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The importance of eating breakfast for people with diabetes

By The Health News Team | January 24, 2023
Woman eating healthy breakfast fruit bowl

Eating a healthy breakfast is important for everyone, especially for people who have diabetes. A morning meal can help keep blood sugar steady throughout the day.

According to Holly Moyer, a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management, blood sugar drops while you are sleeping. The body transitions into a rest and digest, or parasympathetic, state. When you wake, cortisol stress hormones increase and your sympathetic nervous system kicks in to help tackle the demands of the day.

“Breakfast is crucial for a person who has diabetes because it helps regulate blood sugar metabolism,” says Moyer. “For people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin, therefore it's important to eat regular meals to regulate insulin dosage accordingly.”

A good rule of thumb, Moyer says, is to eat within one hour of waking up.

The importance of fiber

It is optimal for people with diabetes to eat carbohydrates that contains fiber. Carbohydrates that contain fiber are digested and absorbed slower than those without. This keeps blood sugar balanced in between meals, instead of causing robust spikes and plummets every few hours. 

Carbohydrate options with fiber include:

  • Whole-wheat foods, such as tortillas, an English muffin or toast

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Squash

  • Lentils

  • Brown rice

  • Beans

  • Quinoa

Diabetic-friendly breakfast choices

A diabetic-friendly breakfast should contain a good source of protein, a complex carbohydrate and a healthy source of fat. All three help delay digestion and absorption, so any rise in sugar after a meal is slower and controlled.

Simple meal ideas to help keep blood sugar levels steady include:

  • Scrambled eggs with sauteed vegetables and a whole wheat English muffin

  • Sweet potato hash with turkey, eggs and avocado

  • Cottage cheese bowl with fruit

  • Plain Greek yogurt with sliced berries and pumpkin seeds

Breakfast foods to avoid

People with diabetes should avoid eating highly refined, low-fiber carbohydrates, such as white toast, packaged muffins, French toast and pancakes. You should also limit consuming carbohydrates without a source of protein or fat. And avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, such as juice or soda, as these liquids spike blood sugar quickly and drastically. 

Additionally, many packaged, gluten-free breakfast options lack fiber and can cause a robust blood sugar spike. If you’re following a gluten-free diet, read the nutrition facts label closely to ensure the product contains whole grains, which optimize blood sugar balance, as opposed to enriched flours. Also, choose carbohydrate sources from root vegetables, such as potatoes and squash, instead of packaged bread.

"With some planning, people with diabetes can easily optimize their blood sugar,” says Moyer. “Increase dietary fiber intake, avoid carbohydrates without protein or fat, and follow a regular eating pattern throughout the day.”

By understanding how glucose and insulin function and making smart choices at every meal, you can take control of your health.

Learn more about diabetes; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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