7 Great Breakfast Salads for People with Diabetes

I’m a female with type 1 diabetes, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get slightly panicky when I read about a study that suggests men who skip breakfast are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Surely that’s a good indicator of the importance of breakfast for everyone, not just men.  And I almost always skip breakfast, unless you count coffee.

In the study, which appears in the current issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed 29,000 men for 16 years, tracking their diets, exercise, disease rates and other markers of health. Some 2,000 of the men who were followed developed type 2 diabetes during the study. The men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who did not. The heightened risk remained even after the researchers accounted for body mass index and the quality of the subjects’ breakfasts.

I wasn’t always a breakfast-skipper. I grew up eating cereal for breakfast. On occasion my dad made eggs or French toast. One of my grandmothers always served greasy, flavorless potato latkes for breakfast. The other one served cinnamon toast (best thing ever). To sum it up, breakfast was all about sugar and carbs. It was a meal to look forward to (except for the potato latkes). But aside from during my pregnancies, I cannot remember waking up hungry in my adult life. Coffee takes me to 11:00 a.m. with ease.  I simply do not think about food until at least four hours after I wake up.

The other problem I have with breakfast is that I’m still not quite over the cereal thing. I don’t mind that I’ve had to give up cereal with sugar, but I feel like if I’m willing to consume something as bland as sugarless bran flakes, just to get that cereal-for-breakfast satisfaction, then I should be able to do so without a bolus. I know no one said diabetes was fair, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain. Truth be told, cereal for me was never just a breakfast food. I could easily eat it for all three meals, snacks, and dessert. You know Madonna’s song Material Girl, right? My husband and I used to sing Cereal Girl to its tune.

These days, though, the closest thing I get to eating cereal is throwing a handful of frozen natural almonds in a bowl and spilling a tiny bit of milk onto them. But instead of feeling sorry for myself and dwelling on all of the things I can’t eat, I’m going to be cheerful about all the good food options out there, like salad.  Just as cereal doesn’t have to be only for breakfast, salad doesn’t have to be only for lunch and dinner.  Though I may not eat it as the sun comes up, salad if often my first food of the day.  Think out of [cereal] box and start the day off with a salad.

7 Great Breakfast Salads:

1. Modern Meditteranean Salad

Traditionally the Mediterranean salad is made of finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, mint and parsley – and the finer the chopping, the better the salad.  This updated version is colorful and wonderfully crunchy, thanks to the radishes and carrots.  Feel free to add other vegetables or omit any, according to your taste.

2.Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Tabbouleh is a popular Middle Eastern dish often served as an appetizer along with hummus, eggplant, and spicy salads.  Traditionally tabbouleh is prepared with bulgur, which is made from wheat.  This recipe substitutes quinoa for bulgur, so it’s much friendlier to blood sugar.  It’s also gluten-free.  The secret to this salad is finely chopping the ingredients without turning it in to paste – the finer the chopping the better.

3. Walnut Cilantro Salad

Not everyone likes cilantro, but for those who do, here is a healthy, nutrient-dense salad that works well as a light side dish on a summer day.  The flavors are strong and distinct, yet refreshing.  Walnuts are rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids.  And some studies have shown cilantro is helpful in reducing blood sugar levels. If you enjoy the taste of mixed fresh herbs, this salad will win you over.

4. Stuffed Portabella Salad With Poached Egg

This recipe hits on so many levels– gooey cheese, rich egg yolk and meaty mushroom. Keep it vegetarian by omitting the bacon.  It’s a little bit more work than just throwing some vegetables into a bowl and tossing them with salad dressing, but it’s worth the time.  Given all of the filling ingredients, this salad is likely to keep you full until dinnertime, at least.

5. Refreshing Cucumber Salad

The cucumber’s flesh is comprised primarily of water, so it has very few calories, and helps keep you hydrated.  Its peel is an excellent source of fiber.  This salad is great at any time of the day, but it makes an especially good breakfast dish.  You can eat it alone, as a side dish to an omelet, or crumble some feta cheese on top.

6. Eggplant Parmesean Salad

Eggplant Parmesan salad has the elements and flavors of a classic Eggplant Parmesan dish, but without the carb.  And unlike Eggplant Parmesean, it’s a light dish so it won’t weigh you down first thing in the morning.  It’s also much quicker and easier to prepare.  Eating the ingredients fresh without the deep frying makes the meal so much healthier.

7. A Lighter Tuna Salad

Yes, you can eat tuna for breakfast!  Most of us are used to eating tuna with mayonnaise, but since mayo makes it heavy, we’ve found an alternative that makes it more breakfast friendly.  This tuna salad uses a traditional vinaigrette dressing in place of mayo.  It takes three minutes to prepare and tastes great.

Jessica Apple is co-founder and editor-in-chief of ASweetLife.  She writes the blog The Natural Diabetic.  

Comments (5)

  1. Caitlin at

    These look totally amazing.  I’m definitely going to try them, though I’m not diabetic.  Lately I’ve been making a breakfast salad with quinoa, walnuts, goat cheese, spinach, and a little squirt of agave nectar.  Seriously good stuff.  

  2. Deborah at

    Great ideas. I love salad for breakfast, especially in summer. Especially when the radishes, cukes, etc are garden-fresh. Throw in some feta or cottage cheese & it’s all good.
    My teen & I agree on tuna or salmon salad for breakfast; can get me through a long morning. 

  3. Ariela at

    Arugala salad for breakfast with some fresh white cheese also delicious.

  4. Michelle S at

    And of course you can always drink your greens for breakfast!  http://greenmonstermovement.com/?page_id=39

    I know a lot of these recipes include fruit but i find that when combined with greens and a protein powder (i use VEGA) that i really don’t need more than a unit or so of insulin… half what I would have with a small breakfast that was starch based like oatmeal.  

    I like the quinoa salad as a morning salad because of all the protein.  You could also have hot quinoa instead of oatmeal.  

  5. Thanks Jessica, I’ll look at these. Eating a lot of carbs for breakfast never seems like a good idea, yet it seems to be a default behavior for me.

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