Ask the Expert
What's the Best Breakfast for Diabetes?
Jaclyn Konich, MPH, RD Answers by Jaclyn Konich, MPH, RD

What's the Best Breakfast for Diabetes?

For people with diabetes, the “most important meal of the day” can also be the most confusing. Typical American breakfast options—bagels, cereal, pancakes, muffins, bacon, eggs—are loaded with refined carbs, sugar, and saturated fat, the exact things that we’re told to limit. So what should we eat for breakfast?

Research confirms that eating breakfast is generally a good idea—it can help with weight management, help you feel fuller throughout the day, and help keep blood glucose in range

Just because breakfast is important doesn’t mean it has to be an elaborate meal. It can be as simple as a piece of toast smothered in avocado or peanut butter, a string cheese and a handful of nuts, or a hardboiled egg and a piece of fruit. 

Related: How To Start a Healthy Day

4 Tips for Building a Healthy Breakfast

What works for you for breakfast will depend on your personal meal plan, food preferences, health goals, schedule, and budget, but here are a few tips for building a healthy breakfast:

  1. Limit or avoid refined grains and sugars. This means most breakfast cereals and pastries are best avoided. If cereal is your go-to breakfast, look for options that are low in added sugar (aim for less than 5g per serving) and higher in fiber (at least 3g per serving). You can apply this same rule to other sweet breakfast foods like muffins or granola bars.

  2. Be carb conscious. The total amount of carbs you have at breakfast will depend on your personal meal plan and how your body handles carbs in the morning. A lot of traditional breakfast foods contain carbs, so it’s important to keep track of what foods in your breakfast contain carbs and what it all adds up to. Cereal, milk, and fruit all contain carbs, and can add up quickly when combined together. And a single bagel can have upwards of 50g of carb!

  3. Choose healthy fats. Fats can help you feel fuller longer, but choose wisely. Bacon, sausage, and eggs fried in butter are all high in saturated fats which can increase risk of heart disease. Instead, fry eggs in a little bit of olive oil, choose turkey bacon or chicken sausage instead of their pork counterparts, and incorporate healthy unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, and avocado.

  4. Include lean protein and fiber. One of the main goals of breakfast is to keep you full until lunchtime. Protein and fiber digest slowly and stave off hunger hormones so you feel fuller longer. A breakfast high in protein and fiber can help reduce cravings before lunch and help keep blood sugar in range.

Lean protein options:

  • Eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are a portable option. Poaching is a great way to cook eggs without adding any fat. If you prefer fried or scrambled eggs, use olive oil instead of butter.  

  • Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has more protein and less carbs per serving than regular yogurt. Buy plain, unsweetened yogurt and add your own flavor with fresh fruit, nuts, or granola. 

  • Cottage cheese. Eat it plain or topped with fresh fruit for something sweet. For something savory, try adding chopped tomato, cucumber and a sprinkling of dill

  • Nuts or nut butter. Add nuts to granola or yogurt, top toast with peanut butter and cinnamon, or dip apple slices in your favorite nut butter.

  • Tofu. You can make vegan scrambled “eggs” with crumbled tofu, or add silken tofu to a smoothie for a protein boost.

Related: 9 Low-Carb Breakfast Recipes

High fiber options:

  • Oatmeal and other whole grain breads or cereals.

  • Fruit, especially berries, apples, pears, avocado.

  • Seeds like chia, flax, or hemp seeds. Adding 1-2 tablespoons to a smoothie, cereal, or yogurt is an easy way to boost fiber in your breakfast

  • Beans. While less popular in American, baked beans on toast is part of traditional English breakfast. Or, try adding black beans or pinto beans to a breakfast burrito or a breakfast hash.

Related: Meal Prep: Breakfast on the Go

Recipes:

Egg and Avocado Toasts

Only 240 calories, but loaded with healthy fats, protein, and fiber that will keep you feeling full until lunch
 

Oatmeal Pecan Pancakes 

A Saturday morning favorite made healthier by using ground oats instead of flour for a fiber boost.
 

Instant Pot Individual Vegetable Frittatas

Perfectly-portioned breakfast cups made in an Instant Pot—great for busy mornings!
 

Blueberry Green Tea Smoothie

This antioxidant-rich smoothie gets a protein boost from tofu and protein powder
 

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Parfait

Make these parfaits in portable mason jars for a healthier alternative to store-bought yogurt cups
 

Budget-Friendly Summer Vegetable Frittata

Trying to eat more veggies? Frittata is an easy and delicious way to add veggies to breakfast
 

Savory Mediterranean Oats

Try this savory twist on oatmeal instead of traditionally sweet recipes
 

Guilt-Free Breakfast Sausage Patties

Ground turkey reduces saturated fat and calories, but the traditional breakfast sausage flavor is maintained a special blend of herbs and spices

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