Breakfast with Diabetes

Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian

Many people have been asking me about their breakfast choices lately, so hopefully this blog will help to answer some of your own breakfast questions.  They usually want to know how to choose a good breakfast cereal, how much of it to have to keep them feeling satisfied til morning tea without disrupting their blood glucose results too much, what they can have instead of cereal that is quick and easy and still healthy and how to enjoy a breakfast out without tipping the scales too much.

Before starting though I’d like to remind you to not make any changes to your current diabetes routine without first checking with your own health care professionals. These are meant as general guidelines only.

Why do we need it?

As people with diabetes, breakfast is important to us for several reasons:

  1. It helps to get our blood glucose levels of to nice level start, especially when we include a moderate amount of low-GI carbs
  2. It helps us to manage our appetite better as the day progresses, especially so we don’t end up very hungry and tempted to make poor choices
  3. It fuels our brain so we can mentally function better and cope better with the curve-balls that diabetes can throw at us
  4. It helps to reduce insulin resistance by providing us with the low-GI energy that our bodies need to function better

What should be in it?

A good starting place is a reminder that with each meal we should include low-GI carb sources, preferably 2 carbohydrate serves as a minimum, and a protein serve to ensure we have the slow release of glucose to keep our brain fuelled for peak performance and our tummies happy so we don’t crave poor food choices by morning tea. Extra fibre also doesn’t go astray.

How to choose a good breakfast cereal?

If you recall our earlier blog on label reading, when reading cereal packet labels we should be looking for whole grains, nuts and fruit with little or no added sugar or oil in the ingredients listing if possible. Ideally we’d like the fibre to be at around the 10-15g/100g level, but if it isn’t then extra can be added in the form of bran, psyllium or chia seeds to boost it.

 

Remember too that if you have nuts included in your cereal it may fall outside of the total fat value of 10g/100g, saturated fat 2g/100g targets that we aim for, but as long as there are no other fats listed then all the fat is from the nuts so it’s okay.

So if you’ve got the whole grains and the nuts and the dried fruit and the low-fat milk or plain yogurt for added protein and low-GI carb, you should find all the reasons listed above satisfied for the importance of your breakfast.

 

How much of it should I have?

Certainly an important consideration as too much could upset your glycemic control, rather than helping it, and could also contribute to unwanted weight gain.

Everyone is different and the answer will depend on your activity levels, on your hunger and of course on your diabetes management objectives.

This is where it’s important to check with your own d-team, preferably an Accredited Practising Dietitian, about how much is right for you.

What can I have instead of cereal?

So many clients I see tell me they don’t like cereal, and that’s fine. We all have different tastes. There are many other breakfast options that are suitable for people with diabetes.

Multigrain toast and muffins with an egg or baked beans for added protein and extra veggies to help you meet your 5 veggie serves are awesome. Avocado and fresh tomato on toast (no need for a spread) is also a great way to get started. And peanut butter works on toast to give you the extra protein serve to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

 

Fruit smoothies also work well for those of you who struggle to eat in the mornings.

Cooked breakfasts are also wonderful when you have a little more time, and including veggies in there is a great idea.

 

I actually really like the ideas included in this blog by one of our Diabetes Counselling Online Facebook group members, Dr Lyndal Parker Newlyn: The Beauty of Breakfast that also talks about why it’s so important to get into this healthy habit.

What about eating out for breakfast?

Eating out can work well if you remember the diabetes basics about low-fat, low sodium and whole grains.

Choose meals like a bircher museli with fresh fruit and plain yogurt, or spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes on multigrain toast, or served with baked beans for that low GI carb with protein included.

And enjoy a coffee made on low-fat milk for the good low-GI carb and protein hit. 🙂

Traditional breakfast ideas that should be reviewed for better diabetes management

  • The first thing that springs to mind is fruit juice. Traditionally many Australians enjoy a glass of juice with their breakfast. With diabetes it’s not an ideal option when you consider that we’re aiming for two pieces of fruit per day and a glass of juice provides the carb energy of closer to 4 pieces of fruit without the fibre.
  • Avoid crumpets – yes, even the wholemeal ones. Not only do they have a high glycemic index but they’re also high in sodium (sodium bicarbonate is used to make the holes) and most people like to have butter or margarine on them which adds unneeded extra fats.
  • Doubling up – Some of my clients tell me they have both cereal and toast, and unless you’re having a half serve of each, you probably don’t need to have both. This is where many of my clients see a rise in their BGL readings 2 hours after breakfast, when basically they’ve just had too much for their system to manage.

What do you eat for your diabetes breakfast?

Please share below what your favourite breakfast ideas are, in case they spark someone’s tastebuds into action. We have different tastes, so the more ideas we can share the better!

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. 

14 Comments

  1. Ian Graham on November 17, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    My breakfasts are an either/or. If I am a bit pushed for time, I will have some sugar free muesli (the muesli) or, alternatively, Goodness Superfoods’ digestive 1st. Both are pretty low GI and I have them with 1/2 cup natural yoghurt and a little bit of fresh or stewed fruit. The muesli clocks in at just less than 500 Calories and 2 carb serves if you include the cup of coffee with a splash of milk. The digestive 1st is much more Calorie friendly (so many nuts in the muesli).

    If I have more time I will make up a cooked breakfast which is usually a variation on eggs ‘en cocotte’, but done in the microwave rather than a conventional oven. The mixture will usually contain a small rasher of bacon, chilli, herbs, onion or spring onion, capsicum, and celery cooked up, then an egg or two broken into a well in the middle with a couple of baby tomatoes halved and arranged around the edge, and a sprinkle of parmesan on top. However, anything that is in the fridge is fair game and at various times I have included pumpkin, sweet potato, beans, green beans, peas, corn, fennel bulb, celeriac, choko, … It is rare that I have the same breakfast twice running. With a 1/2 cup of yoghurt for starters to try and keep the microbiota ticking over and accompanied by a cup of coffee to get the heart moving, this breakfast can clock in at 450-500 Calories and 1 1/2 to 2 carb serves depending what I chuck in.

    Either style of breakfast keeps me going without having to snack!

    • Sally on November 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing your ideas Ian. Nice to see such variety in there!

      Warm regards, Sally.

  2. PhilT on November 17, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Is this aimed at Type 1 diabetes ? I see no reason why a Type 2 or pre-diabetic would want to eat a breakfast laden with carbohydrates and sugar. I have too much sugar in my blood already, I don’t need to eat more. My bacon and egg has ZERO carbohydrates and helps my condition rather than making it worse.

    • Sally on November 18, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Phil,

      Everybody has different requirements, which is why I started the blog by saying “Before starting though I’d like to remind you to not make any changes to your current diabetes routine without first checking with your own health care professionals. These are meant as general guidelines only.”

      I hope you’re doing well with medical supervision.

      Warm regards, Sally.

    • Lyndal on November 20, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Phil I’m a type 2 diabetic and a doctor and I eat this every day. The combination of specifically chosen low GI fruit, Greek yoghurt (due to the protein content) and low GI carbohydrate cereal keeps me full, gives me the energy and brainpower to do a demanding job and keeps my blood sugar low and stable. My HbA1c is 4.8%. This is not a breakfast “full of sugar” – it is a breakfast full of specific vitamins, plant nutrients, antioxidants, slow burning fuel, fibre and resistant starch for your gut microbiome and you won’t get any of those things from bacon and eggs every day. I am pleased that you are enjoying what works for you, just don’t be so sure to assume that everyone else is doing it wrong.

  3. Amanda on November 18, 2014 at 5:58 am

    I am surprised to see a recommendation of at least 2 servings of carbs (at least 30g???) – fast acting at that. Fruit, toast or cereal even with whole grains converts nearly instantly to sugar at a diabetics most vulnerable time of day thanks to a friend called dawn phenomenon when the liver is releasing glucose and hormones are suppressing insulin. Why compound this problem? Limiting and consuming only slow acting carbs and protein in the morning like a mushroom, spinach and cheese omelet would be a safer choice that does not result in the spikes many have grown accustomed to and accept as a part of diabetes – we can do better!

    • T1D on November 18, 2014 at 7:31 am

      Amen!

      There is absolutely no way to maintain non-diabetic post prandial blood sugars, and ultimately normal A1c’s eating a breakfast like this. I eat very similar to you and have A1c’s in the 4’s, never get hypoglycemia, and never get hyperglycemia. Low carb, High Fat, moderate protein leads to normalglycemia.

      • Lyndal on November 20, 2014 at 9:52 am

        Thats an interesting comment that “There is absolutely no way to maintain non-diabetic post prandial blood sugars, and ultimately normal A1c’s eating a breakfast like this”. I am a type 2 diabetic and a doctor, and the photos of that breakfast is actually my breakfast that I eat every day – Sally used my photo to illustrate it. My fasting BGL is usually around 4 and my post prandial is under 5. My HbA1c is 4.8% The issue is that its not just any fruit, it is particularly low GI fruit (berries, kiwi fruit etc), combined with yoghurt for protein and its ability to lower GI, and the cereal you see is flakes of sorghum and buckwheat- both very low GI and high in resistant starch. I’m glad your approach is working for you, but don’t make blanket assumptions that what you see is wrong, simply because you may not understand the details. You can definitely achieve normoglycaemia without low carb high fat while still enjoying highly tasty and nutritious food like fruit.

    • Sally on November 18, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for your comment. The carbs suggested are slow-release carbs, but if you feel this isn’t right for you then I suggest you work with your own health professionals for personalised advice. I made it clear at the start: “Before starting though I’d like to remind you to not make any changes to your current diabetes routine without first checking with your own health care professionals. These are meant as general guidelines only.”

      We’re all different, and my advice is based on the evidence at a population level.

      Wishing you wellness. Warm regards, Sally.

  4. Ahmed on November 19, 2014 at 1:28 am

    if u r type 1 , please eat that breakfast you recommending and do not take insulin and see how much your BS will be !!! even with insulin u will go up n down n up n down

  5. JF on November 20, 2014 at 4:19 am

    This is so wrong, I don’t know where to start. You really need to brush up on your nutritional science. Drop all grains and carbohydrates that you can if you want to beat diabetes. Look into ketogenic diets or low carb high fat. Also educate yourself on what causes insulin resistance (Sugar and Carbs). This information has been out there for years and yet dietitians are still holding fast to the fraudulent studies done by the food corporations to push more grains and cheap metabolic destroying foods.

    • Lyndal on November 20, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Sigh. I don’t even know where to start with that comment. As a diabetic I have been following an approach similar to that which Sally has outlined- in fact one of those photos is my breakfast – and my HbA1c is 4.8%, I am off all medications and have lost 54kg in weight. And I eat fruit *gasp*. I dont have to exclude whole food groups, I just carefully select foods based on the speed of their metabolism and I combine them with an understanding of nutrition. I am happy you have found a way that is working for you, but that doesn’t mean everything else is wrong – just because internet gurus believe it to be true. Why should I have to exclude entire food groups with amazing nutritional benefits (like wholegrains and fruit) when I can achieve the same weight results and better health through a moderate, balanced and inclusive eating plan including those foods? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, just because you believe it to be true. Just a question- if you are so anti-dietitian and evidence based nutritional science, then why are you following this blog? The conspiracy theorists love to question research to sell their books and eating plans but sorry, as a doctor I am happy to take the scientific evidence over the hype anyday. All the best.

  6. McHarris on January 13, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Can you point me to scientific evidence that proves carbohydrates are essential? Can you also show me (scientifically) I ASK NICELY that I am missing out on anything essential by not eating grains? As far as I can see from internet papers I have read, all the ‘benefits’ available from eating grains are otherwise available from other food sources. Many of us are questioning the advice given by dieticians and nutritionists who are firmly stuck to the heresy that we must eat 30 grams of carbohydrates per meal ….. but also take our Metformin and Insulin. I prefer to eliminate the foods which case my BG spikes and negate the use of synthetic drugs. I get my daily carbohydrates from vegetable sources mainly and some seasonal fruits. I take no drugs for my T2DM and surprise my GP every time he does a blood draw.

    I am happy that for you, eating a processed breakfast cereal is keeping you healthy (as you say) but I have chosen 18 months ago to live a Low Carb Healthy Fat Lifestyle which means NO processed foods what so ever – does that also mean I have tossed out an entire food group? (sorry for the sarcasm)

  7. ashleko on December 21, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Hi . I just wanted some advice for breakfast. I currently eat a banana , a glass of soy chocolate milk and a coffee for brekky. I do this because it’s quick and convenient. And also because most cereals I try dramatically increase my bg about 1 hour after. Is this a generally ok brekky ? I’m slightly lactose intolerant. Thanks
    Ash

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