated fat. Plus, 3,100 milligrams of sodium. This is sure to be out of range for healthy eating. So if chicken and waffles is your thing, and you’re ordering the dish in a restaurant where you can’t ask for changes to make it better for you, you’ll want to check the nutrition facts information before you order so you can know what you’re getting and decide if it fits your goals.

Give Your Waffles a Healthy Makeover

Fortunately, though, waffles don’t have to be entirely off the menu if you have diabetes -- as long as you make some tweaks to your waffle recipes. Try these tips:

  • Replace white flour with whole-wheat flour.
  • Swap rich toppings like butter and syrup (and any other sugary items you usually use) with fruit like strawberries or blueberries.
  • Instead of eggs, use flax eggs -- a mix of flaxseed and water.

If you’re not up for that and still want your waffles the way you’re used to them, treat it like any other indulgence: only every once in a while and in limited amounts.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Betty Crocker: “Waffles.”

Consumer Reports: “How to make a healthy waffle.”

Diabetes Quebec: “Maple syrup: not a miracle food after all.”

Eat Plant-Based: “Vegan Waffles -- Gluten-Free.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Use glycemic index to help control blood sugar.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Carbohydrates and blood sugar.”

Waffle House: “Fun facts.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Data Central: search results for “Syrups, Maple” and “Sugar, Granulated.”

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