6 Best Breakfast Combinations for Your Blood Sugar
Despite what magazines or social media may have told you, avoiding carbs altogether isn’t necessary to balance your blood sugar levels — especially if you have diabetes. But pairing carbohydrates with specific foods and nutrients, especially at breakfast, can help, giving you much-needed energy without the dangers that come with high blood sugar.
Almost half of the adults in the United States have diabetes (11.8%) or prediabetes (38%), according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you fall into this category, you may be searching for the best breakfast foods to keep your blood sugar in check. The key is pairing complex carbs like fruit, whole grains, or pulses with foods that are high in protein and healthy fats.
High-quality protein and heart-healthy fats help to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which leads to a nice steady rise and fall in your blood sugars. This strategic way of eating also helps slow down the release of energy to your cells, so you feel more focused and energized in between meals.
These delicious dietitian-approved ideas are great for breakfast, but you can apply this food-combining hack to all of your meals and snacks throughout the day.
1. Yogurt and berries
While yogurt has natural sugars from lactose, it can also have a significant amount of protein and fat, depending on the type you choose.
“Yogurt is high in protein, and berries are high in fiber, both of which help to stabilize blood sugars,” says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD
While all berries are high in fiber, raspberries are among the highest, with eight grams per cup. That’s 29% of the daily value (DV) for fiber.
The trick is choosing a yogurt that’s lower in sugar, but high in protein. Greek yogurt and skyr often have higher levels of protein; just be sure to watch out for added sugar. (Pro tip: Choose plain instead of flavored varieties.) Also, check that your yogurt has live and active cultures for the added probiotic benefit for your gut health, Sauceda adds.
2. Tofu and vegetables
Protein-rich tofu scrambles up just like eggs and pairs perfectly with sauteed vegetables, a good source of fiber.
“Tofu and veggies have fiber, healthy fats, and plant-based proteins to help stabilize blood sugars and leave you full and satisfied,” says Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN.
What vegetables should you pair with your tofu scramble? Even though starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash have carbohydrates, they can work well as part of a balanced breakfast. Try half a cup of cubed sweet potatoes along with a handful of onions and mushrooms, sauteed in a small amount of oil. Serve that with scrambled tofu (or eggs) for a balanced and filling breakfast.
3. Sardines on sprouted toast
Sardines have gone viral, and we’re here for it: They’re loaded with valuable nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. Pair them with a sprouted grain toast, and your breakfast will be packed with protein, fiber, and key nutrients to help keep your blood sugar stable.
“Protein-rich sardines are also a good source of omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation, a key contributor to elevated blood sugar levels,” says registered dietitian Sharon Puello.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to prediabetes, and getting enough of this nutrient isn’t always easy to do. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and sardines are one of the highest, with 36% of your day’s amount in one cup.
Regular whole-grain toast has its benefits, but sprouted-grain toast may have a leg up when it comes to blood sugar control. “The sprouting process makes the minerals in the bread more available to the body, and adequate levels of minerals like zinc and magnesium are important to good glycemic control,” Puello explains.
4. Oatmeal with milk
A blood sugar-balancing breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. Plain oatmeal made with milk instead of water is a filling and fiber-rich way to start the day. Oats are rich in beta-glucans, a type of fiber that can lower post-meal glucose and insulin responses and improve insulin sensitivity, according to research.
“Adding milk to your oatmeal provides protein to help slow digestion and stabilize blood sugar,” says registered dietitian Steph Magill. If you want a plant-based option that’s lower in carbohydrates but still high in protein, try soy, pea, or flax milk.
5. Greek yogurt and peanut butter
Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, and pairing it with peanut butter or any other nut butter adds great flavor and healthy fats.
“This combination of nutrients is filling and takes longer to digest than a carb-heavy meal, keeping your blood sugar stable until your next meal or snack,” says Kathryn Piper, RD, LD.
If you drink coffee or tea with added sweeteners with your breakfast, this combination will help slow down the digestion of sugars from your coffee drink as well.
Adding peanut butter to your breakfast could also help with appetite control as the day goes on. Researchers found that adding peanut butter to breakfast not only lowered post-meal blood sugar, but also increased the secretion of satiety hormones in the gut.
6. Beans and avocado on toast
“Whole grain toast with smashed beans and avocado provides a protein and fiber-rich plant-based breakfast favorable for blood sugar,” says Amy Brownstein, MS, RD.
While beans are a high-carbohydrate food, most of their carbs come from fiber. And since fiber moves through the body undigested, it doesn’t impact blood sugar like other types of carbohydrates do.
A breakfast with one-half cup of cooked pinto beans, a third of an avocado, and one slice of whole wheat toast has 13 grams of fiber.
“Fiber slows blood sugar spikes and contributes to satiety, while protein helps stabilize blood sugar and keep you full until your next meal or snack,” Brownstein says.
Read next: The Best 8 Foods To Lower Blood Sugar Levels