We are used to hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we often eat as soon as we get up in the morning simply as a matter of habit and convenience. Our tutor on the X-Pert pre-diabetes course asked us to consider if that was still right for us. We might wake up with high levels of glucose in our blood already so routinely getting up and then eating carb-dense bread, sugary commercial breakfast cereals, porridge or fruit smoothies (especially those made with exotic fruits such as bananas, mango or pineapple) might overload us with energy that we simply don’t need at that point and we can’t adequately process.
To be honest, I rarely feel hungry when I first wake up. Simply postponing my first meal of the day until I was actually hungry made perfect sense. Now, most days, my breakfast starts with plain Greek yoghurt, blueberries and milled flax seeds because that’s what I like, it’s easy and I feel really good on it. It’s nice to be able to ring the changes though, especially at the weekend, so I set about looking at the alternatives that would keep the carbs down but also deliver the protein and flavour hit I need.
My daily favourite: 100g plain Greek yoghurt, 5g ground flaxseed, 80g blueberries, strawberries or raspberries: I weigh it out in the same bowl so I don’t overdo the portion size. 100g of Greek yoghurt delivers protein, calcium and healthy fats that make me feel full and just 5g of carbohydrate, blueberries and raspberries add about 7g but give flavour and vitamin C, the milled flaxseed is high in omega 3. Total: 13g of carbohydrate and 224 calories.
Adding a chopped nut topping like almonds (25g of almonds = 160 calories and 2g carbs) can boost the protein content without adding a big carb spike but watch out for the calories.
It’s best to avoid commercial breakfast cereals even though they are are a very popular cold breakfast food option. Just read the nutrition information labels on the packet and you’ll see how high the carb injection you get from these will be. They mostly quote a 25 to 30g serving amount to demonstrate carb levels (on average about 17g of carbs) but that’s barely a third of bowl full and most people will be used to eating about 100g which comes in at 58g plus the carbs in milk.
If you do eat a small portion of cereal, muesli or porridge, at least consider switching to Arla lacto-free semi-skimmed milk. It comes in at half the carbs of e.g. Cravendale semi-skimmed i.e. 2.7g/100ml for Arla lacto-free compared 4.8/100ml. The lactose sugar has been removed so you get a good flavour and consistency but less carbohydrate and calories. I only use that now for tea, coffee etc.
Hot to trot breakfasts
Hot breakfasts that include bacon, eggs or fish are all allowable on a low carb diet because they barely contain any. I like them for a weekend treat when I have time to make it and it’s also a good brunch choice if you eat out. No toast or hash browns though!
So, for example, you could have 100g bacon and an egg with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms which is roughly 4.5g of carbohydrate and about 350 calories. Yum!
You can eat sausages of course but just remember that they will usually contain some carbohydrate in the form of breadcrumbs or rusk.
Smoked haddock, kippers, omelettes, soft boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, Turkish eggs (cooked with spicy tomato sauce and a little yoghurt) are all great choices. High in protein, they keep hunger at bay and are full of nutrition. Eggs used to be branded a bit of a diet bad boy but most food experts agree now that the dietary cholesterol they provide is actually good for you.
On busy workdays when you can’t be faffed to cook bacon and eggs, a hard-boiled egg and a slice of ham make a good easy-to-pack breakfast or morning snack on the go.
I must say that I love good quality bread and I do miss it in my new life. On busy workdays, I may have to eat bread in a lunch-time sandwich and that’s OK but I then make ensure it counts as my entire carb allowance for the day and I don’t eat any more at all.
As a compromise, I make sure I only eat brown, seeded bread these days – it’s a slightly more slow-release hit of carbohydrate into your blood than with highly processed white bread.
I keep a loaf of Sainsbury’s multi-seed bread in the freezer and just toast one slice at a time if I want to make soldiers for my boiled eggs or to eat with some no-sugar peanut butter, cheese spread or sautéed mushrooms with feta – no jam, marmalade, honey or Nutella allowed! One slice is 14g of carbs and that fits in well with my aim to stay under roughly 40g/day.
I also keep a pack of Sainsbury’s seeded whole-wheat flatbreads in the freezer. Again, I toast just one at a time (15.9g/flatbread) with a variety of fillings. I love cream cheese, bacon, tomato and fresh coriander like the ones you can get in the Dishoom restaurant chain. Combos of hummus, salad, cheese such as feta, avocado and chicken are all tasty alternatives.
I hope it goes without saying that waffles, croissants and Danish pastries are all on the avoid list. Plain flour contains a whopping great 70g of carbohydrate per 100g in weight, definitely enough to send your blood glucose skyrocketing.
Drinking tea and coffee is just fine, just watch the amount of milk you consume in a day if you like lattes. Fruit smoothies and fruit juices are to be avoided – just 100ml of orange juice contains 9.4g of carbohydrate, pressed coconut water is about 4.7g/100ml. If in doubt, read the label!
I hope these tips have been useful. Happy feasting!
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NB: Always consult an appropriately qualified health professional before adopting a dramatic lifestyle change – we’re all different, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.