9 Tips for a Healthy Fast Food Breakfast for Diabetes

Breakfast has the reputation of being the most important meal of the day. Breakfast supporters argue that it helps with weight control because it keeps you from being too hungry and wolfing down high-calorie foods later in the day. They also point to research linking breakfast consumption to a more nutritious overall diet.

With diabetes, there are even more reasons to eat breakfast. Skipping it can lead to hypoglycemia. In addition, skipping breakfast can reduce your body’s insulin response. Both of these effects lead to overall higher blood sugar - the opposite of what you want!

But what if fast food is your only choice? If you are so busy in most mornings that you cannot make yourself breakfast, is it better to skip it altogether, or should you opt for junky fast food? Neither of those is necessary. You can get a fast food breakfast that is healthy and good for diabetes at most joints. Here are 9 ways to get a healthier fast food breakfast with diabetes, plus best picks at the top joints in the country.


1 . Keep It Simple

The variety on your plate or in your to-go box, the more calories, carbohydrates, and fat you will probably take in. You may be best off ordering a la carte from the side menu. Common nutritious choices include fresh fruit, cottage cheese, eggs, yogurt, avocado, tomatoes, and whole wheat toast. Choose two to four of these, and you will be doing fine. In contrast, A breakfast platter with pancakes and syrup and butter, sausage or bacon, eggs, toast, and fried potatoes can have well over 1,000 calories.

Good choice: a pancake with egg whites and fresh fruit.


2. Look out for Sugar

Sugar can be everywhere at breakfast, and it can be your downfall when you are eating a fast food breakfast with diabetes. Pastries such as such as cinnamon rolls, danishes, and muffins can have 30 to 50 grams of sugar, or your limit for two days. Jam, syrup, honey, brown sugar, and similar toppings for toast, pancakes, and oatmeal add about 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Finally, a flavored coffee beverage can have 20 to 40 or more grams of sugar.

Good choice: steel-cut oatmeal with almonds, pecans, or other nuts, real fruit, and no brown sugar or honey.


3. Choose Better Bread

A breakfast sandwich is the quintessential grab-and-go fast food breakfast, but can it be a good fast food breakfast for diabetes? A croissant or biscuit can be high in calories and fat, while a bagel can have enough carbs for two meals. Tortillas for breakfast burritos and wraps can vary wildly, with small ones often being reasonable. Toast and English muffins tend to be more reasonable choices to depend on.

Good choice: a breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese on an English muffin.


4. Beware of Portion Sizes

Your blood sugar management strategy includes keeping meals reasonably small so blood sugar does not spike and weight stays down. A massive fast food breakfast does not fit into this strategy! A small order of a breakfast sandwich, burrito, or anything else can have half the calories, fat, and carbs of a large order. If the fast food joint does not offer a smaller version, take portion control into your own hands and have half of whatever you ordered.

Good choice: breakfast taco with eggs and cheese or your choice of fillings, since even a potato taco has only about 250 calories and 20 grams of carbs.


5. Choose Healthy Proteins

Except for their often irresistible taste, breakfast meats can be some of the worst foods on the planet. They can impair blood sugar control and raise risk for cancer and heart disease, and are linked to poorer weight control. Still, you need protein at breakfast if you want the best chance at controlling your blood sugar. Skip the bacon, sausage, and ground beef, and opt instead for eggs, cheese, yogurt, and nuts as protein sources.

Good choice: egg or egg white wrap with cheese. 


6. Beware of Sugary and Fatty Condiments

Condiments and sides can turn a reasonable fast food breakfast into a disaster for diabetes. The calories, sugar, and fat in those innocent-looking single-serve packets or an add-on to your meal can add up fast. Take a look at some facts in condiments, keeping in mind that the daily limit for sugar is 25 to 40 grams.

  • Sugar, brown sugar, or honey packet: 5 grams of sugar

  • Jam packet: 8 grams of sugar

  • Pancake syrup: 18 grams of sugar

  • Flavoring syrup for large coffee beverage: 35 grams of sugar

  • Butter: 70 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat

When you can, opt for breakfast items that do not require condiments, or choose lower-calorie or nutrient-dense ones instead. Peanut butter, fresh fruit, and cottage cheese can do the trick.

Good choice: cottage cheese or plain or fat-free yogurt, plus a piece of fruit or fresh fruit cup, plus (optional) 1 single-serving box or cup of unsweetened whole-grain cereal.


7. Skip Fried Potatoes

Fried potatoes are unhealthy for anyone, and especially hard to justify when you have diabetes. They are nothing but refined starches soaked in excess fat, and science shows that fried foods impair insulin sensitivity - bad news! They do not do much good for your waistline, either, as an order of home fries, sliced fried potatoes, or hash browns can have 200 calories and 30 grams of carbs. Fresh fruit, a slice of whole-grain toast, and eggs are healthier sides.

Good choice: 1 or 2 buttermilk (or preferably whole-grain or buckwheat) pancakes with fresh fruit and scrambled egg whites.


Best Fast Food Breakfast Choices for Diabetes at the Biggest Fast-Food Restaurants

  • McDonalds: Egg White Delight McMuffin without Canadian bacon, and a side of apple slices
  • Starbucks: Spinach, Feta, and Egg White Breakfast Wrap
  • Subway: Egg White and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich on 9-Grain Wheat with extra vegetables and avocado
  • Burger King: Breakfast Burrito, Jr., without sausage
  • Taco Bell: Grilled Breakfast Burrito with no bacon, cheese instead of cheese sauce, and pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole
  • Wendys: Plain Oatmeal with Roasted Pecans and Apple Bites
  • Dunkin Donuts: Veggie Egg White Sandwich on half a Multigrain Bagel
  • Chick-fil-A: Egg White Grill
  • Panera Bread: Mediterranean Scrambled Egg White Wrap and a Fruit Cup
  • Sonic Drive-In: Jr. Breakfast Burrito

8. Make Your Own

Why do you go to fast food places for breakfast? Are you too busy to cook? Are you a pretty bad cook? Do you simply love the food you can get at a drive-through? You may be surprised at how quickly and easily you can make portable fast food copycat breakfasts.

  • Breakfast sandwich: put a slice of cheese, a sliced hard-boiled egg, and a sliced tomato on a whole-grain English muffin the night before. Toast the next morning when you are ready to eat or leave the house.

  • Overnight power oatmeal: mix oats with sunflower, pumpkin, or flax seeds, half a diced apple, cinnamon, and Greek yogurt. Let it soak overnight in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and breakfast is ready to go the next morning.

  • Parfait: slice a banana or wash 1 cup of mixed berries. The next morning, layer 1 cup of Greek yogurt with the fruit and a half-cup of shredded wheat or bran flakes. Use a container if you are on the go and just snap on the lid.


9. Drink Smart

A poor beverage choice can easily defeat your healthy breakfast intentions. Flavored coffee beverages may be the most common downfall in the morning. They can have 200, 400, or more calories and a startling amount of sugar due to their flavoring syrup. If you must occasionally get a fancy coffee beverage, opt for sugar-free without whipped cream. More often, try coffee or tea plain or with a splash of milk, or count on good old-fashioned, calorie-free, natural water to get you through the morning.

Eating a healthy fast food breakfast for diabetes may not only be possible, but it may be easier than you think. Most chains have healthy options on their menus so you can enjoy a great-tasting breakfast that provides energy and nutrients to help control blood sugar. For support with your healthy diabetes diet and help getting a good start to each day, look for Lark Diabetes Care as your 24/7 health coach.


Conquer Diabetes with a Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is possible, even with type 2 diabetes and can help maintain a healthy blood sugar level

Diabetes is a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism, so it makes sense that many people look to low-carbohydrate diets to manage their diabetes. Cutting back on carbohydrates can lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. 

Now: is low-carb is good, is very low-carb better?

A type of diet called a very low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet has been a recent focus of people with type 2 diabetes, along with medical professionals and researchers. Although the ketogenic diet was originally developed to treat epilepsy and is high in fat, it may actually help with diabetes management and weight loss.

This is what you should know about what a ketogenic diet is, how it can affect diabetes and weight, and how to follow one if you decide that a ketogenic diet may be right for you. The following steps can help you conquer diabetes with a ketogenic diet.


1 . Learn the basics.

A ketogenic diet is a way of eating that puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. To get there, you eat very few carbohydrates. You might eat only 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day, or the amount in 2 slices of bread, 1 cup of oatmeal, or ¾ cup of cooked pasta. This amount is about 10 to 20% of the amount of carbohydrates that most people have in a day.

Going into ketosis means a couple of things. First, when you are in ketosis, your body switches its main source of fuel. While most people use carbohydrates for most of their energy, people in ketosis burn more fat. Supports of ketogenic diets say that this helps with weight loss, although the real weight loss benefits of ketosis may come only if you eat fewer calories.

Another aspect of ketosis is that you are far less likely to have blood sugar spikes since you are eating very few carbohydrates. Here is what happens. When you eat foods with carbohydrates, your body breaks down the carbs into sugar and releases them into your blood. This raises your blood sugar. Cut back on carbs, as you do on a ketogenic diet, and you will be cutting back on the amount of sugar entering your bloodstream.


2. Do your research.

Theories are nice, but does a ketogenic diet work in treating diabetes? Research suggests that it just might help! Clinical trials have found that people with diabetes who were overweight and who followed a ketogenic diet for 16 to 24 weeks lost weight, even when they reported consuming more calories than participants in a higher-carb comparison group.

Also important for diabetes is that the ketogenic diet groups lowered their hemoglobin A1C levels, which shows they had lower average blood glucose levels on the keto diet. [1, 2] Some results showed lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Still, it is important to remember that these are short-term studies and the long-term effects are not certain. 


3. Weigh your options.

Is a ketogenic diet the right way for you to conquer diabetes? This is a personal decision that should not only consider whether the diet works for the first few months. Also consider whether you can follow it now and for the long-term, and how safe and effective ketosis is for the years to come.

  • Can you follow the plan for a few days? The diet prohibits or restricts a lot of foods. If you love fruit, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, and beans, this diet may not be for you, since these foods, nutritious though they are, are almost eliminated in ketosis. Ketosis may also be tough if you are not crazy about meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, since these zero-carb foods may be common.

  • Can you follow the plan for a while? Giving up a few foods for a few days is one thing, but you may get bored or have cravings as the weeks and months wear on, and want to eat more carbs. You may also have trouble sticking to your diet at special occasions such as restaurant meals and parties.

  • Is a keto diet safe in the long term? It may be, but we just do not know. There could eventually be liver or kidney harm due to too much protein. There is also the chance that a keto diet could spell trouble for your heart if includes a lot of red meat and butter, and not much fiber.

  • Are you concerned about hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar? Hypoglycemia is not uncommon when starting a ketogenic diet.

You should also consider how your diet fits into your diabetes management plan. Most people with type 2 diabetes have a self-management plan that includes taking medications, monitoring blood glucose, exercising, and following a special diet. Are you ready to accept the possibility that what you eat can influence the course of diabetes?


4. Get the foods you need.

If you are ready to get started, you need to know what foods to keep in your kitchen and which to choose when ordering at restaurants. If you choose a keto diet, you will be having about:

  • 5 to 10% of calories from carbohydrates.

  • 70 to 80% of calories from fat.

  • 10 to 25% of calories from protein.

Most of the foods you eat will be zero-carb and very-low-carb foods. Non-starchy vegetables should also be present at most meals.

Zero-Carb Foods Very-Low-Carb Foods Non-Starchy Vegetables
  • Water
  • Fish, such as salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, and anchovies
  • Most shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Chicken, turkey, pork, beef
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Other plant-based oils
  • Oysters and mussels
  • Cheese, such as blue, feta, swiss, cheddar, goat, cream cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, and jack
  • Cottage cheese
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, flax, and chia
  • Olives
  • Cream
  • Salad greens
  • Other leafy greens (e.g., kale, spinach, collard greens)
  • Zucchini and yellow squash
  • Celery
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplants
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • auliflower
  • Radishes

Also check which foods and ingredients to limit or avoid if you want to stay in ketosis. These include both nutritious and low-nutrient foods that are moderate or high in carbs.

Nutritious Foods with Carbs Low-Nutrient Foods with Carbs
  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread, pita, English muffins, bagels, rolls
  • Sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and other starchy or root vegetables
  • Fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice
  • Beans, lentils, and split peas
  • Soybeans, veggie burgers
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Soy milk, rice milk
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, juice drinks, sports and energy drinks, flavored coffee drinks, sweet tea
  • Sweets, such as ice cream, cake, cookies, candy, pastries
  • Sugar-sweetened foods, such as jam, flavored yogurt and oatmeal, kids’ cereals
  • Refined grains, such as white bread, pasta, crackers, and rice
  • French fries, tater tots, hash browns
  • Beer and mixed alcoholic beverages

Now that you know what to eat, you can start to make your plan to conquer diabetes with a ketogenic diet.


5. Start conquering diabetes.

Your ketogenic diet is only one part of a holistic plan to conquer diabetes. Following a well-rounded treatment plan can give you the best chance at lowering blood sugar, preventing complications, and possibly reversing insulin resistance. Along with a careful diet, your doctor may recommend the following self-management behaviors.

  • Taking any prescription medications carefully.

  • Monitoring your blood sugar one or more times daily.

  • Exercising regularly.

Before starting, you should talk to your doctor about whether ketosis is right for you and whether it may affect your medications. 

As you weigh your options and commit to lowering blood sugar, Lark Diabetes Care can provide support for a healthy diet and the other choices you make to conquer diabetes. Find out more about this personal coach!



  1.  Westman EC, Yancy WS Jr, Mavropoulos JC, Marquart M, McDuffie JR. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2008; 5:36

  2.  Yancy WS Jr, Foy M, Chalecki AM, Vernon MC, Westman EC. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005;2:34. Published 2005 Dec 1. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-34