Rise and shine! We’ve brainstormed a week’s worth of low-GI breakfast ideas for you. These will help you cut through your case of the Mondays — no matter what day it actually is — and keep you going all morning long.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how carb-containing foods affect our blood sugar levels. A GI value of 55 or less is considered low while a rating of 70 or above is high. (These values are relative to glucose, which has a GI value of 100.)
Our bodies break down carbohydrates like sugars and starches into glucose, and insulin passes this over to power our cells. We slowly metabolize low-GI foods and experience a gradual change to blood glucose levels. High-GI foods make our blood glucose levels spike and crash.
The GI value doesn’t necessarily relate to serving size, though. Watermelon has a high GI value of 80 — but you’re not going to eat a whole one for breakfast.
The glycemic load (GL) helps clear things up. A GL value factors in portion size when calculating a food’s relative effects on your blood glucose levels. A GL value of 1 to 10 is considered low and 20 or above is high. One serving of watermelon has a GL of 5 — much better!
Processed grains rank high on the glycemic index scale. Rolled or steel-cut oats fall into the low-GI category while sugary instant oatmeal can have a GI value of 80.
Similarly, white bread averages a GI of 75, making specialty grain bread a better option at 53.
Apples fall into the 35 to 40 GI range, with a GL rating of about 5 or 6. Oranges, too, have a low glycemic load of about 4.
Bananas, though a popular morning snack, have a GL value of about 11 to 15, depending on their ripeness, so they aren’t our first choice for a low-GI breakfast.
Low-GI fruits to pop into your grocery cart instead include berries, peaches, pears, and plums.
Milk and yogurt are great low-GI choices, with GI values in the 30 to 40 range — low-fat versions help promote a more balanced diet.
As for dairy alternatives, fill up your glass with soy milk which has a similar GI value to dairy milk, but be wary of rice milk and its GI value of 86.
Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are great choices for your low-GI breakfast bowl. As are peanuts (and their cousins in the tree nut family); these have a glycemic index value of 14 and a very modest glycemic load of 1.
When creating the perfect low-GI breakfast, MayoClinic advises that we keep in mind portion sizes and other dietary needs.
Also, keep in mind that some foods like meat and eggs aren’t assigned a GI value as they don’t contain carbohydrates. But, of course, it’s essential to include protein and other nutrients into your dishes for a fully-balanced diet.
Also, it’s okay to choose higher glycemic index options every now and then; just be sure to choose small quantities and fill up the rest of your plate with low-GI ingredients to round out the meal.
Unlike highly processed breakfast foods, morning meals that go easy on your blood glucose levels may take some meal prep time. But they’ll be so delish and nourishing that you might even start craving them for dinner, too!
Use rolled or steel-cut oats and low-fat milk for your oatmeal. Sprinkle in some nuts for protein, cinnamon for flavor, and a dash of pure, organic vanilla extract or honey for sweetness. Finish off with sliced peaches or pears.
Sauté some flavorful, non-starchy veggies like mushrooms, onions, spinach, and tomatoes into an egg scramble or omelet. Or, bundle them up in a corn tortilla or a mouthwatering portabello breakfast sandwich.
You don’t have to strike cereal from your diet. Mix up your own low-GI blend with bran, crushed nuts, sunflower seeds, and oats. Fill your bowl with either skim milk or low-fat yogurt and enjoy it with your favorite berries.
If you thought beans weren’t a breakfast choice, think again! Warm up a bowl of butter beans, black beans, lentils, or chickpeas. Top these with eggs, avocados and other non-starchy veggies, and a sprinkling of low-fat cheese. Add a dollop of tomato salsa — or this zesty grapefruit salsa — to start your day off right.
Here’s another super-adaptable breakfast idea we love. Begin with low-fat vanilla yogurt and mix in an apple and a healthy scoop of peanut butter. Or, try this green smoothie recipe containing cashew butter, coconut milk, apple, kale, and arugula; it’s spiced with cardamom and ginger.
Like many of us, the grapefruit can be a little sour first thing in the morning, but you can broil grapefruit halves to caramelize the fruit’s natural sugars. Then add a dusting of cinnamon — or chili flakes for a kick. Serve this with Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a handful of nuts.
There are plenty of yummy recipes out there to satisfy your low-GI cravings! We love these Greek yogurt muffins with apples and rolled oats. For something a little more savory, opt for this whole-wheat-flour zucchini bread with walnuts; it’s sweetened with a touch of honey.
For a no-fuss, on-the-go breakfast any day of the week, pop a Perfect Bar into your bag — our low-GI bars are made with whole food protein and over 20 superfoods to help you power through your day.