Diabetes Champion: Alia Rainbird
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Cereal can be a great way to start the day; just be careful which one you choose
Your mother was right: A smart start to the day includes a nutritious breakfast. This is true for everyone, but it’s especially important for people with diabetes, says Bozica Popovic, pharmacy manager at Loblaw’s Princess Street store in Kingston, Ont. “A person with diabetes who misses breakfast can end up with higher blood glucose as the morning progresses. The levels can remain that way all day, and people who are using insulin may require a higher dose. On the other hand, those on oral medications who miss breakfast can experience dangerously low blood glucose levels,” explains Ms. Popovic, a certified diabetes educator.
Lingering over a leisurely breakfast sounds like a lovely treat, but it isn’t a weekday option for most of us. Rather, we’re often busy and time-crunched, and looking for breakfast ideas that are quick and easy. Few breakfast foods are speedier to fix than a bowl of cereal, but have you looked at your supermarket’s cereal aisle lately? Most offer a bewildering range of products.
When it comes to choosing a nutritious breakfast in a box, Ms. Popovic’s top pick is unsweetened cereal that contains complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and at least five grams of fibre per serving. Why unsweetened? “You can always sweeten it to taste,” she explains, “but you can’t take away sweetener that has already been added.”
It’s always a good idea to check the labels on any packaged food you buy, but in the cereal aisle – with its wealth of choice – reading nutrition labels is a must-do. Look for the words “whole grain” (e.g., whole oats) on cereal labels, and opt for products where whole grains appear near the top of the ingredient list. Beware of products masquerading as whole grain – red flags include the words “cracked wheat” or “multi-grain” – as they’re less nutritious than whole-grain cereals.
Shannon Richter is a registered dietitian at Loblaw’s Midland Avenue and Princess Street stores in Kingston, Ont., who conducts store tours for people with conditions such as diabetes. During the tours, she shows her customers how to read labels, what to look for, and other tips on choosing healthful products. In the cereal aisle, Ms. Richter guides customers with diabetes toward products that are low on the glycemic index (GI), such as oatmeal and some bran-based cereals. By contrast, high-GI cereals include cornflakes and crisped rice cereal. Low-GI foods raise blood glucose levels less than high-GI foods, and they do so more slowly.
As well as watching for sweetened cereals, it’s best to avoid those with added dried fruit. “We advise limiting the amount of dried fruit you eat if you have diabetes,” says Richter, “as it’s very high in carbohydrate.” Better to add a little fresh fruit if you want some natural sweetness in your cereal, she suggests.
One of the packaged cereals that contains the most dried fruit is granola, a product that may seem a nutritious choice, but one that Ms. Richter advises people with diabetes to avoid. “Granola is very dense and concentrated,” she explains. “If you read the label, you’ll find the suggested serving size is small and likely won’t satisfy you like a larger bowl of less dense cereal.” But, Ms. Richter concedes, granola can be a good topping to sprinkle sparingly on a bowl of yogurt.
For hearty and healthy breakfast recipes, visit www.diabetes.ca
Reprinted with permission from Diabetes Dialogue, Autumn 2012.
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