A fresh muffin can be a scrumptious and convenient way to start the day, but can they really be part of a smart diet to prevent diabetes? If you have prediabetes, there are some ways to make muffins part of your healthy lifestyle. Hint: eating standard muffins at your local coffee shop may not be the answer!
Meet Your Average Muffin
What is a muffin? It is not the “healthier” quick breakfast option that many people assume it is. Instead, most muffins are made with sugar, white flour, and excessive oil, and are served in oversized portions. They are little better than cupcakes – or often worse, since they tend to be bigger!
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A typical blueberry muffin can have over 450 calories and 40 grams of sugar, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Pumpkin, chocolate chip, chocolate, and bran muffins from locally owned coffee shops and national chains such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and Panera have similar nutrition facts. With its 70 grams of carbohydrates, having a muffin for breakfast is like starting your day off with four slices of bread.
Nutritional facts like this may clue you into the fact that muffins are not your best friend when it comes to managing prediabetes. A diet to manage prediabetes is not just calorie-controlled and low in sugar. It also gets 10 to 25% of calories from protein, according to to the American Diabetes Association, (a blueberry muffin gets 5%), and includes 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories (a blueberry muffin has 2 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories).
Simple Change: Smaller Portion
The simplest change you can make with a muffin is to eat less of it. Reducing the calories in your muffin can be the name of the game, since it helps with weight loss. That is important because research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that participating in a lifestyle change program with a goal of losing at least 7% of body weight can lower diabetes risk by over 58%.
With half a muffin, suddenly those 500 calories become 250 and the 70 grams of carbohydrates become 35. At least one of the following choices is possible at any bakery, coffee shop, or grocery store.
- Eating only half of a full-sized muffin (250 calories).
- Eating 1 to 2 mini muffins (90 to 180 calories).
- Eating a muffin top (such as a “muffie” from Panera Bread (320 calories).
With any of these options, there will be enough room left to round out your breakfast with some high-fiber fruit and a source of protein. Those extra nutrients are important, since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that more than 80% of Americand eat fewer servings of fruit per day than recommended and over 90% of adults do not get enough fiber.
98% do not get enough whole grains
What You Eat with Your Muffin
When talking about breakfast or a mid-morning snack, there may be more to the story than a lone muffin. Consider:
- A packet of butter with 100 calories
- A tablespoon of jam with 12 grams of sugar.
- A flavored coffee beverage with 250 calories.
Suddenly, the meal contains nearly 1,000 calories even though it does not seem that big!
Instead, it is easy to reduce calories and sugar and add protein and fiber. You can even make the meal bigger while having half of a muffin or two mini muffins. Consider these choices.
- Plain coffee or tea without flavoring syrup, cream, or sugar.
- Nonfat or whipped low-fat cream cheese instead of butter.
- Nonfat cottage cheese or plain yogurt with your muffin.
- Fresh fruit on the side.
A breakfast with 2 mini muffins, a half-cup of nonfat cottage cheese, an orange, and black coffee has 330 calories, 17 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. That is a filling, low-calorie breakfast that gets your day started on the right foot.
Better Fast Food Choices
A data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 22.7% of American adults eat fast food for breakfast on any given day. Are you one of them?
If you are choosing muffins because they seem like the easiest, fastest, and most convenient breakfast on the go, know that there are other possibilities! Many fast food restaurants offer plain oatmeal or English muffins with egg whites or cheese, for example.
Recipes for Healthy Muffins for Prediabetes
Baking your own muffins can give you the chance to make them healthier and lower in calories. In less than an hour, you can bake enough muffins for two weeks and freeze them so you can have one each day. That way, you do not even need to stop at the drive-through!
Homemade muffins are usually already lower in calories than store-bought ones if you make them in regular muffin tins instead of large ones. In addition, these tips can work for most muffin recipes.
- Use whole-wheat instead of regular flour for half the flour called for in the recipe.
- Cut the sugar (or honey) in half.
- Swap yogurt or low-fat sour cream for the oil.
- Use mashed banana instead of oil to add sweetness without added sugars.
- Add bran or oats for extra fiber plus a bit more milk to offset the extra dry ingredients.
The Harvard School of Public Health offers a blueberry muffin recipe with extra fiber and reduced amounts of sugar and calories. You can also check out a lemon muffin recipe made with chickpeas, also from HSPH.
Basic Muffin Recipe with Variations
Muffins should be made your way. It can help to take a standard recipe and vary it to suit your tastes. Here is a recipe for 12 basic muffins with 130 calories and 5 grams of sugar per muffin.
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt (or low-fat sour cream)
- 2 eggs
- ½ to ¾ cup milk
- ⅓ cup of sugar (or substitute such as monk fruit)
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Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a muffin tin or line with muffin liners.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, and any spices you are using in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the yogurt, sugar, milk. Stir in the dry ingredients without overmixing. Fold in any add-ins.
Put the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Blueberry muffins: add 1 cup of blueberries.
- Apple cinnamon muffins: mix 1 diced apple with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and fold in at end.
- Pumpkin muffins: use pumpkin puree instead of yogurt and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
- Banana muffins: use mashed ripe banana instead of yogurt and add ½ cup walnuts.
- Oatmeal muffins: heat the milk and soak 1 cup of quick-cooking oats for 15 minutes. Reduced the whole-wheat flour to ⅓ cup.
- Chocolate zucchini muffins: Add ⅓ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the flour mixture and 1 cup grated zucchini to the wet ingredients.
- Bran muffins: Use 1 ½ cups of wheat bran or crushed wheat bran cereal instead of whole-wheat flour and use honey instead of sugar.