Eat breakfast like a king

Donna van Zyl tells us why breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast has often been described as the most important meal of the day. In the 1960s, it was recommended to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper”.

However, breakfast is often skipped due to the rush in the morning, to get the children dressed and ready for school. And then, we can’t understand why we are ravished with hunger, irritated and tired mid-morning.

Eating breakfast can improve your strength, focus and concentration or problem-solving abilities, and leads to less irritability and tiredness.

Diabetic friendly breakfast

A diabetic friendly breakfast should be packed with fibre from unrefined carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Most wholegrain unrefined carbohydrates have a low glycaemic index which help regulate and keep blood sugar levels stable. These carbohydrates are often also a source of  fibre which aids in keeping one fuller for longer. Examples include: oats or a high-fibre bran cereal, wholegrain, rye or seed-loaf breads.

Lean proteins – your source of amino acids and the building blocks of your muscle – also aid in keeping one fuller for longer, and add benefit to stabilising blood sugar levels. Examples include: lean chicken, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel or sardines), lentils/legumes, eggs and dairy products (cottage cheeses, milk or yoghurt).

Then adding fruits, even vegetables, to the meal put colour on the plate and add to the fibre, vitamin and mineral content that should be consumed for the day. Examples include: avocado, olives, sugar-free nut butters or nuts and seeds. These additional food items contribute to a well-balanced king’s breakfast plate providing mono-unsaturated fatty acids that are also cardio-protective.

Ideas for your king’s breakfast plate:

  • Thinly sliced salmon served with thinly sliced avocado, cucumber on rye or wholegrain toast.
  • Poached, scrambled or hard boiled eggs served with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and Rosa/Cherry tomatoes on rye or wholegrain toast.
  • Unsweetened yoghurt served with fruit salad or berries, topped with raw rolled oats, nuts and seeds.
  • Scrambled egg muffins filled with spinach and feta, or bacon and cheese, or any leftover in the fridge.
  • Cooked oats topped with berries, nuts and a drizzle of cinnamon.
  • Bircher muesli (unsweetened muesli and chia seeds soaked in unsweetened yoghurt topped with diced fruit and nuts).
  • Fish (haddock) served with rye or wholegrain toast and freshly diced tomato.
  • Fruit smoothie (berries and banana, or banana and peanut butter, or a tropical version with mango and melon).
  • High-fibre cereal, fruit and milk.
  • Sardines served on rye or wholegrain toast, topped with thinly sliced tomato.
  • Sugar-free peanut butter served on rye or wholegrain toast with a sliced banana.

 Insulin to carbohydrate ration

Importantly, most individuals inject insulin based on an insulin to carbohydrate ration i.e. the amount of insulin required to cover the carbohydrates consumed.

If an individual’s ration is 1:15, then 1 unit is injected to cover each 15g of carbohydrate. With older children one can inject approximately 20min before the breakfast meal.

Final breakfast tip

Be cautious of too much carbohydrate consumption for breakfast, due to the body being more resistant to insulin in the morning. Give preference to lean proteins and colour on the plate. Be a little bit more active after breakfast to promote insulin sensitivity.


  • Spence, C. 2017. Breakfast: The most important meal of the day? International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science 8:1–6
  • Duyff, RA. Complete food and Nutrition Guide, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012.



Donna van Zyl is a private practicing dietitian for Nutritional Solutions, Bloemfontein. She is growing in the field of paediatrics and plays a key role in individualising nutritional therapy for Type 1 diabetics. She has a special interest in optimising health, managing chronic lifestyle related diseases, and sports nutrition. She lectures part-time at the University of the Free State, which she enjoys thoroughly.