Studies show a good breakfast lowers blood sugar spikes all day. But about 31 million Americans skip breakfast entirely. How can you enjoyably fit breakfast into your busy life?
First, let’s look at why breakfast is so important. Our editor Diane Fennell has been reporting on this all year. This Israeli study showed that skipping breakfast led to after-meal glucose spikes at both lunch and dinner.
This study from the University of Missouri found that eating protein at breakfast prevented glucose spikes after breakfast and lunch.
A European study found that people who ate breakfast had better insulin response all day.
This Harvard study of 27,000 male health professionals found that men who skipped breakfast were more likely to get heart disease and diabetes.
I gave other good reasons to eat breakfast in this article. Breakfast stops the liver from pouring out extra morning sugar (the dawn phenomenon), while not eating breakfast leaves you hungry all day. You’ll be tempted to snack on sweet things and never feel good.
If breakfast is so good for us, why don’t more people eat a good morning meal? People usually give one of three reasons for skipping breakfasts. They’re not hungry; they don’t have time; or they don’t like breakfast foods. Let’s look at each barrier and what we can do to overcome them.
I don’t have time
Mornings can be swamped, with getting yourself off to work, maybe kids off to school, plus household and diabetes-related chores. What can you do about it?
Start earlier. Many of us find it hard to get up in the morning. We have to train ourselves. On About.com, Jennifer Scott wrote “[Eating breakfast] will pay off more than those 10 blissful moments of [extra snooze]. In time, you’ll find that working in a good breakfast will give you much more energy to face the day than spending a few more moments under the covers ever could.”
Listen to Ms. Scott. If you don’t have time for breakfast, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier and get up when it rings.
Make breakfast simpler. Keep your kitchen stocked with easy breakfast options requiring little or no cooking. The website Live Better America recommends yogurts and cheeses, peanut butter and eggs, and whole grain cereals as quick and easy. A couple of their clever ideas: stir banana nut cereal and peanut butter into an easy no-bake energy bar. Sunflower seeds or nuts provide protein and calories to keep you going.
If getting the children going interferes with eating, can you make breakfast a family priority? Insist that kids eat, because studies show that unfed kids do worse in school and have more behavior problems. I know this is easier said than done, but perhaps a family discussion or two can get everyone on the same page. Perhaps other tasks can be rescheduled for later to create time for breakfast. Finally, if you can’t sit down to eat, many breakfast foods can be taken with you and eaten en route or at work.
I’m not hungry
Some people’s stomachs don’t wake up when they do. They’re not hungry, or they’re too sleepy to eat, often expressed as “I’m too tired.” A good article on the site Wikihow suggests these possible solutions:
• Go to bed earlier.
• Look into sleep issues — if you don’t sleep well, you may feel uncomfortable and not hungry in the morning.
• Eating too much dinner, eating dinner too late, or having a heavy bedtime snack may suppress morning hunger.
• Some light exercise or stretching when you wake up may give you some appetite.
I don’t like breakfast foods
This is a huge point, because many traditional breakfast foods aren’t good for you anyway. Pancakes and pastries are not how a person with diabetes should start their day. There are hundreds of other easy options your taste buds and your body might like better. Breakfast doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t even have to be “breakfast.” Try:
• Leftovers like a casserole.
• Smoothies with fruits and a protein like yogurt or egg.
• Nut butters on bread or fruit
• Whole-grain cereals like oatmeal or granola
• Tacos or quesadillas — these are easy and low-carb. To make quesadillas, take a tortilla and slice some cheese onto it; toast it lightly and fold it over. Insert sliced tomato and/or avocado if desired. You can eat it at home or take it with you. Add meat or beans and maybe salsa and you have a taco.
• Remember that protein at breakfast lowers blood sugars and cravings all day. Try beans, nuts, meat, eggs, tofu, dairy.
• You may know traditional breakfasts of your ethnic group that are good and not high in sweet carbs.
• Some fiber will prevent mid-morning crashes and smooth out your sugars. This article gives recipes for breakfasts with chia, almond butter, avocados, and tacos that look tasty, easy, and healthy.
Sometimes Scott Coulter feels like living with diabetes is a game of always lagging behind, but he’s returning to some of his tried-and-true techniques for staying present and on top of things. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn if these strategies can help you too.