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Trying to manage diabetes and enjoy a typical fast food breakfast can be tricky. And you’re not alone—10% of the U.S. population has diabetes. Sugar and carbs are abundant in classic breakfast foods like cereal, bagels, muffins, and pancakes. However, you can still enjoy fast food breakfasts if you limit your carb intake to around 30 grams (g) per day and eat those carbs with protein to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes. You may have more tasty choices than you think!
McDonald’s is a classic stop for a quick breakfast and their Sausage Burrito is a smart option for people with diabetes. It’s relatively low in calories with only 310, it hits the low-carb mark with 26 g, and it has 12 g of protein to slow carb digestion and balance blood sugar levels. Your second best bet is one of their McMuffins. They all have 30 g of carbs or less and a generous amount of protein from the egg and meat combinations.
Wraps are where it’s at when you’re making a diabetes-friendly breakfast choice. The Egg and Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap at Dunkin Donuts ranks high with only 240 calories, 15 g of carbohydrates, and 11 g of protein. Dunkin even lets you choose from eggs or egg whites and bacon, ham, sausage, or turkey sausage. Mixing and matching your egg and meat choices impacts how much fat your wrap contains. If you can’t resist a donut, stick with a simple Old-Fashioned Donut that hits the recommended maximum of 30 carbs.
A basic Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit offers a good balance with 388 calories, 28 g of carbs, and 12 g of protein. Most of the breakfast sandwiches on the Burger King menu hover around 30 g of carbs and more than 10 g of protein, so most options are a fine choice. If you want a Croissan’wich to mix things up, you’ll only increase the carb count by around 2 g. Do keep an eye on the calories, though. Burger King lets you pile on a lot of extras, which makes the calories add up quickly.
You may not immediately think of Subway as a hot fast-food breakfast spot, but they have tasty flatbreads that offer the right nutrition for people with diabetes. Just be sure to ask for the 3-inch flatbread, instead of the 6-inch, to keep your carbs under 30 g. The 3-inch basic flatbread with egg and cheese only has 220 calories, 22 g of carbs, and 9 g of protein. You can also customize your sandwich if you prefer egg whites, Monterey Jack, or American cheese.
Not a hot breakfast person? The Smoothie King is a strong go-to when you want a smoothie that fits diabetes-friendly breakfast guidelines. The Original High-Protein Banana Smoothie has a solid balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. The 20-ounce serving has 340 calories, 35 g of carbs, and 27 g of protein. This smoothie is very high in protein, which keeps you full longer and reduces blood sugar spikes. However, they use whey protein and it may not be ideal for people who are lactose-intolerant.
If you can’t wait until lunchtime for your Chick-Fil-A fix, head there for a low-carb breakfast that’s great for people with diabetes. The Hash Brown Scramble Bowl with Nuggets gives you all the nugget-y goodness with 470 calories, 19 g of carbs, and 29 g of protein. The best thing about Chick-Fil-A is that you can easily dial down the carbs. Opting for grilled chicken or sausage reduces it to 15 g of carbs. If you remove the hash browns you can lower your carb intake to just 1 gram.
The Wendy’s breakfast menu features two types of breakfast sandwiches: biscuits and croissants. You can also choose from a variety of meats. The bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit is the best bet for a diabetes-conscious diet. It’s the lowest in calories with 420, it contains 28 g of carbs, and it has 16 g of protein. The sausage, egg, and cheese option is a close second with similar nutrition, but 200 more calories. If the croissant sounds tastier, you’ll increase your carbs a bit to 34 g.
If you’re tempted to grab a Starbucks pastry, the Petite Vanilla Bean Scone only has 120 calories, 18 g of carbs, and 2 g of protein. Pair that with black coffee, sugar-free sweetener, and non-fat milk for a well-rounded Starbucks breakfast. If sweets aren’t your thing, other good options are the butter croissant and ham and cheese croissant. The butter croissant has 27 carbs and 5 g of protein, while ham and cheese has 28 g of carbs and 24 g of protein. Pro-tip: Want a fancier Starbucks drink? Ask for the non-fat “skinny” version.
It’s going to be tough to pass up Panera’s breakfast sandwiches, but their Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait is the healthiest choice for people with diabetes. It’s not just plain ol’ Greek yogurt. It’s topped with honey, maple butter pecan granola with whole grain oats, fresh strawberries, and blueberries. All those good ingredients have 240 calories, 27 g of carbs, and 15 g of protein. As a bonus, it supports your heart health by providing 2 g of fiber from the oats and berries.
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