Diabetes-friendly breakfast: What to look for

What makes a good breakfast cereal? People who have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes need to be eating a good nutritious breakfast every day (read more about breakfast benefits here). But what do we need to look out for when choosing a breakfast cereal?


You’ve probably heard all about carbohydrates or “carbs”. Common questions around carbs include: “Will carbs make me fat?” “Are carbs bad for my diabetes?” “Should I cut out carbs?”… The answer to all of these is no. Poor carbs are always getting such a bad rap. They’re not the enemy!

sad carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are so important in the diet and are actually found in many foods other than just breads and cereals, for example, they’re also in fruit in the form of natural sugars, milk and dairy and even in some vegetables. So realistically if you tried to cut out carbs, you’d be cutting out so many food groups and would also be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals. Also, carbohydrates are the main fuel source for your brain. In other words, your brain’s favourite food is carbs!

In the body, carbs get broken down into small sugars that go into the blood. This is what causes blood sugar levels to rise. The body then uses these sugars for energy. Carbs are an important part of a healthy breakfast in type 1 diabetes as they break the overnight fast and help you achieve a steady blood sugar level when eaten in the right amounts with your insulin intake. Carbs are important in type 2 diabetes as they help with blood glucose control and ensure you don’t get “sugar spikes” throughout the day (for more click here).

The main thing to consider with carbs is PORTION CONTROL. Understanding how much carbs to eat is important in controlling your blood sugar levels. Regular glucose monitoring will help you with this. Read our fact sheet on blood glucose monitoring here. If you’re taking insulin, plan your carbohydrate intake around this – ask your doctor if you are unsure.  

Glycaemic index or “G.I.”

All carbs break down into small sugars or “glucose” when digested. But some carbs are different to others. Some can be digested very quickly while others are digested slowly. In diabetes, a SLOW release is better because it will only raise blood sugar levels a little bit. This is what low G.I. means. Just remember: Low rhymes with slow – low G.I. = slow release of sugar = good for diabetes! This is not always provided on the label, however high fibre products are generally low G.I. which you can use as a guide.


When choosing breads and cereals, wholegrain/wholemeal and oat based is the best option because it’s packed full of fibre! Fibre acts as bulk and so it stays in your stomach for longer and keeps you fuller for longer. Fibre also slows the absorption of glucose into the blood which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels.1 It’s also great for your gut and can help keep you regular.

For more information on carbohydrates, why not attend a Diabetes WA CarbSmart session (click here for more information).


  1. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/fibre_in_food

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