Nutritionists are challenging us to re-think our ideas of breakfast food to include more nutritionally-dense options.
On Saturday morning, my sleepy-eyed 6-year-old Lincoln wandered downstairs and into the kitchen. “Mom?” he said sweetly, his head cocked to one side. “May I have pizza for breakfast?”
“No, silly,” I shook my head. “You know pizza isn’t a breakfast food. How about some cereal?” It’s an answer I give without thinking, mostly because I associate pizza-for-breakfast with college all-nighters. But the next day, I happened to see this Delish article in my Facebook feed and gave myself the most epic facepalm ever … because of course pizza is a healthier breakfast option than cereal.
According to New York-based nutritionist Chelsey Amer, a cheesy, greasy, carb-filled slice is better for you than your favorite breakfast cereal. So, I guess it’s time for us all to rethink our a.m. eating habits—and to celebrate.
Amer credits the high sugar content in most cereals for its poor reputation, while The Daily Meal adds the lack of protein and healthy fats are contributing to its “nutritionally bleak” standing. “You may be surprised to find out that an average slice of pizza and a bowl of cereal with whole milk contain nearly the same amount of calories,” Amer told the site. “However, pizza packs a much larger protein punch, which will keep you full and boost satiety throughout the morning.”
This pizza-or-cereal exchange happens nearly every weekend at my house since Friday night is our traditional pizza-and-movie night. Lincoln, who loves pizza more than any other food — except string cheese with ketchup (gross) — never fails to request pizza for breakfast the next day. I always give him the same answer, assuring him that there’ll be plenty of leftover pizza at lunchtime and instead urging him to choose a more breakfast-ey food — you know, something sugary with zero nutritional content, like cereal.
Yeah, you read that right. Every Saturday, I’ve been telling my child he can’t eat bread topped with protein-and-calcium packed mozzarella for breakfast because it’s not “breakfast-ey.” Sure, by the time Saturday rolls around my brain has reached maximum overload and shuts down entirely, but still. It doesn’t take a degree in nutrition to recognize that pizza is more nutritionally dense than Honey Nut Cheerios.
It’s kind of eye-opening to realize that even now — after all the time I’ve spent studying health and fitness and all the changes I’ve implemented in my life and my family’s lives — I still sometimes operate on instinct borne of cultural biases. After all, cereal is an American breakfast staple. Not so in most other cultures, many of whom got the memo long ago about healthier breakfasts. In southern parts of India, for instance, they serve a vegetable stew called sambar with lentils and rice bread, and in Japan it’s often miso soup, fish, rice and seaweed.
So sure, I’ve intellectually known the typical American cereal is full of sugar and empty calories. And yes, I often encourage my kids to replace it with oatmeal, eggs, or yogurt, but for some reason my mind couldn’t make the leap to include pizza in the “healthier breakfast alternatives” category.
Until now. The seal of internet approval was apparently all I needed to be liberated from a narrow definition of “breakfast-ey foods.” This Saturday, Lincoln gets all the pizza he wants for breakfast. And you know what? I just might join him.