Carb Counting at Breakfast: Start Your Day Off Right
You already know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. To help you get off on the right foot, we’ve put together some tips for how to make the most of this meal when you’re counting carbs.
This article will give you the tools for how to count carbs at breakfast, as well as ideas for what would be a good, balanced breakfast. We’ll also show you that you don’t have to eat the same breakfast every day—you can switch it up when you’re carb counting.
Rest assured, your registered dietitian (RD), certified diabetes educator, and other members of your diabetes team will help you determine the amount of carbs you should eat at breakfast. This number will be based on how active you and whether you take insulin or other diabetes medications.
What Should You Eat for Breakfast?
When you sit down for breakfast, you’ll have an allocated amount of carbs that you’ve already established with your diabetes team. But in general, the American Diabetes Association recommends starting with 45 to 60 grams of carbs for each meal.1 You may need a little more or a little less carbohydrates at every meal. This will depend on various factors such as your pre-prandial (before eating) and postprandial (after eating) blood glucose level.
The following is a list of common breakfast foods. These foods have about 15 grams of carbohydrate per serving:
- 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal
- 1 small piece of fruit
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
To help balance out your breakfast, it may help to include a protein or fat to keep you full until your next meal. (This is actually an important thing to keep in mind for all of your meals.) Eating balanced meals is important because it can help you achieve goal blood glucose levels, feel your best, and lower your risk of diabetes complications such as heart disease.
Here is an example of a balanced breakfast you can eat when carb counting. Say you have 45 carbs for breakfast:
- 1 cup of strawberries (15 grams of carbohydrate)
- 2 slices of whole grain bread (30 grams of carbohydrate)
- 1 tsp of butter (as your fat; 0 grams of carbohydrate)
- 2 egg whites (as your protein; 0 grams of carbohydrate)
For more breakfast ideas, we have an entire section dedicated to dozens of delicious breakfast recipes—all with complete nutrition information.
Carb Counting Tips for Breakfast
In addition to eating a balanced breakfast and knowing how many carbs you can eat at breakfast, there are some other important carb counting tips to keep in mind.
- Keep a food log. A food log helps you keep track of your carbs (as well as serving sizes, and calories) at each meal—including breakfast—and your blood glucose levels. Keeping track of exactly what you eat and how your meals make you feel—for example, do you feel energetic or do you crash after your meals?—can help you make better decisions when meal time comes around. It also helps to have this information when meeting with an RD so they can better individualize your meal plan. Check out our sample food log to help you stay on track.
- Read food labels for breakfast foods. Pay close attention to the serving size, total carbohydrate, and fiber. The higher fiber foods you choose, the more it will help keep you full longer and possibly help keep your after meal blood glucose levels from rising. For help on how to read food labels, see our article about reading food labels.
- Estimate the amount of carbs for foods without a label. It’s easy to estimate how many carbs are in breakfast foods when you have the right tools at hand. To help you do this, you can use an online tool such as CalorieKing, or you can buy a carbohydrate reference book such as the ADA’s Complete Guide to Carb Counting.
The Key to Starting Off Your Day Right
Breakfast is the key to kick-starting your day. And luckily, there are plenty of breakfast options to choose from—just be sure to keep track of your carbs.