One of the most asked questions I get these days is about what to eat for breakfast as a diabetic. It was one of the first things I asked my Doctor as well when I was first diagnosed. 80% of commercial breakfast cereals contain added sugar, yes even the ones you’d think are “healthy” and full of bran and fibre. One habit I always tell people to start, even if they aren’t diabetic, is to read all labels on food packaging. Know what is put into your food and what you’ll be putting into your body. Sugar is used as a flavour enhancer on a whole lot of processed foods but especially breakfast cereals and yoghurt.
So, what should you have instead?
The more natural, the better. So instead of downing juice rather have the whole fruit the juice is made from. The fibre that comes with whole fruit is beneficial to your system. The other reason you want to consume whole fruit instead of juices in the morning is because most commercial juices these days are made from a concentrate and has added grape juice. After sugar cane grapes are one of the fruits that contain some of the highest amounts of fruit sugars. Juice spikes blood glucose levels. If have at least 3 fruits a day but split across the day, one for breakfast, one at midday and one later in the day…and I’m selective about which fruits I consume. Berries and low fibre fruits tend to also spike sugar levels. So be aware of your blood sugar levels and test your levels a few hours after having the fruit, just to work out which fruits work for you and which don’t.
In terms of grains and cereals for breakfast I avoid all instant cereals, they tend to have added sugar. I eat oats and mabele (sorghum) porridge when I can, especially after working out. Both oats and mabele are low GI, which means your body processes them slowly and your body stays fuller for longer. Low GI foods also help prevent spikes in blood sugar as well as help keep cravings through the day at a minimum. Mabele is an ancient grain and a superfood. Mabele is full of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. It is also full of fibre, antioxidants, and protein. All essential in maintaining a healthy body. If I’m not in the mood for porridge what I do is make a big batch at the beginning of the week and store it in the fridge. When I make smoothies in the morning I add 2 or 3 spoons of the cold cooked porridge to the blender.
Want a bit of sweetness to your breakfast? I make use of raw honey and drizzle it onto my sorghum flapjacks (which I make with sorghum flour) or into my oats and smoothies. Why raw honey? It has been proven to actually assist in the maintenance of blood sugar levels. Be aware of the difference between raw honey and irradiated honey though. Raw honey is honey that is as natural as it comes, straight from the honey comb without any processing whilst irradiated honey is honey that has been slightly heated up before bottling. The irradiation process breaks down some of the essential nutrients that are beneficial, especially for diabetics.
As mentioned above, I love to make smoothies for myself, especially after working out in the morning or if I’m busy and in a rush. Smoothies if made with the wrong ingredients can spike your blood glucose levels though. Always be aware of what you’re adding and the nutritional value in the ingredients. For example, kale is a much loved addition to breakfast smoothies these days but for kale to be beneficial to your body it actually needs to be cooked off slightly first. The same applies to broccoli, steam it slightly before adding it to smoothies. If adding yoghurt to your smoothies always use unflavoured and unsweetened yoghurt. Be picky about the type of fruits you add to the smoothie as well, even though strawberries make for a beautiful colour they lack fibre and are high in sugars, so rather add guava instead and so forth. Don’t use juice as the base liquid to your smoothie, rather for nut milks, coconut water, ice, tea and other such low-sugar products. Add low GI ingredients to your breakfast cereals, such as chia seeds, nuts, grains and fresh greens.
In the case where I’m craving a cooked breakfast I try got for poached eggs rather than fried eggs. This reduces the amount of cooked oil I’m consuming. Instead of hash browns I steam baby potatoes in the microwave and then flatten them and sear them off in a hot pan. If you’re a lover of eggs try stick to a maximum of 2 yolks a day, egg yolks are full of cholesterol, something diabetics need to keep an eye on, so what I do is whisk 2 whole eggs and add extra egg whites to them to bulk them up if I’m making an omelette or scrambled eggs. I don’t eat canned baked beans as they are high in sugar content (read the label next time you have a can of baked beans close by) so as a replacement I have cooked lentils, black beans or butter beans. Fry the beans off with some chopped onion and baby tomatoes and you have an equally tasty alternative to baked beans on your breakfast plate. For starch I always have low GI wholewheat bread. If you do decide to add cheese to your breakfast rather go for fresh white cheeses (ricotta, feta, mozzarella etc) as they are better for your health wise but if you do choose a yellow cheese, make sure it isn’t processed yellow cheese. Processed cheeses have added sugar and other ingredients that spike blood glucose levels.
These are just a few of the things I do for breakfast. It’s all about being aware of what foods your body processes well and which ingredients behave differently in your system. Always test your blood glucose levels if you’re unsure or if you’re trying out a new dish or food and always consult your doctor if you’re not sure of something. ALWAYS take your medication and make sure to keep active. Diabetes isn’t a death sentence, it’s an easily manageable condition that just needs you to be proactive about your health.