Diabetes Diet

The New Breakfast for People with Diabetes

The usual food that I eat for breakfast has changed because of my new diet. But it’s better for me than the smoked salmon that I ate before. It also tastes even better.

More than seven years ago when I began to follow a very-low carb diet, people told me that it would be hard to stay on. Shortly after I started on it I wrote “Why I Low-carb” for a diabetes magazine. But for me it was no challenge. I still follow a plan of eating no more than six grams of carbohydrate for breakfast, 12 grams for lunch, and 12 grams for dinner — unless I skip dinner altogether on an “Intermittent Fast.”

But even I believed it would be difficult to combine my very low-carb diet with one that is also vegetarian — for ethical reasons I began to do both last November. I wrote about that experiment here at “Vegetarian and Low-Carb Diets for Diabetes.”

This experiment also turned out to be surprisingly easy. The major challenge was to find a vegetarian source of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. But I discovered that good sources of them recently became available, and I wrote about it in that article.

Protein powder

I didn’t say what my current breakfast is, and I just got a reminder from a correspondent that I needed to write about it here. I had told her earlier that I use a vegetarian protein powder that gives me even more protein for breakfast than the smoked salmon used to. I also had some qualms that the smoking of the fish might not be healthy.

She wrote that her doctor sold her a vegan protein powder that he suggests she have for breakfast. “But it has 21 grams of carbs,” she added with some concern, asking me if she should return it. “What protein shake do you have for breakfast?” she asked.

In reply I wrote that first, I have never heard of a doctor that didn’t mark up the cost of whatever he or she sells far above what you can buy it locally and what is even much more expensive than what you would pay online.

Second, 21 grams of carbohydrate for breakfast — to say nothing of the carbs in the milk or milk substitute you use with it — will raise our blood sugar far too much.

I recommended Jay Robb Non-GMO Vanilla Whey Protein Isolate powder or Jay Robb Non-GMO Egg White Protein powder. I love the chocolate flavor. One serving of the first has only 1 gram of carbs and one serving of the second has only 4 grams of carbs.

I told her that she can probably buy it locally at Sprouts or Whole Foods. But Amazon.com has the best prices that I have found.

Still, the Jay Robb brand is expensive. And a friend of mine subsequently told me about another brand, “Healthy ’n Fit 100% Egg Protein.” It is considerably less expensive and, even more important for someone on a very low-carb diet, is lower in carbs.

Hemp milk

What we mix the powder with also counts, I replied. For years I used unsweetened almond milk, which has 2 grams of carbs per 8 oz. serving. A friend I stayed with recently turned me on to hemp milk, which has only 1 gram. No THC, even where I live in Colorado! I prefer the Tempt brand rather than the other brand, which has carrageenan that is a suspected carcinogen.

I’m still undecided whether to use whey or egg white protein powder. Whey is cheaper, but egg white has more complete mix of the essential amino acids, making it a more complete protein, as Nutrition Date.com shows. But both are healthy and delicious.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • CB May 20, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Hi! David, could you please tell that how much whey
    protein protein C 60 is good for diabetic patients since whey contains lactose? Will sugar levels go up in this case if more than 30gm is taken through shakes.

    • David Mendosa May 20, 2016 at 9:19 am

      That’s a great question! It bothered me for a long time too. Yes, whey contains lactose, so I discounted it for years. But I just ordered several pounds of it from the manufacturer of the product that labdoor.com gives the highest rating to. Why? What about the lactose (sugar)?

      It has almost no lactose, sugar, carbs! I don’t know how they do it, but they do!

  • KJ April 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Thanks for your feedback !

  • KJ April 1, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Thanks for a lot of great info. My doctor says I am “pre” diabetic and several family members became Type II at my age (late 50s).
    As a single woman living alone, I am trying to stave off diabetes with diet and exercise, but am still obese. My additional challenge is I am allergic to whey and can not tolerate flour or potato in any form without a major spike (then drop) in blood sugar. Is there a website or book or other place to find simple recipes and meal plans to help me ? Thanks in advance !

    • David Mendosa April 1, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Dear KJ,

      You are observant to notice what makes your blood sugar rise. I actually don’t think that you need any recipes or meal plans. Basically, you just need to know the foods to avoid: beyond flour and potatoes, the foods that spike our blood sugar the most are the grains, including particularly wheat in all of its forms, rice, and corn. Beyond this, if you have such questions the best answers come from the glycemic index, and I have the complete tested list at http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm . Then, eliminate sucrose (table sugar), which is half fructose, and all high-fructose corn syrup.

      If you look through the many articles that I have written here, you can find many more suggestions.

      Finally, it is awfully important for you not to get diabetes, because there is no cure for it. There is a cure for pre-diabetes, and that is to reduce your blood sugar. As far as I know, there is only one medication that your doctor can prescribe for pre-diabetes and probably your insurance company would pay for it. This is metformin, and in any case it is generic and not very expensive. It is also the safest diabetes drug. Just don’t increase the dosage quickly. In this regard please see: http://www.mendosa.com/blog/?p=1261

      Best regards,

  • Tom April 1, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Way back in 1998, I took advantage of internet access in the office and searched for diabetes information. I found an article about a British study that indicated a low carb diet was beneficial to diabetics. I figured it would take the United States about 10 years to figure this out and include the usual government restrictions, I took it upon myself to go the route. Years earlier, I went on Atkins, when it was the thing to do. Seeing in-laws feast on bacon and eggs and having the only exercise being sitting and sleeping did not appeal to me. In addition, at that time, that low carb diet was said to lead to kidney trouble. But in 1998, there was a great deal of information on low carb foods. So, it was just a matter of picking and choosing. But, I also added working my way up to walking 2 miles about four days a week. The combination worked. Later, I was put on an effective drug that had me feeling great and my numbers proved it. The drug was Avandia. Then, as often happens, the Government stepped in and banned it because 3 people got heart attacks. Insurance companies also had their say. It led me to believe that there was a conspiracy theory here. It was strange that with almost every “new” drug given to me, I had noted side effects and others not mentioned in their literature. I also joined discussion groups to get an idea as to what others were experiencing. My impression at that time was that representatives from the drug companies were participating in the groups and writing favorable comments on their drugs. Bottom line: be careful what you read and believe, be careful with your doctor and dietician and the drugs they favor. Be your own advocate. Remember, if something works for somebody, there is no guaranty it will work for you. It may be the reason they coined the phrase “trial and error!”

  • Walter Wasylko March 31, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Didn’t Dr. Bernstein advise in a recent telecast to use whey protein powder made in California because it strictly regulates ingredients?
    We add sprouted chia & flax to our protein drink along with cinnamon & tumeric.
    It’s a few extra carbs but after 49 years without complications as Type 1 I indulge a bit.

  • stan March 31, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    i was pre diabetic about 8 years ago went to smoothies for brealfast, the one i found best happens to made locally but can be gotten online, i find it excellent, i do put the kitchen sink in it be leave it low carb. its called dream protein, go to greens first. com to order i have no connection to the company. thanks stan

  • Doug March 31, 2015 at 9:45 am

    I have,found Vital Whey to be the best tasting protein by far. Expensive!, but reminds me of the taste difference between regular cream and raw cream.

  • Jane March 31, 2015 at 2:42 am

    The definition of whey is that it’s a by product of milk. So, whey isn’t vegan right? Dagnabit. I just bought the Jay Robb protein powder & it’s good but now I’m understanding what whey is.

    • David Mendosa March 31, 2015 at 9:59 am

      Dear Jane,

      You are right about whey, although I am a vegetarian and not a vegan. As a vegetarian, I prefer egg white protein because it is the most complete protein. But you have several plant-based options, including soy protein, hemp protein, pea protein, and even rice protein. Of these, soy protein may be the nearest to being a complete protein.

      Best regards,

  • Jane March 31, 2015 at 1:01 am

    David, You are increasing my knowledge of nutrition in general and for my diabetes. Thank you. I am sad to kill anything though. I currently eat some fish until I can figure a way to get protein. I don’t want to have much soy. And I’m trying to incorporate Dr. Bernstein’s diet which eliminates beans.

    • David Mendosa March 31, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Dear Jane,

      You and I are on the same page regarding not wanting to kill anything and yet get enough protein. Actually as I wrote in this article, the protein powder that I substituted for the fish I was eating does more than make up for the protein in the fish. My bigger concern was to get enough low-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and once I found that source, as I wrote in a separate article, I was able to begin my vegetarian low-carb diet that is working very well for me — and for the fish.

      Best regards,

  • John March 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks again for another great read. I am a type 2, my wife a vegan and our daughter a type 1, so lots of good ideas for us! Have you considered chia seeds as they would seem a good fit, omega 3, vegan and majority of carbs are fiber, plus nutritional dense. They are not just for chia pets anymore

    • David Mendosa March 30, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      Dear John,

      Chia seeds do have omega 3, and I discovered them and wrote about them years ago. See, for example, http://www.mendosa.com/blog/?p=233

      I still eat chia seeds. But we can’t rely on them for the omega 3 we need. Chia seeds, like all plant-based sources of omega 3, has ALA, the short-chain form of omega 3 that our bodies don’t convert well (the leading study says that only 6% is converted to our use). We need the long-chain types of omega 3. These go by the initials EPA and DHA. We can get them only from fatty fish (like sardines and salmon) and from algae (which is where the fish got them from in the first place).

      With metta,

  • Jane March 30, 2015 at 2:42 am

    Thanks David. I appreciate the explanation. And continue to see how complex diet is. My efforts to be truly vegan continue to be a challenge.

  • Jane March 29, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Please point me to an explanation of what EPA & DHA Omega 3 fatty acids are. Thanks.

    • David Mendosa March 29, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      Dear Jane,

      WebMD explains this well: “Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty layers of cold-water fish and shellfish, plant and nut oils, English walnuts, flaxseed, algae oils, and fortified foods. You can also get omega-3s as supplements. Food and supplement sources of these fatty acids differ in the forms and amounts they contain.

      “There are the two main types of omega-3 fatty acids:

      “Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are plentiful in fish and shellfish. Algae often provides only DHA [this is true, but “often” is NOT “always.”

      “Short-chain omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). These are found in plants, such as flaxseed [and chia seeds]. Though beneficial, ALA omega-3 fatty acids have less potent health benefits than EPA and DHA. You’d have to eat a lot to gain the same benefits as you do from fish [or algae].”

      This site has more at:

      With metta,

  • Ana March 29, 2015 at 9:49 am

    You could eat “whole” food by eating eggs as they are, no fancy powders required. Eggs have been given the “all clear” for people who are still concerned. Hard boil a few to keep on hand and breakfast (or lunch or dinner) can be just as fast as a blender drink.

    • David Mendosa March 29, 2015 at 10:40 am

      Dear Ana,

      I do both! I do enjoy eating eggs as they are, both yolks and white. I always have hardboiled eggs on hand in my fridge and add them to my salads and also eat them as snacks. But I have always enjoyed a small breakfast, and egg protein powder serves my purpose very well.

      With metta,

  • Ian Gillson March 28, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    How can you possibly think that is healthier than smoked salmon? Speechless.

    For starters your body cannot convert the Omega 3s in yournw foods (ALAs) efficiently to the Omega 3s you need that abundant in smoked salmon (EPA and DHA). Then there is the inferior proitein and mineral/vitamin content.

    What have you done? Oh dear.

    • David Mendosa March 28, 2015 at 8:37 pm

      Dear Ian,

      Actually, I do get all the EPA and DHA (the two important long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids) from vegetarian sources. I don’t get it from the protein shake that I wrote about in the article that you are commenting on. I wrote about it a little later at http://www.mendosa.com/blog/?p=3376

      There is one source of EPA and DHA from a vegetarian source, the same source that sardines and salmon get its Omega-3 from. That is from algae, which is not a plant but rather a eukaryotic organism. You are right that all plant sources of Omega-3 are ALA, which is a short-chain type of that fat and that our bodies are very inefficient in converting it. One respected study in the AHA publication “Circulation” says that only 6% of it is converted. We do have to focus on EPA and DHA.

      I did eat smoked salmon for breakfast for several years once I found a source that doesn’t have any added sugar (almost all smoked salmon does for some reason have added sugar). I love the taste of the smoked salmon and agree that it is high in EPA and DHA. But I don’t want to be intentionally responsible any more for the death of any fish, even indirectly.

      Anyway, I am glad that you raised this point, because many people don’t understand the important of getting EPA and DHA rather than ALA.

      With metta,

  • Jane March 26, 2015 at 1:19 am

    David, a quick question on preparing this protein shake. I’m not skilled in the kitchen. How do you blend the ingredients? Whisk, hand held blender thing? The amazon feedback said it should be done with a blender/mixer or something. Appreciate your experience.

    • David Mendosa March 26, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Dear Jane,

      I haven’t been pleased when I just stir the protein powder with the liquid. I use a $15 blender. And I certainly must have much less skill in the kitchen than you or practically anyone!

      Best regards,

  • Jane March 26, 2015 at 1:12 am

    Thanks for the specifics of your breakfast plan. I’ll look into the whey protein powder. I have a preference for vegan so I will look for one without egg white protein. I haven’t tried Hemp milk but I’ve been looking for it. I’m using unsweetened almond milk for a couple of years now and like it.

    • David Mendosa March 26, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Dear Jane,

      Yes, I think that most vegans would prefer whey protein powder. As to the alternative milks, I used almond milk for years until I discovered that hemp milk has half the carbs (1 gram/8 ounces instead of the 2 grams in the almond milk that I had been buying). Recently, however, someone told me about a brand of cashew milk that also has just 1 gram, and I switched to it because it is considerably less expensive.