Adelle Davis, an American author and nutritionist, once said: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” While some recent research has shown that eating breakfast doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight, there’s plenty of other research that points to the importance of starting off the day with a healthy meal.
The benefits of breakfast
Studies show that when children eat breakfast, they perform better in school, have more energy, and are less likely to skip school. Adults who eat breakfast may eat less later in the day, have more energy, and be more likely to have lower cholesterol levels and less insulin resistance.
Breakfast and diabetes control
Eating a healthy breakfast may also help people with type 2 diabetes better manage their blood glucose levels. A recent study published in the journal Diabetologia showed that when people with type 2 diabetes ate a high-energy breakfast and a low-energy dinner, their blood glucose levels improved. Eighteen men and women with type 2 diabetes participated in the study. In the first part of the study, half of the subjects ate 704 calories at breakfast, 607 calories at lunch, and 250 calories at dinner. The other half of the subjects ate 250 calories at breakfast and 704 calories at dinner. Lunch calories were the same for both groups. After two weeks, the subjects switched groups. The higher-calorie breakfast plan led to lower blood glucose and insulin levels at lunchtime, and post-meal blood glucose levels were significantly lower over the course of the entire day. The study authors believe that a higher-calorie breakfast helps trigger insulin secretion from the pancreas, and increases glucose uptake (meaning less glucose in the bloodstream) in the morning.
Eating a bigger breakfast
Given that many people barely eat breakfast, the thought of sitting down to a huge meal first thing in the morning may not sound too appealing. And the size of your breakfast depends on how many calories you need to either lose or maintain your weight. In the meantime, it can be helpful to think of your breakfast as you might think of your dinner.
Try to have a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Aiming to eat foods that have all three of these nutrients can help to ensure that you get the nutrition you need to get you through your day, and help you manage your blood glucose at the same time. Here’s a suggestion for bulking up your breakfast:
Choose one to two items from the grains and starches list:
- 2 slices of whole grain toast
- 1 whole grain English muffin
- 1 ½ cups whole grain cereal
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal
Choose one item from the milk list:
- 8 ounces skim or low-fat milk
- 8 ounces unsweetened almond, soy, or rice milk
- 6 ounces light yogurt
- 5 ounces low-fat Greek-style yogurt
Choose one item from the fruit list:
- 1 small banana
- 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon
- 1 cup berries
- 1 small orange
- 1 small peach
Choose one item from the protein list:
- 1 egg or 2 egg whites
- ¾ cup cottage cheese
- 1 ounce reduced-fat cheese
- 1 ounce turkey breast, lean ham, or Canadian bacon
- 1 ounce salmon or other seafood
Choose one item from the fat list:
- 2 teaspoons butter or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- ¼ of an avocado
- 12 almonds
- 8 pecan halves
- 3 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
Following this plan will provide you with approximately 500 to 600 calories. This may seem like a lot of calories to have at breakfast, but remember that your lunch and dinner meals will be smaller. If you’re interested in trying this out, talk to your healthcare provider about how to adjust the size of your meals, as your diabetes medicine dose may need to be changed, too. Remember that checking your blood glucose levels regularly is the best way for you and your healthcare team to know how changes in your meal plan are working for you.