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Four Diabetic Friendly Recipes to Enhance Your Daily Breakfast Routine


written by Cecilia Pang - Nov 15, 2021

While many people see breakfast as being a special part of the day, for diabetics, breakfast is incredibly important in sustaining blood sugar for the rest of the day. Julie Stefanski (RDN), a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a certified diabetes care and education specialist in York, Pennsylvania, says that breakfast remains a crucial meal for managing diabetes as it sets the tone for how the day progresses and other meals throughout the day.

Often, many popular breakfast options are high in carbohydrates making it a particular struggle for those with diabetes to find easy and delicious options. With diabetes, it’s crucial to manage blood sugar levels and that entails, managing the intake of carbs. As the American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes opting for breakfast options that contain lower levels of carbs, healthy fats, and are rich in protein and fiber will help balance blood sugar levels in the healthy range. The proportions of such a combination, however, will vary from person to person.

The key to remember is to choose a balanced and nutritious breakfast because any skewed pairings of high sugar or low protein and fat such as a sugar cereal paired with milk can cause immediate spikes in blood sugar. Furthermore, Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, CDCES, an Atlanta-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the owner of Olive Tree Nutrition, reminds that skipping meals can also result in blood sugar fluctuations and hunger cravings, which could then lead to overeating at meals.” These important reminders are also pertinent for those who don’t have diabetes. For those with an elevated risk for type 2 diabetes, a study published in January 2019 in the Journal of Nutrition found that skipping breakfast was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes for adults.

Waking up in the morning can already be a challenge but add shorter and colder days into the mix and the desire to throw back the covers over our heads seems much more enticing. This article will hopefully spice up your morning routine with breakfast recipes that are diabetes friendly. Now, waking up in the morning can be something to look forward to! Without further ado, here are four incredibly versatile recipes that can be substituted.

1. Breakfast Smoothie with Berries and Greek Yogurt

Photo Credit: Breakfast smoothies, by Cecilia Pang
Photo Credit: Breakfast smoothies, by Cecilia Pang

For breakfast smoothies, the goal is to ensure that there’s lots of protein and fiber but relatively low in sugar. Fruits can contain a lot of sugar so moderation remains important and can be maintained by sticking to a small glass or standard cup of 250 ml. I created my own adaptation of the Very Berry Smoothie recipe from Jill Weisenberger, RDN, CDCES, the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, this smoothie recipe is both delicious and simple.

• 1 cup plain nonfat strained Greek yogurt (Greek or Icelandic)

• 1 cup fresh mixed berries or frozen mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries)

• *1 banana and a dash of cinnamon (as opposed to adding any sweetener)

• * ¼ of a cup of milk or other milk of choice (as opposed to adding a few tablespoons of juice)

• After placing all ingredients in a blender and processing until smooth, you can add a sprinkle of chia seeds to enhance the amount of fiber and omega-3 fats. Just be sure if you’re adding chia seeds to drink the smoothie quickly as if the smoothie sits too long, the chia seeds can thicken the consistency and make it hard to drink.

You can easily substitute the fruits of choice if berries are not in season or hard to access. There are a variety of creative smoothie ingredients that taste delightful but remain diabetes friendly. With only the need for a few ingredients that are substitutable and a fast-processing time, this smoothie not only offers a convenient morning meal, but it can serve up to 20 g of protein, 30 g of carbs, and 5 g of fiber.

And if you’re not feeling like drinking a smoothie, using the same ingredients you can quickly maneuver into putting together a yogurt parfait instead! Instead of your milk of choice, you’ll substitute with plain and low sugar granola.

2. Different Fruit Combinations with Bagel Thins or Toast

Photo Credit: Mini-bagel thin recipes, by Cecilia Pang
Photo Credit: Mini-bagel thin recipes, by Cecilia Pang

There are many combinations that can go together! I took an adaptation on this flavorful spin of mini-bagel thin recipes from Family Food on the Table founder and editor Kathryn Doherty. You can take a whole-wheat mini bagel, a whole-wheat piece of toast, or a whole-wheat waffle and top it with nut butter or Greek yogurt with banana slices or Granny Smith apples for a some tartness. To top it all off, sprinkle chia seeds, cinnamon, a drizzle of honey, or nuts such as crushed pecans, walnuts, or almonds. It’s easy to make but there are a so many combinations that you can mix up to keep your mornings filled with variety. Being mindful about the sugar in honey is also crucial but as Al Bochi says, as long as it can be enjoyed it in moderation and remembered within the broader context of your carb budget, consuming a little bit of honey in your diet is okay. If sweeteners such as honey or syrup don’t fit into your plan, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon for a unique kick that won’t pose the risk of a blood sugar spike.

According to the USDA, the banana alone provided over 1 g of fiber. Add the protein from the nut butter or Greek yogurt and chia seeds or crushed nuts, and the fiber from the whole-wheat bread, this breakfast combo is a balanced meal.

3. Eggs and Whole Grain Toast Combos

Photo Credit: Eggs and whole grain toast recipes, by Cecilia Pang
Photo Credit: Eggs and whole grain toast recipes, by Cecilia Pang

A tried and true diabetes-friendly breakfast is a simple plate of eggs and avocado on whole-grain toast. There are numerous ways of cooking eggs from scrambled, poached, boiled, or sunny side up. I added some diced-up scallions into my scrambled eggs. I then placed them on a blanket of super greens (spinach and arugula) then topped it off with a sprinkle of hemp seeds and a thin slice of toasted whole wheat bread. On another occasion, I decided to poach an egg and place it on a blanket of arugula, crushed up avocado, and a slice of cheese on a whole wheat piece of bread.

• 1 slice of whole wheat bread

• 1 cooked egg in any way you like

• Spinach or other leafy greens of choice

• *Cheese of choice

• * ½ small avocado mashed with pepper and salt to taste

• *hemp seeds for an extra dash of healthy fats and protein

On occasions, when you’re feeling more up for an omelet, you can easily switch out the whole wheat toast with an extra egg and incorporate other forms of vegetables into the cooking of the omelet. Spinach with cherry tomatoes or diced up colorful peppers.

Photo Credit: Lentil Toast, by Amy Gorin
Photo Credit: Lentil Toast, by Amy Gorin

To take it up a notch, you can also try this vegetarian lentils and egg toast dish from Amy Gorin, RDN. “You get a sunny-side up egg on each slice of toast. That egg, in addition to the lentils, provides satiating protein to keep you fuller for longer and keep your blood sugar levels stable,” says Gorin. According to the USDA, one large egg contains 6.4 g of protein, in addition to 231 micrograms (mcg) of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are nutrients associated with eye health. The lentils in the recipe also are associated with a lower risk for diabetes and better diabetes management, due to their hypoglycemic effect, according to a 2017 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Gorin’s recipe has about 60 g of carbs, 25 g of protein, and 20 g of fiber in total for each serving.

4. Whole-Grain Cereal with Oatmeal

Photo Credit: High Protein Oatmeal, by Anne Mauney
Photo Credit: High Protein Oatmeal, by Anne Mauney
Oatmeal can sound boring but if done right, it can be delicious and satisfying. Anne Mauney, MPH, RDN, the creator of the website Fannetastic Food shares her whole-grain cereal with oatmeal, egg, and ground flaxseed recipe. “This high-protein oatmeal recipe has staying power — and is made diabetes-friendly by the addition of protein from eggs and milk and healthy fat from ground flaxseed, both of which will help keep your blood sugar more stable and also keep you full for longer.” You’ll need only six ingredients:

• 3/4 cup rolled oats

• 2 eggs

• 1/2 cup milk

• 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 ripe banana, mashed

Indeed, this is a unique breakfast combo as the oatmeal recipe calls for eggs. While it may seem that oatmeal with eggs and ground flaxseed seem complicated, all you need to do is to incorporate the six ingredients in a pot on a stovetop no longer than five minutes. The eggs bring protein to 13 g per a serving with the ground flaxseed providing 1.91 g of fiber and 4 g of protein per two tablespoons. The total carb tally per serving is 36 g.

Just as easily, if you’re looking for a breakfast meal with minimal cooking time and more of a grab and go for a busy morning, overnight oatmeal can be a great option. Again, there are endless possibilities of combos for overnight oatmeal, which means that you’ll always be able to incorporate some new tastes and textures so that it never gets boring. The added benefit of overnight oats is that you can use it to meal-prep extra servings for the week. This is a recipe for Apple Spiced Overnight Oats from the Diabetic foodie.

• ¼ cup of hemp hearts

• 3 tablespoons rolled oats

• 1 tablespoon of chia seeds

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

• ¼ cup of shredded apply

• ¾ cup milk

• *Optional crushed nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)

The night before, in a mason jar, you stir together hemp harts, oats, chia seeds, and cinnamon. Mix in the Greek yogurt and shredded apple. Then add the milk and stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Place the oats in the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least two hours or overnight. In the morning of, top with your crushed nuts of choice. As you can see, you can add different varieties of fruits or substitute cinnamon out as well! For unique options such as Pina Colada overnight oats or more combo inspiration, check out the immensely popular recipes by Lisa Bryan at downshiftology.

It’s important to be mindful of the different types of oats and oatmeal out there. Especially when it comes to a type 2 diabetes diet, some oatmeal is better and more nutritious than others. Oatmeal originates from oat groats (whole kernels harvested before being stripped of their hulls). According to Harvard Health, oat groats are processed further into different types of oats used for oatmeal and the more processed they are, the less beneficial fiber they contain. Steel-cut oats are best for type 2 diabetes because they are the least-processed version of oat groats but rolled oats are still better than instant.

Other Breakfast Tips to Keep in Mind for Type 2 Diabetes

When planning your healthy breakfast, remember:

• Moderation! The Mayo Clinic notes to always pay attention to portion sizes. As our bodies and lifestyles vary immensely, sitting down with a registered dietitian nutritionist can also help in terms of coming up with a customized portion plan that’s the best for you.

• Lean protein. As the ADA advises, incorporate lean meat, fish, poultry, or other protein-rich foods such as tofu and nut butter over fatty or overprocessed meat.

• Veggies. Incorporating vegetables into the breakfast meal can help with meeting the minimum recommended 3 to 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day.

• Healthy fats. The Mayo Clinic suggests incorporating olive or canola oils, avocado, and nuts into the diet as healthier choices that can help lower cholesterol levels. Regardless, however keeping an eye on fat is crucial as all fats are high in calories.

• The “plate method.” The CDC suggests filling ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ with lean protein, and the remaining ¼ with a grain or starch.

• Sip smartly. Water remains the best and healthiest choice but in terms of other options, opt for sugar-free and calorie-free drinks, suggests the ADA.

• When it comes to breakfast, time it wisely.“Time your breakfast so that you are physically hungry, but don’t wait until so late in the morning that you make poor choices when you select something to eat,” says Stefanski.

All in all, when it comes to constructing diabetic friendly breakfast meals, the idea is to focus on how each component of the meal fits into the bigger picture. Vincci Tsui, RDN dispels a common myth about diabetes “that sugar and carbs need to be avoided in order to manage blood sugars.” Tsui highlights that “combining higher glycemic index foods with protein-rich foods in a meal can help lower your glycemic load, keeping blood sugar and energy levels stable,” she says.

According to Johns Hopkins, the glycemic index (GI) measures how certain foods affect blood glucose (sugar) levels, GI accounts both for how high the food raises blood sugar levels and for how long after your meal. All foods are ranked from 1 to 100, and foods greater than 70 are seen as “high” and increase blood sugar quicker than those considered low, which are less than 55.

On the other hand, the glycemic load (GL) is another metric that healthcare professionals believe offers a more complete picture of how a particular food impacts glucose numbers than GI. According to Harvard Medical School, GL takes into account not just the GI but also “glucose per serving.” So foods that may have high GIs but because are only one serving and therefore, have few carbs, the GL would be lower.

Because the food we eat is often eaten in combination, John Hopkins also indicates that certain grouped combinations can have a positive impact on the GL. An example is a comparison between only eating plain bread and eating bread with peanut butter. Glucose levels afterward are different as peanut butter with the bread provides protein (3.55 g per tablespoon as per the USDA guide). For a complete list of the GI and GL values, visit the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’s index here.

For other diabetic concerns, consult with your primary doctor or visit Canada Pharmacy Online’s Diabetic product category.

Sources:

American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Barrie, Leslie. “10 Easy Breakfast Ideas for Type 2 Diabetes,” Everyday Health, 17 June 2020.

https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/diet/breakfast-ideas-for-diabetes/

McKinney, Christine. “Four Facts You Should Know About the Glycemic Index,” The John Hopkins Patients Guide to Diabetes.

https://hopkinsdiabetesinfo.org/4-facts-you-should-know-about-the-glycemic-index/

Mayo Clinic.

“Tasty, Diabetes – Friendly Breakfast Ideas,” WebMD, 16 September 2019.

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/ss/slideshow-breakfast-ideas-diabetes

“Ten Best Breakfast Foods for People with Diabetes,” Healthline.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/breakfast-foods-for-diabetics#8.-Cottage-cheese,-fruit,-and-nut-bowl

“The lowdown on glycemic index and glycemic load,” Harvard Medical School, 27 May 2021.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load

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