Better Breakfasts for Diabetes

Managing your diabetes is easier when you start your day with these breakfast foods.

Amy Solomon

Are you a breakfast skipper? If you have diabetes, ignoring your morning meal can raise or lower your blood sugar levels, depending on the medication you take. "People with diabetes shouldn't skip any meals," says Dawn Sherr, a practice manager at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). "It doesn't need to be a big breakfast, as long as you eat something.” Try one of these easy ideas to help you rise and shine:

Say yes to cereal

"Oatmeal is a great high-fiber way to start the day," says Tami Ross, president-elect of the AADE. It's also surprisingly speedy: A single serving of oatmeal takes just three minutes to cook in the microwave, and instant oatmeal packets are ready in seconds. Ready-to-eat cold cereals are also a good idea. Look for products that are low in fat and sugar and contain at least 5 grams of fiber (which, studies show, helps to control blood sugar) per serving. One example: shredded wheat.

Opt for protein
Because they take longer to digest, protein-rich foods can help you avoid midmorning hunger pangs. Good picks include Greek yogurt (higher in protein than the regular kind), natural peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, or an egg with turkey sausage. Many people with diabetes need to watch their cholesterol; if that's true for you, try an egg substitute, or just eat the egg white. “I tell my patients with high cholesterol to limit egg yolks to three a week,” says Ross.

Stick to skinny coffee
Do you enjoy a cup of joe in the morning? Coffee can fit into a diabetes diet as long as you minimize added calories and fat. Try using skim milk rather than cream or half-and-half and sweetening with a sugar substitute. If you're a fan of blended coffee drinks, remember that they can be high in fat, sugar and carbs. Look for the “skinnier” options available at most national coffee-bar chains.

Eat—don’t drink—your fruit
Fruit juices are popular breakfast beverages, but, notes Sherr, "Eating the fruit is always better than drinking it." The fiber in whole fruit helps to fill you up and keep you satisfied longer, while juices can cause a quick blood sugar spike. If you do want a glass of OJ or another juice, be mindful of portion size—one serving is just 4 ounces.

Make smart drive-through choices
Running late or don't like to cook? Nearly every fast-food restaurant now offers lighter breakfast options. Try a yogurt-and-granola cup or an egg white with turkey bacon in a whole-wheat wrap. Don't forget to check the nutrition information. If you have a smartphone, many apps are available that can give you carb counts and other nutritional facts about foods served at national chains.

Target your meal-replacement bar
A meal-replacement bar or shake can also make a quick, portable breakfast. Many types of these products are available, but those targeted toward people with diabetes are designed to keep blood glucose levels steady. They may also have less sugar and more protein, good for filling you up. "Look at the label and see what's in there before you buy," says Sherr. 

May 2013