Reviewed by Jason C. Baker, MD. Updated 7/24/19.
Breakfast is the most challenging meal for people living with diabetes. Standard breakfast fare is usually very high in carbs: Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, pancakes, and waffles, to name a few!
Bacon and eggs are carb-free, but even the most devoted egg lover can’t have eggs every day.
Here are some delicious ideas for diabetes-friendly breakfasts.
Monday is a good day for simple toast and toppings. But a slice of whole-grain toast with a tablespoon of jam on it will cost you 26 grams of carbs.
And one piece of toast probably won’t satisfy you. Try this:
Blueberry “Danish” Roll-Up
1. Mash 1/4 cup of blueberries or another type of berry and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar substitute. Let sit to macerate for five minutes. Spread 1 teaspoon of softened butter and then 2 tablespoons of softened cream cheese, and then the berry mixture on one half of a piece of low carb lavash bread.*
2. Roll up, using toothpicks if necessary to hold it together, and heat in the toaster oven or microwave until warm throughout.
3. Have a hard-boiled egg for a dose of protein and great nutrition to complete your meal.
Total carbs: 14g
*Try Joseph’s Middle East Bakery Lavash, or any whole grain, low carb tortilla or wrap. The bread should be soft. Moisten with water and microwave for 10 seconds to soften, if needed. Variations: Almond, macadamia, or peanut butter with finely diced apple; no-salt-added cottage cheese and cinnamon. If you don’t have lavash, make any of these open-faced on whole grain, low carb bread or waffles.
Breakfast sausage gets a bad rap because it’s usually greasy, high in sodium, and contains preservatives.
However, you can find some varieties (Jimmy Dean’s is a nice surprise) that have few ingredients and decent nutrition profiles. You can also opt for Tofurky Italian Sausage or other non-meat substitutes. Just watch the sodium.
Your best bet is always homemade, which is easier than you think.
Try this breakfast:
Sausage Patties with Fried Tomatoes & Cottage Cheese
1. Make dLife’s Turkey Sausages ahead of time and freeze what you’re not going to use.
2. Fry up two sausages in a large frying pan while also frying two thick slices of tomato, preferably green.
3. Spread 2 tablespoons of creamy cottage cheese across the top of the hot sausage and tomato. Season with fresh pepper. If needed, cook the sausage and tomatoes the night before and reheat in the microwave.
Total carbs: 3g.
Variations: Try this recipe with any of your favorite veggies that fry up quickly. Frozen, chopped spinach would be a perfect addition. You can also substitute ricotta cheese or shredded cheddar for the cottage cheese — carbs will be about the same.
Smoothies are usually high in calories and carbs, despite their image as a health food. Most are far from diabetes-friendly.
The reason: Smoothies are usually made with fruit juice, sweetened yogurt, and higher carb fruits like bananas.
Here’s a healthy version for the morning when you want something fast:
Simple, Healthy Smoothie
1. Start with a base of 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of silken tofu in a blender.
2. Add 3/4 cup of your favorite lower carb fruits (1/2 cup of raspberries and 1/4 cup of diced honeydew melon contributes about 11 grams of carbs).
If you use fresh fruit, add 1/2 cup of ice cubes. If the fruit is frozen, no ice is needed.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, oat bran, or wheat germ for added fiber and nutrients.
4. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and sweeten if you like with 1/2 packet of artificial sweetener.
Total carbs: 23g, including 6.5g of fiber.
Variations: Instead of tofu, you can substitute the same amount of plain yogurt, sour cream, or pureed cottage cheese. You can also add finely ground nuts, nut butter, other flavor extracts, and sugar-free syrups.
Today, it’s time for that superfood of breakfast staples: The egg.
We’ll assume you don’t need any help with your basic over-easy, scrambled, or omelet versions. But how about ways to make eggs even faster, tastier, and easier?
Quiche Minis in a Muffin Tin
1. Quickly saute a cup of fresh or frozen diced peppers and onions in a little oil.
2. Whisk together 8 eggs and 1/4 cup of water.
3. Place one slice of Canadian bacon in the bottom of each well of a muffin tin, assuming 8 wells, and evenly divide veggies among the wells.
4. Pour the egg mixture over top and bake at 350 degrees F until set.
5. Sprinkle tops with shredded cheese after they’re cooked and leave in oven for another minute to melt.
Total carbs: about 3g in two quiches. Variations: Make these minis ahead of time and freeze them. Pop two in the microwave for a quick “to-go” breakfast. Or, add a little chili powder and a spoonful of salsa and some sour cream, and make your minis Mexican. Note: If you’re an egg lover (and who isn’t?), consider investing in an electric egg cooker. These gizmos cook your eggs to perfection, whether you want them hard, soft, or medium. Some will poach, too. No more waiting for water to boil.
Did you know that Asian people often eat fish for breakfast? Our breakfast habits are dictated by cultural traditions and preferences more than they are by what our bodies need.
Your body requires protein but it doesn’t know the difference between breakfast sausage and a New York strip, right?
So instead of being stuck in a breakfast food rut, try:
Dinner for Breakfast – Steak & Cheese
1. Cut 5 very thin slices of leftover steak
2. Saute 1 cup of fresh onions and peppers in a little oil until just warm.
3. Add steak slices to the vegetables, and cover.
4. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the steak is just warm.
5. Top with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, cover again and cook on low until cheese melts.
6. Serve with a medium-sized wedge of cantaloupe equal to 1/8 of the melon or about 5 balls.
Total carbs: 13g. Variations: You can make this with chicken or even fish. You can also make a no-cook version. Prepare a plate of sliced meat, a piece of cheese the size of 4 dice stacked together (1.5 oz), 1 cup of tossed salad or 5 baby carrots. Drizzle the plate with some extra virgin olive oil, and serve with melon, as above.
Many dLife readers love to use steel cut oats because they have a lesser effect on blood sugar than regular, rolled oats.
They are less processed, so they digest more slowly. Because of all this, however, they take a lot longer to cook. They also have a chewy texture and nuttier flavor.
Though the carbs in this dish are a bit high, oats contain a special type of fiber that has powerful health benefits.
Steel Cut Oats with Berries & Cream
1. Cook 1/4 cup of dry oats per person. First, toast the oats in a frying pan with butter until just golden. Then, add them to boiling water and cook as directed.
Since the oats take so long to cook, make a batch that can keep for a week.
Many people like to use a slow cooker or rice cooker.
2. When the oats are done, keep the pan on the stove, and stir in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and 1/4 cup of milk. Next, add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 packet of artificial sweetener, to taste.
3. Add 1/2 cup one of the following: strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, diced peaches, nectarines, plums, or papaya, each of which contains about 6g or 7g of carbs.
4. Drizzle 1/4 cup of half and a half over the top.
Total carbs: about 27g, including about 6g fiber, depending on the fruit.
Variations: Two tablespoons of peanut butter will contribute about 6g of carbs and 2g fiber. Other great additions are wheat germ, oat bran, and groundnuts. One-quarter cup of chopped walnuts contains 4g of carbs and almost 2g of fiber.
Greek yogurt has become popular and is very diabetes-friendly. It has more protein and fewer carbs than typical yogurt.
Plus, it’s easier to digest. The best thing about it is its thick, creamy texture. Try our low carb version of this classic breakfast treat.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
1. Toast one-quarter cup of a mixture of almonds and macadamia nuts in a pan with some butter or oil. Let the nuts cool, then put them in a re-sealable plastic bag, and crush them with a heavy pan.
2. Add your nuts and 1/4 cup of raspberries to 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, sweetened with artificial sweetener to taste.
Total carbs: 14g including 6g fiber
Variations: Granola is delicious in yogurt but very high in carbs. You can make your own lower-carb granola from slivered almonds, crushed macadamia nuts, unsweetened coconut, ground flaxseed, and rolled oats. Toss with melted butter and honey or agave nectar.
The egg is a nutrition superstar, with a list of nutrients that is unmatched. Here are some easy ideas for the incredible edible:
Flavor it Indian: Stir a little cumin, turmeric, garlic, and spinach (fresh leaves or thawed from frozen) into scrambled eggs.
Make it Mexican: A little chili powder and shredded cheddar are all you need to create some Mexican flair. Or go all out with salsa, sour cream, and some chopped jalapeno.
Leftover Love: Almost anything goes with eggs, so try using your leftover chicken or steak, pork, chili, beans. Saute what you’ve got in a little butter and garlic, throw in some chopped onion, and voila, you have a filler for your omelet or scramble.
“Benedict” Three Ways: Skip the English muffin of course, but Hollandaise sauce is a no-carb way to jazz up an egg. Option A: Place your poached egg atop a bed of steamed spinach or creamed spinach. Option B: Set the egg on a piece of fried Canadian bacon or any other quickly fried meat you have on hand. Option C: Saute zucchini slices in butter and use three or four slices as the base for your “Benedict.” Then spice it up with cayenne or hot sauce before topping with your egg.