a-family-eating breakfastIndividuals who are working to manage their diabetes understand how important it is to establish a fairly consistent routine.  In fact, most would agree that one of the words they hear mentioned frequently by their healthcare team, when discussing diabetes care, is “consistency” and being urged to be consistent with self-care.  The conversation may be about consistently taking their medications or insulin, consistently exercising three times a week, consistently sleeping 6-8 hours a night, following a consistent meal plan. Successful management of diabetes requires some degree of consistency in one’s daily routine.  

Busy lifestyles are the number one barrier that prevents establishing a consistent diabetes self-care routine. However, with some good problem-solving and advanced planning, people with even the most varied schedules can find small ways to start building consistency into their lives.  

Let’s examine a very common food issue: not eating breakfast.  Whether the reason is lack of time, lack of appetite, or that breakfast is just not a priority—it can be a challenge.  Much can be gained from consistently eating breakfast and breaking the overnight fast. A balanced breakfast helps to regulate blood glucose levels and helps to keep hunger under control.  I find that a lot of people who struggle with eating breakfast also have a difficult time remembering to take their morning medications. Establishing a planned time for food in the morning will also help address medication inconsistencies. Ease into a morning breakfast routine with some of the below suggestions for quick, low effort breakfast options.  

If you don’t have time to fix breakfast because the house is crazy with getting the kids and yourself out the door, and waking up earlier is not an option, then prepare a sandwich for breakfast the night before. You can make something like a non-perishable nut butter sandwich on a whole grain bread or something that can be placed in the microwave. Maybe consider buying prepared frozen breakfast sandwiches as a convenient option. 

Here are guidelines for purchasing a healthy choice: no more than 300 calories; no more than 30 grams of total carbohydrate; no more than 500 milligrams of sodium; and limit total fat to less than 9 grams (avoiding trans fats). Have healthy convenience items like yogurt and nut bars ready to go or cottage cheese and fruit—bag them up the night before. 

Also, it’s okay to drink a meal, as long as it is a nutritious drink that offers a balance of carbohydrate and protein.  Find a meal replacement drink that has at least 15 grams of protein and 25-30 grams of carbohydrate.  Use caution when considering a smoothie, as they usually contain a large amount of fruit and dairy, which may spike your blood glucose level.  Steel cut oatmeal can be made ahead; consider fixing a large batch of it on a day off from work.  Then, all you have to do is scoop and re-heat. 

Do you have no time at hometo eat?  Try arriving at work 10 minutes early and eating your breakfast there.  You probably arrive early anyway, so you’ll just be using that time in a different way. If you plan to eat breakfast away from home, then you’ll need to make sure you get a pill box to have your medications with you so that you can be consistent with the timing of your medication too.

Another reason for not eating breakfast for some people is lack of appetite in the mornings. If this is you, think about your quantity and timing of dinner and how much snacking you might be doing after dinner.  For some breakfast skippers, your body may be naturally leading you to eat more at dinner and throughout the evenings because of the lack of adequate nutrition during the day. This can cause excessive calorie consumption in the evenings; perhaps higher fasting blood glucose levels and decreased appetite in the mornings. 

Consciously avoid the mindless munchies in front of the television as a reward for a hard day’s work.  Watching television might be the reward, but food is not a reward.  Have one planned snack time after dinner, if you need a snack then.  Then goals—one snack, and be sure it’s planned. You’ll have to break the cycle that might be causing you to forgo breakfast.  

Maybe you can’t eat first thing in the morning, so set a goal to eat within 2 hours of waking up. Then, the goal is to work on eating at regular intervals throughout the day.  Should I eat 5-6 small meals or 3 meals is a common question. Whatever pattern is going to work for you most days is the one you want to work on establishing and being consistent with as a routine. If you’re only eating 2 meals a day now, it’s probably not realistic that you’ll jump to 5-6 small ones. 

My suggestion is to try not to go any longer than 4-5 hours without eating whether you choose to have smaller more frequent meals or 3 squares. Hopefully, this will decrease your appetite in the evenings and portion control will not be as big of an issue. Then, you can enjoy a healthy, morning meal. Even if you work a late shift and you are waking up in the evenings and preparing to work the night shift, your goal can still be to eat within 1-2 hours of waking up and to establish your personalized eating pattern from there.   

Try these ideas for consistently eating breakfast and see how you feel after giving it a good try.  Then, you can move on to the next behavior that you would like to see as a consistent, permanent part of your lifestyle to help with you diabetes management and overall health.