The Truth About Breakfast

Eat breakfast.  These words are very possibly the most repeated nutritional advice ever given.  And whether you’ve heard it from your mother or from a healthcare practitioner, it’s good advice.  in fact, helping our patients find ways to improve the quality of the breakfast meal is one of the cornerstones of our nutrition practices.  It’s also at the core of what inspired us to create Zing Bars.

You probably already know that eating a balanced breakfast – one containing protein, healthy fats and especially fiber – helps keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the morning, leading to:

  • Improved brain power
  • Elevated energy levels
  • Stable moods

But did you know that what you eat for breakfast can actually help improve the way your blood sugar responds to what you eat for lunch?

A study published back in 1982 showed that eating a breakfast that is low glycemic index (GI) – one that includes fiber – can lessen the blood sugar and insulin response to your lunch.  This carry-over effect is called “Second Meal Tolerance”, and to date there have been seventeen human clinical trials published on this subject.

It’s important because it tells us the benefits of eating breakfast extend beyond avoiding the potential mid-morning slump, and actually carry over to the way our body responds to the next meal.

  • Key Point:  Eating a high-fiber breakfast can help us manage our weight, mood and energy levels while reducing our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Besides including high-fiber foods, there is also a benefit to adding some healthy fat.  You may recall a previous post that touted the benefits of adding nuts to your diet.  One of the aforementioned studies illustrated the positive effects whole almonds at breakfast can have on blood sugar at lunchtime.  So don’t skip the nuts!

Does this mean you have to eat lentils for breakfast in order to gain the benefits of the second meal tolerance?  By all means, no!  Here are some tips for adding some fiber and healthy fats into your breakfast meal:

  • Eat some vegetables for breakfast.  Veggies are full of fiber, not to mention vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals.  Scramble eggs with any veggies you have on hand: diced zucchini, sweet bell peppers, onions, chopped spinach – the possibilities are endless.  Leftovers from dinner like roasted veggies work great.  Garnish with some avocado slices.
  • Try this nutrient dense, high-fiber smoothie.  To your blender add:  one apple (cored and cut into chunks), ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, 1 tablespoon cashew butter, the juice of one lemon, and ½ cup water.  Blend for 1-2 minutes.  Add a handful of greens such as kale or spinach and blend for another minute or so.  Play around with the amount of greens you like – start small!
  • Doctor up your oatmeal with blueberries or sliced apples, a handful of almonds.  Try adding shredded unsweetened coconut for a twist.
  • Ever tried beans and rice for breakfast?  A bowl of black beans and brown rice mixed with your favorite salsa and topped with avocado makes a delicious and satisfying breakfast.

Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University.  Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health.  She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.


Jenkins DJ, Wolever TM, Taylor RH, Griffiths C, Krzeminska K, Lawrie JA, Bennett CM, Goff DV, Sarson DL, Bloom SR. Slow release dietary carbohydrate improves second meal tolerance. Am J Clin Nutr 1982; Vol 35; 1339-1346.

Mori AM, Considine RV, Mattes RD. Acute and second-meal effects of almond form in impaired glucose tolerant adults: a randomized crossover trial. Nutrition & Metabolism 2011; 8:6.

Chow J. The second meal effect: a review. Accessed May 23, 2011 from the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute  website:

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