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You’ve heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is based in part on studies showing that breakfast can help jumpstart your metabolism for the day and on studies that have demonstrated an association between skipping breakfast and being overweight. As you fast overnight, your body maintains blood glucose levels by breaking down glycogen stores. If these stores become depleted and your night-time glucose-lowering medications are still active in the morning, you may experience dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia. For a diabetic, breakfast can be especially important.
Here, we offer tips on the best type of morning meal—a diabetic breakfast—for anyone trying to keep diabetes under control.
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Eat Breakfast to Lose Weight
Even if you do not experience significant hypoglycemia in the morning, there are other reasons to incorporate breakfast into your daily routine, whether you have diabetes or not. Evidence suggests that people who skip breakfast tend to overeat at lunch, potentially leading to spikes in their blood glucose levels. Studies have also shown that spreading your consumption of carbohydrates, an important energy source, throughout the day leads to better blood glucose control than eating them all in a shorter period of time.
An Israeli study published in January of 2015 demonstrated the importance of breakfast for people with type 2 diabetes. They monitored the blood glucose levels of study participants with type 2 diabetes on days when they did and did not eat breakfast.
The meals they ate for lunch and dinner were identical in both the nutritional profile and calorie content on all days. They noted that on days when participants skipped breakfast, their blood glucose levels were on average 37 percent higher after lunch and 27 percent higher after dinner than on days when they ate breakfast.
Diabetic Breakfast: Which Foods?
With the evidence strongly in favor of including a good diabetic breakfast in your daily meal plan, it then becomes important to think about what foods you’ll choose for the morning. Of course, not all diabetic breakfast options are the same, and it is especially important in diabetes to make smart choices that won’t result in blood glucose spikes. It is also important to remember that diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, so limiting your saturated fat and sodium intake is critical.
Most experts agree that a diabetic breakfast containing a healthy balance of fiber-rich carbohydrates and protein is what you should aim for. This can be challenging since so many pre-packaged breakfast foods such as cereals, waffles, pancakes, bagels, and breakfast bars are full of high sugar carbohydrates. When planning your diabetic breakfast choices, keep in mind your daily carbohydrate and calorie goals, and consult diabetes food lists or carbohydrate counting lists as needed. You may want to discuss options with your healthcare provider or dietician. There are many breakfast food choices that are good options for people with diabetes and that are also easy to prepare including:
- Quick oats (without added sugar) topped with a few berries or nuts
- Banana topped with peanut butter
- Whole grain toast or English muffin spread with mashed banana or a pure fruit spread instead of sugary jam
- Egg whites with a serving of fruit or egg whites cooked with fresh tomatoes or peppers
- Plain yogurt
- A serving of unsalted nuts and fresh fruit.
For further reading, see these University Health News posts:
- “Diabetes Diet: What You Should and Shouldn’t Eat“
- “Diabetic Food List: Managing Your Diet“
- “Diabetic Snacks: How to Make Healthy Choices“
- “Can Diabetics Eat Fruit?“
- “Glycemic Index Chart: GI Ratings for Hundreds of Foods“
Originally published in May 2016 and updated.