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:
- It helps to get our blood glucose levels of to nice level start, especially when we include a moderate amount of low-GI carbs
- 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
- It fuels our brain so we can mentally function better and cope better with the curve-balls that diabetes can throw at us
- 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.