5 Delicious and Nutritious Lower Carbohydrate Breakfast Choices

Vegetable omlette
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Studies have shown that eating a larger, higher fat and higher protein breakfast may actually help to reduce blood sugars and weight. The likely reason is that these types of breakfast choices are lower in carbohydrate. Some people with diabetes experience higher blood sugars in the morning because the liver breaks down sugar overnight and the cells can also be a bit more resistant to insulin at this time.

Ingesting a higher carbohydrate breakfast can result in an increase in blood sugars. It's difficult for blood sugars to come down when you start the day off with them running high. Also, studies have shown that blood sugars tend to rise after breakfast meals, two times higher than after lunch. High post prandial (after meal) blood sugars can result in carbohydrate cravings because, instead of using sugar for fuel, it is remaining in the blood stream and the body thinks it needs to eat sugar (or carbohydrates) to fuel itself. Another study found that healthy adults who consumed a standard 50 g carbohydrate (for example, 3/4 cup cereal with 1 cup milk and a 1/2 banana) meal had their highest peak glucose (sugar) after breakfast, lowest after lunch and moderate after dinner.

Perhaps this is a good reason to try a lower carbohydrate breakfast. It's worth a shot. Ditch the bagels, cereal, muffins and pancakes.

 Many of my patients tell me that they often feel better - more energized and satisfied throughout the day, when they eat a lower carbohydrate, higher protein breakfast. Reducing your carbohydrate intake can also help you to lose weight. To trial it, test your blood sugar before breakfast and two hours after your meal and see which meals increase your blood sugars the least.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that your blood sugars should be 70-130 in the morning before you eat and <180 two hours after a meal. These numbers can be individualized based on age, activity level and other medical issues; ask your Certified Diabetes Educator if you are unsure. 

What is the Definition of a Low Carbohydrate Breakfast

There is no specific definition of a low carbohydrate breakfast because a low carbohydrate diet is a loose term. The general population takes in about 50% of their calories from carbohydrates. For someone eating a 2,000 calorie diet, this equals about 250 grams of carbohydrates per day. Break that up into meals and that would be about 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal with 2 thirty gram carbohydrate snacks. For someone with diabetes, this is likely to be too many carbohydrates. The American Diabetes Association says that there is no ideal amount of calories from carbohydrates that should be ingested by all people with diabetes. Instead, an individualized plan should be made.

 In my years as a clinician, I have found that most people do well eating about 45 g of carbohydrates per meal. However, there is no universal rule - some people can eat less, while some can eat more. For the purpose of this article, I am going to use 30 grams or less as a low carbohydrate breakfast choice. Below you will find some nutritious, simple and delicious recipes to try.

Power Yogurt Parfait

Ditch the granola and syrupy fruit, and use low-fat Greek yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit for a high protein, high fiber, satisfying breakfast. Top with chopped nuts for added crunch, flavor, protein and healthy fats. This breakfast is simple and satisfying.

  • 6 oz low-fat Greek yogurt (you can use fat free to save on calories and fat if you like it or low-fat cottage cheese)
  • 1 cup of blueberries frozen* or fresh (can substitute raspberries, strawberries or blackberrries)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped unsalted walnuts (can sub for almonds, pumpkin seeds or any other nut variety)

Directions: Just mix and enjoy! 

*Zapping frozen berries in the microwave creates a "syrupy" liquid that acts as a natural sweetener

Nutrition info: ~250 calories, 8 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 50 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 21 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 18 g protein 

Creamy Avocado Egg Salad Wrap

Avocado contains heart healthy satisfying fat and fiber - it is a great substitution for mayonnaise and taste delicious with eggs. 

  • *2 hard boiled eggs 
  • 1 celery stalk (chopped)
  • 1 scallion (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/3 avocado
  • 1 whole grain low-carb wrap

Directions: 

  1. Hard boil eggs (can be done the night before). Boil for 10 minutes on high and let sit. Rinse in cold water. 
  2. Chop ingredients and set aside. 
  3. Peel eggs and add avocado, and vegetables. 
  4. Layer wrap with spinach and top with egg mixture. 

Nutrition information: ~390 calories, 20 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 300 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 2 g sugar, 10 g fiber, 19 g protein 

*If you have a history of high cholesterol and want to reduce the saturated fat you can use egg whites. Keep egg yolks to no more than 4 per week. 

Pumpkin Quinoa Blueberry Bowl

Quinoa is a low glycemic index, high fiber, high protein grain. It is a great substitution for oatmeal and is naturally gluten free. I add 100% pure pumpkin for added vitamin A, fiber and flavor. Pumpkin is a nutrition powerhouse

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (read package instructions for cooking directions)  
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1/4 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh) 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or silvered almonds 

Instructions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions using water. Once quinoa is fluffy add almond milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and berries and stir in ground flaxseed. Top with silvered almonds or chopped walnuts. 

Nutrition information: ~355 calories, 22 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 80 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 10 g protein

Grilled Peanut Butter and Strawberry Sandwich

Instead of grilled cheese make a grilled peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread. The peanut butter gets nice and gooey too which makes it delicious. Chop up a few strawberries for added fiber and sweetness. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 whole grain bread sandwich thin (make sure it has at least 3 g of fiber)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all natural peanut butter 
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Instructions: 

  1. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray (I like to use organic coconut oil spray). If you'd prefer not to use cooking spray, grease pan lightly with organic butter or pure coconut oil and wipe clean with a paper towel (soaking up excess fat). Place peanut butter and strawberries between two slices of bread on grill on each side until lightly browned. 

Nutrition Info: ~ 290 calories, 12 g fat, .5 g saturated fat, 380 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 8 g sugar, 8.5 g fiber, 10 g protein 

*If you don't have time to grill the sandwich simply eat at room temperature. 

Roasted Vegetable Egg Omelet

You can throw anything into an omelet. Using leftover vegetables from the night before is a great way to increase your nutrition and prevent spoilage. Roasted vegetables add a nice crunch and sweetness to an omelet. They also add volume which will help to keep you full. 

  • 1 cup of roasted vegetables (left over eggplant, peppers, and onions, chopped Brussel sprouts or asparagus - or whatever you have)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 cup of melon or berries

Instructions: 

  1. Heat non-stick pan on medium heat. 
  2. Coat pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil and wipe clean with a paper towel (you need just enough fat so the eggs do not stick)
  3. Pour egg whites. 
  4. Gently push one edge of the egg into the center of the pan, while tilting the pan to allow the still liquid egg to flow in underneath. Repeat with the other edges, until there's no liquid left.
  5. Flip the egg whites and cook until there is no uncooked egg left.
  6. Add roasted vegetables and cheese, then lift one edge of the egg and fold it across and over, so that the edges line up. Cook until it is cooked through, it should not be runny. You can flip it if desired. 
  7. Serve with fresh fruit. 

Nutrition info: ~250 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 120 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 14 g sugar, 7 g fiber, 16 g protein 

For more information on low carb breakfast ideas:

Resources

Position of the American Dietetic Association. Weight Management. file:///C:/Users/Domenic/Downloads/WeightManagement%20(2).pdf

Lausch, Marnie. On the Cutting Edge Diabetes Care and Education. Carbohydrate, Insulin Pumps, and Continuous Glucose Monitoring Technology and Special Features to Manage Glycemia. 2014;V35;2,pp 7-11. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office, December 2010. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/dietary_guidelines_for_americans/PolicyDoc.pdf

Calorie Count.

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