High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can affect those with type 1 and 2 diabetes as well as prediabetes. It can happen when you eat something with too much sugar or too many simple carbs, forget to take your insulin, or even when you’re sick or stressed.
Whatever the reason, everyone can agree the signs and symptoms of high blood sugar are no fun. According to the American Diabetes Association, indications that your blood sugar is too high include extreme thirst, a frequent need to urinate, and exhaustion. And if left untreated, high blood sugar can quickly develop into a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis. Yikes!
Struggling to cook healthy? We’ll help you prep.
Here’s the thing—everyone’s diabetes care plan is different, but one thing we can all benefit from is eating a healthy breakfast that keeps our blood sugar stable throughout the day. While, unfortunately, there aren’t any miracle foods that can replace insulin, here are six easy ways to stabilize your blood sugar with breakfast.
Choose Complex Carbs
This probably goes without saying, but foods like refined cereals and glazed donuts can make your blood sugar skyrocket. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid carbs entirely at breakfast—just make sure to opt for whole-grains like steel-cut oats, muffins made with whole-wheat flour, or maybe a sweet potato stuffed with scrambled eggs and black beans. The complex carbs in whole grains, beans, and starchy veggies are full of fiber, which takes longer to digest and affects your blood sugar more slowly, according to the ADA.
View Recipe: Overnight Oats With Kiwi and Coconut Flakes
Don’t Exercise Before Breakfast
Molly Cranna for TIME
Exercise is an important part of blood sugar management, and when done regularly it can help improve insulin sensitivity and lower your A1C levels. How exercise affects your blood sugar depends on how long you’re active, and varies from person to person. But generally exercise will lower your blood sugar and make your body more sensitive to insulin for up to 24 hours after a workout, according to the ADA.
If you tend to work out in the morning, it’s important to test your blood sugar levels before and after your workout to see how your body responds. If your blood sugar tends to quickly drop off after a workout, it’s smart to have breakfast before you head to the gym to keep you fueled and your blood sugar steady.
Opt for the Right Kind of Fat
People with diabetes are more at risk for high cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, “Diabetes tends to lower ‘good’ cholesterol levels and raise triglyceride and ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.”
Eating monounsaturated (or “heart-healthy” fats) such as avocado, olive oil, or fatty fish can help lower bad LDL cholesterol. And if you’re prediabetic, it can actually reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, in her article 10 Foods Diabetics Should Eat Daily, says “Some research suggests [healthy fats] may also improve glucose usage by cells, thanks to their anti-inflammatory effects.” So go ahead and make some avo toast for breakfast—it’s good for your heart!
View Recipe: Smoked Salmon Breakfast Casserole
Photo: Katherine Flynn
Almost everyone could use more fiber in their diets (in fact, nearly 95% of Americans don’t get enough), but those with diabetes should be prioritizing it even more. Even though fiber is a type of carbohydrate, it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels. In fact, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who ate as much as 50g of fiber a day (way more than the recommended average of 20-35g a day) had much better control of their blood glucose.
Soluble fiber—found in plant-based foods such as whole-grain oats, beans, raspberries, apples, oranges, and sweet potatoes—is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes. One study even found that regularly consuming fiber-rich foods adds good bacteria to your gut microbiome and can actually help lower your A1C levels over time.
View Recipe: Apple Pie Energy Bites
Don’t Avoid Fruit (But Skip the Smoothie)
If you have diabetes, don’t be afraid to eat fruit. I recently spoke to Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, author of Diabetes Weight Loss-Week by Week, for an article on fruit and diabetes and she told me, “Sugar in fruit doesn’t have to translate into high blood sugar levels. In fact, a piece of fruit about the size of a tennis ball provides only about 15 grams of carbohydrates—about the same as a cup of milk, a slice of whole wheat bread, 1/3 cup of brown rice, or a tablespoon of sugar.” Research also shows eating blueberries daily may actually help reduce your type 2 diabetes risk and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
One caveat to the fruit rule: Opt for whole fruit over juices or smoothies. An 8-oz. glass of orange juice has twice as much the sugar and only a quarter of the fiber as a medium orange. Fruit can be high in sugar, and without the fiber to slow absorption, a smoothie or glass of juice can make your blood sugar spike.
Still set on having your morning glass of OJ? Try some eggs or avocado to offset it. Meghann Moore, RD, CDE, MPH, told Diabetes Forecast, “When drinking juice, it may be a good idea to pair it with a meal that contains protein and fat. A combination of food and juice will digest more slowly and may not raise your blood sugar as quickly or as much as the juice alone.”
View Recipe: Hot Muesli With Pomegranate, Blueberry, and Cashew Crunch
Sprinkle on the Cinnamon
Need another reason to love this sweet and comforting spice? Research has shown that cinnamon may increase insulin sensitivity and therefore help reduce blood sugar. Bonus: This powerful little spice may also help reduce bad cholesterol levels. So go ahead and sprinkle some into your coffee grounds before brewing, or shake some on top of your oatmeal.
View Recipe: Cinnamon Roll Muffins