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Smart Breakfast Choices for Type 2 Diabetes


Photo of an omelet as a good breakfast choice for Type 2 diabetes

Waffles and pancakes with syrup, toast with jelly, or your favorite sugary cereal with sliced bananas or berries all sound like delicious choices for breakfast. However, they’ll send your blood sugar skyrocketing, which isn’t good for anyone but can be especially problematic for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Eating a well-balanced breakfast with the right amount of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat will set the stage for steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. It will also help you avoid the temptation to splurge on high-fat, sugary snacks later in the day.

“It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and there is scientific evidence to back up that claim,” says Danielle Volpe, RD, LDN, CPT, outpatient dietitian at Springfield Hospital. “People who eat a healthy breakfast regularly reduce their chances for obesity and diabetes.”

Breakfast by the Numbers

“Carb counting” is a method that many people with Type 2 diabetes use to keep their blood sugar level in check. Keep in mind that everyone will have different nutritional requirements, so it’s important to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist for a customized nutrition plan that’s right for you.

The American Diabetes Association says that a good place to start is to aim for 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal. This may sound like a lot, but your favorite breakfast foods add up quickly when it comes to carbs. For example, a small piece of fruit with a cup of oatmeal provides around 45 grams of carbs. Add a cup of yogurt or a glass of milk and you’re likely at or over the recommended limit for your breakfast.

The type of carbohydrates matter, too. A doughnut that packs as much as 50 grams of sugar is not a great option, but a bowl of whole grain cereal that also includes healthy fiber is.

“Carbs are just one part of the equation for a healthy breakfast,” says Volpe. “Your breakfast should also include other macronutrients – namely protein and fat – in addition to carbohydrates.”

What Should You Eat for Breakfast?

The following breakfast options are good choices for people with Type 2 diabetes:

  • Whole grain toast with peanut butter: Whole grains have fiber that will help to offset the impact of the sugar in the bread. The peanut butter packs a good amount of protein and fat. Be sure to read the label on the peanut butter as some “low fat” varieties replace fat with sugar.
  • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit: Plain Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar. Add fresh or frozen fruit for some extra flavor instead of buying a “fruit on the bottom” yogurt variety, which is essentially a sugar-laden dairy dessert.
  • An omelet: One large egg has 6 grams of protein, so an omelet is a great choice. Instead of meat and cheese for the filling, choose vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Make sure to add some whole grain toast or a bowl of fresh fruit on the side.
  • A smoothie: Fruit smoothies with yogurt can be filling and nutritious. Add green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale for a nutritional boost. Choose fruits with a lower impact on blood sugar levels, such as cherries, grapefruit, pears, apples, and oranges. Make sure to include some protein or fat by adding something like protein powder, peanut butter, or avocado.

“Breakfast can be delicious and diabetes-friendly if you make a few adjustments to your typical selection,” says Volpe.

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