Clean Up Your Eating Habits to Get You Through the Holidays With Type 2 Diabetes

We’re rolling into Thanksgiving with some healthy habits in place, but we’re not done yet. This week’s focus? Breakfast.

Who’s ready for some Thanksgiving celebrating? You! After two weeks on this healthy eating plan, you’ve got a firm handle on what to put on your plate to keep your blood sugar under control. Those strategies will still work for the big holiday meals coming up—trust the tried-and-tested advice from the coaches leading you toward this goal all month.

It’s no secret, for instance, that holiday veggie dishes might all of a sudden be more buttery and calorie-filled than how you usually eat. But you shouldn’t say no to green bean casserole just because it’s rich. “It’s not like you’re eating these kinds of dishes all year,” says registered dietician and certified diabetes educator Justine Chan, RD, who crafted this plan for you specifically with Thanksgiving in sight. “In fact, some vitamins found in vegetables rely on fat to be absorbed in our bodies.”

If you’re still feeling a little unsure, consider this. “One indulgent meal won’t make or break it,” Chan says. “I’ll often ask a client to think about what they would tell a friend in the same scenario.” Permission to enjoy that scoop of creamed spinach, granted.

That’s not to say that holiday eating with type 2 diabetes won’t be a learning curve. It was for coach Shelby Kinnaird, too, before she became the food pro she is today, leading diabetes-friendly cooking classes. “Now I know that I don’t have to totally eliminate foods from my diet, but I do have to watch my portion sizes. And that I can afford to splurge a little if I know I’ll be getting back on track the next day,” she says.

Starting Off on the Right Fork

Remember, a day of healthy eating to keep your blood sugar stable isn’t all down to one marquee meal. If your new habits aren’t consistently being applied for your morning too, it’s time to commit to making breakfast a regular thing.

Eating something wholesome in the AM can sometimes be a struggle. Trying to get out the door on time is tough as it is, especially if you’ve got kids to wrangle. Grabbing whatever is easy and available (hello, granola bar) or just skipping breakfast altogether is one way to lighten the load. But you’ll get a better return on your investment in the long run by making time for a healthy morning meal.

Here’s why: Having breakfast keeps your blood sugar levels on a more even keel all day long, research shows. That can help you better manage type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk for complications like heart disease. “I’ve always been a breakfast eater, and I regret it if I don’t eat. I end up getting a headache and feeling cranky,” says Kinnaird.

Breakfast, too, might leave you less hungry throughout the day. As a result, you may take in fewer calories later on and find it easier to manage your weight. Making a healthy choice first thing in the morning can also set the stage for sticking with smart eating habits all day long. That’s always helpful, but especially so during the holidays. “Maintaining a routine this time of year is important, because our schedules get thrown off,” Chan says. “Having breakfast can set that routine up and maintain your tone for the day.”

If you’re not used to eating in the morning or are consistently coming up against breakfast derailers, here’s what you can do to get on the right track.

Week 3: Eat Breakfast Every Day

Step 1: Know the Healthy Breakfast Basics

If you have a smaller appetite or just can’t stomach the idea of ​​half a plateful of broccoli or green beans in the morning, the balanced plate strategy we discussed in Week 1 can be tougher to implement at breakfast. That’s OK! There’s another route to giving yourself enough quality fuel to make it to your midmorning snack or lunch without your blood sugar tanking.

To build a satisfying breakfast, just make sure that your meal contains at least two of the three usual components (carb, protein, non-starchy veggies) and is rich in fiber and protein. You might opt ​​for Greek yogurt (protein) with diced apples and granola (carbohydrates and fiber) or a hard-boiled egg (protein) with whole grain avocado toast (carbohydrates and fiber), for instance.

Step 2: Find Go-To Meals You Love

Leisurely weekend affairs aside, breakfast usually isn’t the time to experiment with elaborate new recipes. You’ll save time and mental energy by coming up with a list of easy, reliable options that you enjoy—like oatmeal with almond butter and blueberries or scrambled eggs and leftover veggies in a whole wheat tortilla, Chan recommends. And you’ll be less likely to skip out when you know you can pull something together fast. “Cottage cheese with fruit, nuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon is my quick go-to,” Kinnaird says.

Step 3: Think Outside the Breakfast Box

Not a fan of traditional breakfast foods? There’s no rule that says you need to eat oatmeal or yogurt in the morning. You just need to eat! Try this a grab-n-go Peaches and Cream Baked Oatmeal as an alternative to a bowl of oats. Kinnaird often prefers savory breakfasts to sweet ones, so she’ll often turn to lentils topped with a poached egg. (Cooking a big batch of lentils over the weekend is a huge time saver.) And when you do have more time, our Mediterranean Eggplant Shakshuka is a healthy and visually spectacular brunch option.

Other non-breakfast-y options abound, so think about what would whet your appetite in the AM: How about a whole wheat English muffin breakfast pizza topped with sauce, cheese, and sliced ​​olives? A baked sweet potato topped with sautéed chickpeas and spinach? Leftover roast chicken and roasted butternut squash from last night’s dinner?

Step 4: Make a Breakfast Plan

Breakfast tends to be light and quick, but it still shouldn’t be an afterthought. As you spend time over the weekend deciding on lunches and dinners, think too about what you’ll have for breakfast, Chan recommends.

If planning every breakfast feels too overwhelming, just come up with two or three options that you can repeat throughout the week. Figuring out the menu ahead of time gives you less to think about the morning of and gives you a heads up about any prep work you’ll need to tackle in advance (like cooking a batch of steel-cut oats or hard-boiling eggs) .

Step 5: Prep for Busy Days

Speaking of advance prep work: If making breakfast the morning of feels impossible, do it the ahead of time. Kinnaird likes to make a big egg casserole or pancakes made from eggs, cottage cheese, and oatmeal on a Saturday or Sunday for reheating throughout the week.

If that feels a little too ambitious, think about what you can do the night before to make your morning easier. Scoop yogurt and chopped fruit into a to-go container and top it with a handful of granola before heading out the door in the morning. Set out whole grain cereal in a bowl next an apple or a banana and just add milk when it’s time to eat. They’re small timesavers, but they’re enough to spell the difference between actually eating breakfast and not bothering.

Tips to Turn You Into a Breakfast Person

It can be tricky to get into a breakfast groove, but there are ways to set yourself up for success—less stress. Here’s what Chan and Kinnaird wear by in their own busy lives.

  • Make a breakfast chart. If coming up with meal ideas is a challenge, put together a chart for fast mixing-and-matching. “Make three food groups, like whole grains, healthy fat, and proteins and add foods to each group. When it’s time to eat, just pick one food from each category,” Chan recommends. Often she’ll do scrambled eggs in a whole wheat tortilla with avocado or cottage cheese with chopped fresh fruit and slivered almonds.

  • Get a handle on brunch. Splurgy weekend meals can fit into your eating plan, including carb-laden treats like pancakes or waffles. Just consider how those foods will affect your blood sugar and make adjustments to minimize the impact, like adding a shot of protein with a side of eggs or turkey bacon, Kinnaird says. Have a plan, too, for how you’ll get back on track with breakfast the next morning. “If Sunday is the day you have a fun brunch but you know Monday you’re going to have scrambled eggs, you can put those things on your calendar,” Chan says.

Now that you’ve got the tools to start your morning off on a nutritious note, enjoy the holiday with good cheer and a no-fear sensibility. And get ready for the final push next week, when we wrap up with one more strategy to help you cover all of your healthy-eating bases.

Marygrace Taylor

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