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Brunch has been a popular weekend event since it was first introduced, some historians believe, in 1890s Britain. Originally, this meal was meant to replace the traditional heavy Sunday luncheon by combining breakfast and lunch with a relaxing social time and a lighter meal. Nowadays, though, brunch can end up being a feast that makes other meals look like a snack. But with a little know-how, you can enjoy this pastime with your family and friends without dealing with possible challenges afterwards

Brunch around the world

While this mid-morning meal varies as you travel the globe, eggs appear to be a favourite whether it is omelettes in North America, a tomato-based shakshuka (poached eggs) in the Middle East, or tapsilog (a fried egg plus other dishes such as fried rice) from the Philippines. In the Caribbean, ackee (a fruit that looks like scrambled eggs) and saltfish are often served with fried dumplings. Dumplings are also a big part of Chinese dim sum, which features steamed and fried dough with savoury or sweet fillings. In other parts of Asia, soups and curries may be on the menu at any meal of the day, including breakfast.

What is on your menu?

Because brunch is a combination of two meals, the temptation is to eat as much in one sitting as you would normally eat in two meals, says Joanne Lewis, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. “[This] can be manageable for some people with diabetes,” she says, “especially if they are able to dose insulin according to their carb intake."

But eating a big meal rather than smaller amounts of food throughout the day does not give your body time to digest and handle the sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates before you eat the next meal.

A big concern, according to Lewis, is that “the traditional offerings at brunch are generally carb-heavy. There can be breads, pastries, waffles, pancakes, and/or potatoes on the menu, which may [have] a high glycemic index [and which could raise your blood sugar very quickly]. In addition to the carbs, there are often high-sodium and high-saturated-fat items, such as sausage and bacon.”

The good news? There are many healthier alternatives. You can keep carb counts down by filling up on low-carb vegetables, such as salads and cooked dishes that include veggies, and choosing smaller portions of high-carb veggies. Eating more protein and whole grains will also help you stay within your carbohydrate budget (the amount of carbs your body can handle at one time in order to keep your blood sugar at target two hours after you eat).

Other brunch tips

Brunch can vary from mid- to late morning. If you will be eating closer to noon, Lewis suggests having a light meal when you wake up to prevent low blood sugar, especially if you are taking oral diabetes medications or a fixed dose of insulin in the morning (such as a premixed insulin). But even if you are not taking any medication for diabetes, being too hungry can cause you to overeat once you do sit down for brunch.

To avoid mindless eating or the temptation to eat more, put your knife and fork on the plate and push it away from you, to signify to yourself and others that you have finished eating.

Once brunch is over, Lewis suggests taking a walk, which can help to reduce post-meal blood sugar readings.

Did you know?

Carbohydrate counting is a flexible way to plan your meals. To learn more, visit Basic Carbohydrate Counting for Diabetes Management.


These dishes are perfect for an informal family brunch or a more formal get-together.

Mexican Baked Eggs on Black Beans

This recipe, courtesy of and featured on Diabetes Canada, is a favourite of brunch diners at many eateries—but making it at home allows you to control the amount of various ingredients such as sodium. The dish can also be prepared in a two-quart (2.25 L) casserole dish.

• 1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil

• ¾ cup (175 mL) minced onion

• 1 tsp (5 mL) chili powder

• ½ tsp (2 mL) ground cumin

• ½ tsp (2 mL) crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

• 1 can (541 mL/19 oz.) low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

• 1 can (541 mL/19 oz.) low-sodium diced tomatoes

• 6 eggs

• ¼ cup (50 mL) grated cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes; stir for 2 minutes. If you like it extra spicy, add more red pepper flakes to taste.

Add black beans and tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-30 minutes, until thickened to desired texture. While mixture cooks, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Lightly brush 6 ramekins (placed on a baking sheet) with cooking oil spray or a little canola oil. Mash bean mixture well and evenly divide among the dishes. Make a shallow well in the middle of each one.

Carefully crack 1 egg on top of each well. Sprinkle lightly with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until egg is cooked to desired doneness.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving: 19 g carbohydrate, 12 g protein, 9 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 5 g fibre, 300 mg sodium, 190 calories

Crustless Apple & Roasted Fennel Quiche

Here is another offering courtesy of and featured on Diabetes Canada. This crustless quiche saves on carbohydrates, which allows you to choose other selections and still stay within your carbohydrate budget. Fennel offers a sweet and mellow flavour that complements the apples beautifully.

• 3 cups (750 mL) diced fresh fennel (use both the white and green stalks)

• 2 tbsp (30 mL) canola oil, divided, plus extra to oil the quiche pan

• ¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground pepper, divided

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 3 eggs

• 6 egg whites

• 1 cup (250 mL) skim milk

• 1 apple, unpeeled, coarsely grated

• ½ cup (125 mL) grated low-fat Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss fennel in 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the canola oil and season with ⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) of canola oil. Sauté onion for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg whites. Add milk and continue to whisk.

Add remaining ⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) pepper. Add roasted fennel, onions, grated apple, and cheese to eggs; stir to combine. Transfer to an oiled 9-in. (22 cm) round deep-dish pie pan or quiche pan, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

Makes 4 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving: 20 g carbohydrate, 16 g protein, 12 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 4 g fibre, 170 mg sodium, 250 calories

African Peanut Soup

This recipe offers lots of flavour and nutrition using peanut butter in a different way. It is from Nourish, Whole Food Recipes (Whitecap) by Nettie Cronish and Cara Rosenbloom, RD.

• 1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

• 1½ tbsp (22 mL) fresh ginger, grated

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 red onion, diced

• 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

• 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin

• ¼ tsp (1 mL) crushed red pepper flakes

• 1 can (156 mL/5.5 oz.) tomato paste

• ½ cup (125 mL) natural chunky peanut butter

• 5 cups (1.25 L) no-added-salt vegetable broth

• 4 cups (1 L) spinach, cut into strips

• ¼ cup (50 mL) fresh cilantro, chopped

• ½ cup (125 mL) unsalted roasted peanuts

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté ginger and garlic for 1-2 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Add onion and sweet potato; sauté for about 5 minutes, or until onion is softened. Stir in cumin and red pepper flakes.

Add tomato paste and peanut butter, and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Add vegetable broth and stir to dissolve the thick paste-peanut butter mixture.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft. Once soft, mash about half the sweet potatoes to help thicken the soup. Add spinach and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Serve garnished with cilantro and peanuts.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional breakdown per 1⅓ cup (325 mL) serving: 26 g carbohydrate, 11 g protein, 19 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 6 g fibre, 141 mg sodium, 305 calories

This updated article originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue.

Author: Rosie Schwartz, RD, FDC

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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