Many would argue that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. True or not, what you eat, or do not eat, at the beginning of your day can have a significant impact. Choose wisely, and breakfast can help with weight loss and blood sugar control. Since there are not usually any early signs or symptoms of prediabetes, it is important to be on the lookout for other risk factors - such as what you eat.
How healthy would you say your breakfasting habits are? Are they keeping you full and energized, or are they leaving you hungry mid-morning or even raising risk for diabetes? Here's the scoop on healthy breakfasts and how they can affect diabetes risk.
Why Eat Breakfast?
Breakfast skipping is common. It can happen for reasons such as trying to lose weight, not having time to prepare or eat, and not being hungry. Does it matter?
It may. First, breakfast eaters tend to get more fiber and other nutrients on a daily basis. Next, breakfast eaters tend to have less risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and low HDL "good" cholesterol, according to an analysis of 5,312 adults published in Public Health Nutrition.
In addition, some studies, such as some analyzed in an article in the journal Nutrients, have also suggested that breakfast eaters have a slightly lower risk for weight gain. These are possible reasons.
Skipping breakfast may slow metabolism, leading to fewer calories burned.
Excessive hunger from skipping breakfast can lead to overcompensation by eating too much later in the morning or day.
Excessive hunger can lead to poor food choices, such as foods higher in sugar and refined carbs.
Skipping breakfast may also be linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes - and if you have diabetes, skipping breakfast can really throw blood sugar out of whack. Obesity, which can potentially result from skipping breakfast, is a major risk factor for prediabetes and diabetes.
Furthermore, skipping breakfast can raise insulin resistance, according to research published in The Journal of Nutrition. That is a condition that interferes with the body's ability to use carbohydrates properly, and it is what causes prediabetes and diabetes.
Building a Healthy Breakfast for Blood Sugar
Aside from simply eating breakfast, choosing healthy foods to eat can further support weight loss and lower blood sugar. Including a high-protein food can help with weight management and reduce hunger throughout the day, according to research published in Obesity (Silver Spring).
Whatever you like for breakfast, there is probably a way to fit it into a healthy diet if it is not already naturally healthy. Consider these common breakfast foods and how they can be healthier.
Flavor syrups, sugar, and creamers add calories and sugar.
Unsweetened, black or with fat-free milk or unsweetened almond milk
Can have more sugar than a candy bar, plus refined starch
Whole-grain, unsweetened cereal such as shredded wheat or plain Cheerios
Excess calories from fat
Full of sugar with no protein and low in fiber
Water is calorie-free, and fresh fruit has fiber
Oversized servings of refined carbs if white bread or bagels, plus extra calories and fat from croissants and biscuits
1 to 2 ounces (1 -2 slices of bread or ½ bagel) of whole-grain choices or English muffin instead of croissant or biscuit
Frozen and canned can be sweetened
Fresh and unsweetened frozen are higher in fiber
Often cooked with butter and served with breakfast meats
Boiled or cooked with cooking spray and/or fat-free milk and served with vegetables
Flavored instant oatmeal can have 20 grams of sugar
Plain instant oatmeal or rolled oats with cinnamon and fruit
Bacon, breakfast sausage, and other processed meats
High in fat and calories, and may contribute to insulin resistance, hypertension, cancer, and high cholesterol
Turkey or soy bacon, or unprocessed proteins such as salmon or chicken.
Sweetened flavored tea can have 75 grams of sugar
Unsweetened with fat-free or unsweetened almond milk
Doughnuts, muffins, pastries
High in calories, starch, sugar, and fat, either mixed in or from frying
Breakfast cookies made with oats, banana, and nuts
Fried potatoes (hash browns, French fries)
Can bump up blood sugar and add extra calories
Baked sweet potato fries or sauteed sweet potato cubes
Fitting in a Healthy Breakfast
Not everyone has time to cook and eat a full breakfast at the table every morning, but a pretty good option is usually possible with some compromise and creativity. These are some tips for fitting in some good nutrition every morning.
A snack is fine if a full meal seems daunting. A whole-grain English muffin with peanut butter, and plain instant oatmeal made with milk take less than a minute to prepare and provide fiber and protein.
Mess-free foods can be necessary if you will be eating on the go. a string cheese stick and an apple, low-fat cottage cheese with sunflower seeds, and a container of plain yogurt with blueberries are all portable.
Don't eat if you are not hungry, but do try to have a smaller dinner for a few days and see if that helps with your morning appetite.
Breakfast does not need to include traditional "breakfast foods" if you do not like them. Last night's leftovers or a freshly-made batch of whole-grain pasta with tomatoes and salmon are just as nourishing as oatmeal and an egg.
If all else fails, it may be worth it to grab a box of your favorite cereal. Researchers who published the above-mentioned article in Public Health Nutrition found that the sugar-sweetened stuff appears to be better than nothing when discussing the possible benefits and risks of eating versus skipping breakfast. Plus, people who eat a high-fiber or whole-grain breakfast cereal have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to research in Advances in Nutrition.
Some Balanced Breakfast Ideas
A balanced breakfast might have a fresh (or unsweetened, frozen) fruit or vegetable, some protein, a bit of healthy fat, and a serving of a whole grain or starchy vegetable. These are some ideas.
No Time - Overnight Oatmeal
Make it the night before so you can grab it and go in the morning. Just mix 1/2 cup oats with 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup milk. Mix in cinnamon plus your choice of pumpkin puree or diced apples or pears.
Grab and Go - Breakfast Sandwich
Fill a whole-grain English muffin with a slice of reduced-fat cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato slices, and a cooked egg. Wrap it in foil to carry it with you. It is just like a breakfast sandwich from the drive-through, but better!
Trendy - Avocado Feta Wrap
Spread a small, whole-grain tortilla with 1/4 mashed avocado. Add 1 ounce of feta cheese, 1 cup of diced spinach, and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.
Hearty - Power Pancakes
Blend eggs, oatmeal, cottage cheese, baking powder, and oil, and cook your pancakes. They can be topped with fruit and nuts.
Signs and symptoms are unlikely to appear during prediabetes, so don't wait for them! Instead, it is time to take action if you have prediabetes or have other risk factors for developing diabetes. You could be at risk for type 2 diabetes and eligible for a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) if you have one or more risk factors such as being overweight or obese, being over 45 years old, being physically inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
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Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.