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The #1 Habit to Start for Better Blood Sugar, According to a Dietitian

There's a reason they call breakfast the most important meal of the day.

By Kaly JohnesPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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Blood sugar can be a tough thing to manage, especially if you've been recently diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes. But there are several ways to keep your blood sugar levels in check, including eating a balanced diet, regularly exercising and managing stress. That said, dietitians agree that there is one particular eating habit that may be the key to balancing your blood sugar throughout the day. And the good news is that it's an easy practice to adopt. This article will discuss the best habit you can start for better blood sugar levels, the best foods for blood sugar management and how to eat a well-balanced breakfast.

What Is the #1 Habit to Start for Better Blood Sugar?

You've probably heard it before, but we will say it again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is especially true for blood sugar management. Starting your day with a well-balanced meal may be the best way to keep blood sugar levels in check. "Eating breakfast has been shown to regulate blood sugar metabolism, and may result in improved insulin resistance and better blood sugar control," says New Jersey-based dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet.

"Skipping breakfast may lead to erratic blood sugar levels later in the day, along with excessive hunger that can hinder food choices and lead to an overconsumption of simple carbs, which may spike blood sugar levels," adds Palinski-Wade. A small 2019 study in The British Journal of Nutrition supports that sentiment, too. Nine healthy adult men performed two meal trials: skipping breakfast and eating breakfast. The researchers measured their blood sugar frequently and found that post-lunch blood sugar was higher in those who skipped breakfast. Another similar 2019 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that young healthy adults who skipped breakfast had glucose fluctuations throughout the day. While more research needs to be done on a broader, more diverse pool of participants, these results are promising.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, managing blood sugar levels throughout the day is important to prevent long-term diseases, like heart disease, kidney disease and vision loss.

What Breakfast Foods Are Best for Blood Sugar Control?

Between cereal, granola, bread and pastries, many popular breakfast foods tend to be high in carbohydrates. "The best way to help promote stable blood sugars after breakfast is to not eat carbohydrates by themselves, but pair your carbohydrates with sources of plant-based fat, protein and fiber," says Mary Ellen Phipps, M.P.H., RDN, LD, author of The Easy Diabetes Cookbook.

As a matter of fact, a 2020 meta-analysis in PLoS Medicine stated that high-fiber diets are a crucial component of diabetes management and play a role in improving blood sugar control, blood lipids, body weight, inflammation and premature mortality. In addition, a 2022 randomized controlled trial in Nutrients found that a high-protein breakfast suppressed blood sugar spikes throughout the day, including after lunch and dinner.

Although it may sound difficult to switch up your breakfast game, Phipps says this can be as simple as enjoying some scrambled eggs with fruit or adding avocado slices or nut butter to your toast. In addition, "a [2019] study [in Nutrients] found that including a half or whole avocado at breakfast decreased post-meal glucose and insulin when compared to the control breakfast [of a bagel, fruit and lemonade]," says Palinski-Wade.

How to Build a Well-Balanced Breakfast to Stabilize Blood Sugar

As previously noted, the best breakfasts for stable blood sugar levels have a combination of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Here are some tips for eating a more balanced breakfast to support your nutrition goals:

Choose breakfast foods that are packed with fiber, like whole-grain bread, low-added-sugar fiber-rich cereals or oats.

Incorporate more produce at breakfast. "You can add berries into yogurt or on top of oatmeal, include vegetables in your omelet or add avocado to your toast," suggests Palinski-Wade.

"Nuts and seeds can be an easy way to add flavor along with fiber, protein and healthy fats to breakfast," says Palinski-Wade. She suggests sprinkling chopped nuts onto yogurt or cereal, incorporating them into baked goods such as muffins and pancakes, or using nut butter as a spread on toast or as a dip for fruit.

For baked goods, like muffins or pancakes, use pureed fruit to replace the added fat. For example, applesauce or pureed pumpkin is a great way to add more fiber and reduce the saturated fat in some recipes that call for butter.

Make sure breakfast includes some sort of protein—whether it's eggs, milk, yogurt or even scrambled tofu or beans.

The Bottom Line

The best way to manage blood sugar levels throughout the day is to start your morning with a well-balanced breakfast. If you're notorious for skipping this important meal, start small with a simple combination of carbs, protein and fat. If you already eat breakfast, try adding some fiber or protein to your meal to stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. Opt for a combination of foods like oats, eggs, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds to keep blood sugar levels steady.

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Kaly Johnes

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