Getting Off to a Good Start with Breakfast: Part 2

In last week’s blog entry (“Getting Off to a Good Start with Breakfast: Part 1”),
we talked about the importance of eating breakfast and all the health benefits that result from fueling yourself with food at the start of the day.


So maybe now you’re convinced that eating breakfast is a good thing. But perhaps you’re scratching your head, thinking “What the heck do I eat for breakfast?”

I suspect that a fair number of you would admit to eating some “unusual” things for breakfast. If you recall, in last week’s post I mentioned a poll done by ABC News in 2005 that focused on breakfast. Participants were asked about typical breakfast choices. Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting items on the list:

  • Cold pizza
  • Spaghetti
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Eggs and steak
  • Cap’n Crunch (yes, adults eat this cereal too!)
  • Pork loin and cheese
  • Coffee
  • Beer
  • Liver and grits

What have you eaten for breakfast? The point of all this is that if you don’t eat breakfast because you dislike cereal, or are lactose intolerant, or just don’t know what to eat, no problem. There’s no rule that you must eat “breakfast” food for breakfast. (How many of you have eaten a bowl of cereal for supper on occasion?) On the other hand, it’s not such a great idea to grab, say, a candy bar, or wolf down a bowl of ice cream. Likewise, a hamburger and fries isn’t what dietitians have in mind either.

So what should you eat? Well, rules of good nutrition still apply. Try to aim for a breakfast that contains a balance of the three main nutrients that our bodies need for fuel and good health: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Make sure that your breakfast includes fiber, too. If you’re counting calories, carbs, and/or fat grams, a dietitian is the best person to help you decide how much you need. But a quick guide is for men to aim for 45–60 grams of carbohydrate at breakfast and women to aim for about 30–45 grams. You may need more or less depending on factors such as your weight, your activity level, and your blood glucose control.

That being said, and while there are no foods you can’t ever eat, you may want to save the bacon, sausage, and egg sandwiches with cheese for those special occasions. And if you eat cereal with milk or yogurt, go for nonfat or low-fat versions of those dairy products. If you’re lactose intolerant, try either lactose-free milk or plain soy or rice milk.

What about eggs? Eggs sure have gotten a bad rap over the years, but they are actually a highly nutritious food, containing high-quality protein, iron, and zinc. Yes, they also contain cholesterol, but it’s really the saturated and trans fat in foods, not the cholesterol in foods, that raises blood cholesterol levels. It’s OK to eat eggs; in fact, studies show that eating one or two eggs every day has little effect on cholesterol levels. So go ahead and enjoy eggs—just be sure to cook them either without fat or with a heart-healthy fat, such as canola oil or trans-fat-free margarine. And if you’re still concerned about the cholesterol in egg yolks, don’t forget you that can always eat egg whites or egg substitutes, too.

Here are some more good ideas for breakfast:

  • High-fiber cereal with fruit and a sprinkling of nuts
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Boiled egg, whole-grain toast, and fruit
  • Omelet made with low-fat cheese and vegetables
  • Breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs (or egg substitute) with chopped tomatoes, green pepper, and a little grated cheese, all rolled up into a tortilla
  • Instant breakfast drink
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Homemade bran muffins (whip up several and freeze for the week) with peanut butter and a glass of milk
  • Pizza—made with an English muffin or pita bread, spread with part-skim ricotta cheese, chopped tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • Whole-grain toaster waffle spread with almond butter and a sprinkling of raisins
  • Energy bar (with at least 10 grams of protein) and a glass of milk
  • Liver and grits (just kidding)

Bon appetit!

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  • Ephrenia

    Read labels. It amazes me how many diabetics I meet who don’t read labels!

    And thank goodness for certain products developed for the low carbers out here. Things I’v found include :
    Dannon Carb and Sugar Control Yogurt,
    Hood Calorie Countdown milk,
    any South Beach product is worth looking at,
    Kosy Shack by Request puddings,
    Sugar Free Jello and popsicles,
    Natures Own Wheat and Fiber bread,
    Glennys Soy Crisps,
    Breyers Carb Smart ice cream bars,
    Special K High Protein cereal,
    Water Solutions (peach is my favorite)

    It would be impossible for me to stay on a low carb diet without these foods and treats in addition to the meats fruits and veggies that are the bulk of what I eat.

    I’d love to hear about other products I could investigate!

  • gypseyjoe

    being a type 2 diabetic and living aloneIfind it hard to cook for myself.however I need nutrition plan tohelp me keep my colories and blood sugar under control

  • acampbell

    Hi gypseyjoe,

    It certainly can be challenging cooking for one person, although there are cookbooks and recipes geared for one or two people. Have you ever worked with a dietitian? A dietitian is a key member of your healthcare team. He or she can develop an eating plan, based on your lifestyle, that will help you lose or maintain your weight, and keep your blood glucose under control. If you don’t know of any dietitians, ask your doctor for a referral, or go to and click on “Find a nutrition professional” to locate a dietitian in your area. Most insurance companies cover at least one visit with a dietitian, too. Good luck!

  • sunsetsabunch

    I dont know if this is the place to post a question/statement but I have type 2 for several years and have taken meds including byetta which is the only meds for diabetes I take now. I quit taking my other meds because my bs drops so low that I cannot function…. the lowest I have tested and caught is 50… generally I know I am in trouble so I dont bother testing…. anyway my bs with meds was around 100-110 in the am and now without meds it is around 130. with meds my drop in bs was late am and pm and with no meds it is late am …
    around 7-8 am for breakfast I have a slice of toasted homemade bread with peanut butter and eat a banana and a glass of v8 juice. by 10:00 I start getting the shakes so I eat a piece of hard candy or a glocouse tablet…. alot of times it doesnt help….
    My endoconligist says they are going to put a monitor on me and have me talk with the dietican…. a couple years ago my wife and I took the diabeties management course at the diebetes center….
    anyway I was just wondered if other people have this problem….

  • acampbell

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for sharing. Your situation is a little unusual in that taking just Byetta typically doesn’t cause low blood glucose. I’m assuming that you’ll soon be wearing a continuous glucose monitor, which will likely be helpful, along with a session with the dietitian. You may need to change the dose of your Byetta or possibly switch to another medication altogether. I hope you’ll let us know how things turn out – and help others who may be in a similar situation, as well.

  • transitionhacker

    Hard boiled eggs save me every time! I may get tired of the same old same old, but it’s solid protein in the am that is also pretty portable when needed. (not that I’m ever late!<G>)

    I cook up 6-10 each Sunday and they are in a bowl in the ‘fridge ready to go. Takes away my excuse…

  • Pandy15

    Hey! So my brother is at risk of developing diabetes. I’m pretty clueless about the disease but I was hoping someone could fill me in. I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure he’s eating the right kinds of foods but first I have to find out what those right foods are. I’m mostly looking for something quick. And meats aren’t going to be my specialty because I’m a vegetarian and he isn’t. If someone could just give me an idea of what they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a person with diabetes. Please write back! Thank you!

  • acampbell

    Hi Pandy15,

    One resource that you may want to recommend to your brother is Diabetes Self-Management’s Meals & Menus for 1 or 2. There are many different meal and snack ideas and it’s a good way to get him started. You can purchase this book by going to the bookstore section of this website.

  • carolina v

    I am newely 31 year old diagnosed with diabetes type 2. Im not really sure what to eat when to eat it mostly have a hard time at breakfast. And have a hard time adjusting to the new way to eat ithought if i ever got something it would be 20 years from now. And just having a hard time with chossing food that will keep me filled threwout the day…..

  • acampbell

    Hi carolina v,

    Finding out that you have diabetes can be overwhelming. But fortunately, it’s managable! The “eating part” of having diabetes is often what is most confusing for people. Here are a few tips to get you started: Try to eat three meals each day. Include carbohydrate (starches, fruits, milk, etc.) in your meals but make them healthy — this means choosing whole grain breads and cereals, fresh fruits, and low-fat milk and yogurt. Skip the “junk” foods, like cookies, chips, and candy. Eat a lot of vegetables, and focus on lean meat, poultry, and seafood. Use heart-healthy fats (trans-fat-free margarine, olive or canola oil, nuts and seeds). Snack on raw veggies, fresh fruit, whole-grain crackers and low-fat popcorn to fill you up. Drink mostly water and skip fruit juices, energy drinks and regular sodas. I’d also really encourage you to see a dietitian who can help you with a meal plan that fits with your lifestyle and food choices. Your health plan will likely cover this and it’s time well spent. Also, read the nutrition articles and blogs on the Diabetes Self-Management Web site, which will help you, too!

  • Martha Robbins

    guess I will stop eating. I just got diagnosed with diabetes and I do not know what to or how to cook for myself and I do not like cereal and oatmeal is out of the question. I do not like foods all jumbled up together either. just need to know what veggies, breakfast foods to eat. I am So upset knowing what not to eat or eat. I use to love to cook and that is what I did for a living, and I am a big eater. The doctor did not give me a list of things to eat or not to eat. I have a heart diet to go by because I have a heart disease so I got a double whamey here, SO HELP ME, PLEASE!!!! Thanks Martha

  • acampbell

    Hi Martha,

    It’s completely understandable that you feel upset and overwhelmed when you’re diagnosed with diabetes. Luckily, you can eat most foods when you have diabetes. The trick is knowing how much and when. Some of this depends on whether you’re taking diabetes medication, as well. I strongly encourage you to set up an appointment with a dietitian. It’s hard to do this on your own and your doctor very likely isn’t going to be able to be of much help (because doctors usually don’t deal with diets and nutrition!). Your doctor should be able to refer you to a dietitian or you can contact your local hospital and ask for an appointment with one. This is well worth the time and your insurance company will likely cover the cost. Also, see if your local hospital offers diabetes classes because there’s more to learn about diabetes than just what to eat. In the meantime, read some of the meal-planning articles on this Web site. Finally, the foods that you’re likely eating for a heart-healthy diet should be OK for your diabetes, too. You just need the guidance of a dietitian to put everything together for you.

  • nana

    ive been using insulin for the past 5 yrs. it is harder to keep my readings low. i cout my carbs. i go bike riding atleast 3 – 4 miles a day. i am losing hope. i want to give up.

  • acampbell

    Hi nana,

    First, give yourself credit for all that you’re doing to help your diabetes. It’s a lot of work! Second, it may help you to realize that diabetes changes over time. It’s the nature of the condition, and not because of anything you did or didn’t do. So, it sounds like you need more insulin. Your body is no longer making as much as it did 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, for that matter. This is completely normal. What’s most important is that you focus on keeping your blood glucose and A1C readings in your target range. That likely will mean that you need to increase your insulin doses. Talk with your provider and/or diabetes educator about this.