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5 Breakfast Mistakes to Avoid If You Have Diabetes

Here’s how to keep your blood sugars in a healthy range—and enjoy your food, too.

By Kaly JohnesPublished 3 months ago 4 min read

Breakfast is an opportunity to set the tone of the day, especially for people who have diabetes. Your morning meal can dictate your blood sugar later in the day, which impacts your mood, energy and overall health. Eating breakfast does not have to be stressful, though: It can be fun, delicious and nourishing.

One of the best ways to curate a balanced morning meal is to learn about how certain foods will impact blood sugar so you can put together meals that support your goals. Fortunately, there is no one-size-fits all plan for the best diabetes diet, so you’ve got plenty of options. And enjoying familiar cultural foods and maintaining the pleasure of eating are important factors for a consistent healthy diet and long-term success.

16 High-Protein, Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Recipes

Read on to learn more about five common breakfast mistakes, how they can affect your diabetes management and how to make simple changes that make a big difference for your blood sugar.

5 Common Breakfast Mistakes If You Have Diabetes

You Are Skipping Breakfast Entirely

Whether you’re forgoing breakfast because you’re following intermittent fasting or you’re not that into eating breakfast in general, know that there are some considerations for people with diabetes. For one, if you take medication to manage your blood sugar, skipping breakfast can increase your risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Talk to your doctor if there have been any changes with meal timing to determine the best schedule for you.

Beyond that, saying no to a morning meal can also affect your appetite. “I see folks skipping breakfast only to feel super hungry later in the day and overdo it with carbohydrates,” says Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a dietitian and diabetes educator based in Washington, D.C. Instead, she recommends consuming a meal rich in both protein and fiber, which will help keep blood sugar more stable throughout the day so you can avoid both high and low blood sugar. Avoiding significant swings is an important component of diabetes management, since blood sugars that are too high or too low can increase the risk of developing diabetes complications.

If you’d rather have a light breakfast, consider eating an apple with nut butter and cinnamon, fresh berries with chopped nuts and seeds, or sliced pears with low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese.

Your Breakfast Is Low in Fiber

Fiber—the indigestible part of carbohydrates found in plants—is important for managing blood sugar and increasing feelings of fullness, as well as promoting heart, digestive and gut health.

“Fiber is the key to health and management of diabetes,” says Jacinda Shapiro, RN, BSN, CDCES, a registered nurse, certified diabetes care and education specialist and owner of EmpowerMe Diabetes Health. Fiber promotes the production of short-chain fatty acids that play a role in blood sugar regulation, she says. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes should aim to eat the same amount of fiber as the general population, or 25 to 38 grams of fiber daily.

To get more fiber at breakfast, you can add greens to your morning meal, like in this Baby Kale Breakfast Salad with Quinoa & Strawberries. Fruit smoothies, such as the Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie, are another great way to up your fiber intake. And chia seeds, found in this Blueberry Almond Chia Pudding, are brimming with fiber, too.

Your Breakfast Is Rich in Refined Carbohydrates and Saturated Fat

Traditional high-carbohydrate breakfast items—store-bought granola, muffins, doughnuts and pastries, or white bread and butter—contain little fiber and a lot of saturated fat. This combination raises blood sugars and puts your heart at risk.

“Combining fats with refined carbohydrates is a disaster for blood sugar,” says Peggy Kraus, M.A., RCEP, CDCES, a clinical exercise physiologist and certified diabetes care and education specialist. For something sweet, look for a granola that is made with little added fat and is lightly sweetened, like this Maple-Nut Granola. Pair it with low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, plus a serving of berries.

In addition, choose whole grains and legumes with vegetables or fruit, which provide slower-to-digest complex carbohydrates, and foods that contain healthy fats. Try the West Coast Avocado Toast and Lentil Bowl with Fried Eggs & Greens.

You Are Overeating

Not eating consistent meals can result in erratic blood sugars and overeating. For example, if you skip breakfast one day and eat a very large breakfast the next, you are more likely to see inconsistent blood sugars. This varies, of course, based on the medications you take, what you’ve eaten, how much you’ve eaten and your activity level.

If you notice elevated blood sugars two hours after breakfast, look back to what you just ate. Try to eat roughly the same amount of carbohydrates for breakfast consistently, and assess how your body responds. Remember to include foods that contain fiber, protein and unsaturated fat for a balanced breakfast. Here are some delicious examples: Raspberry-Peach-Mango Smoothie Bowl, Chickpea & Kale Toast and Stovetop Veggie Frittata.

You Are Drinking Juice

Juice, even 100% fruit juice, lacks fiber. This is not to say it has no nutritional value, but for people with diabetes, drinking juice typically is used to rapidly bring low blood sugar back up. Beyond that need, raising blood sugar too much increases insulin production, which can lead to more weight gain,” says Shapiro.

Instead of drinking juice, opt for whole fresh fruit, which contains fiber, and pair it with a source of protein. If you love fresh juice and its part of your culture, include it in your meal and stick to a half-cup serving.

The Bottom Line

Breakfast provides an opportunity to start your day in alignment with your health goals. If you are eating to support healthy blood sugars, it is especially important to include foods that are rich in fiber, lean protein and heart-healthy fat, while limiting added sugar and saturated fats.

Getting into a good breakfast routine does not have to be boring or difficult. Make a list of the foods you love and create nutrient-dense combinations that work with your lifestyle. If you are struggling, reach out to your health care provider for help.

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Kaly Johnes

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    Kaly JohnesWritten by Kaly Johnes

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