Reality check: Is pizza a healthier breakfast choice than cereal?
There’s little that’s as satisfying, and guilt inducing, as eating pizza for breakfast. (And let’s be honest, it usually follows a night of doing plenty of unhealthy things.) But one nutritionist says it’s a much better choice than your regular bowl of cereal.
“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,” New York-based nutritionist Chelsey Amer, said to The Daily Meal. “However, pizza packs a much larger protein punch, which will keep you full and boost satiety throughout the morning.”
While this sounds like a wild claim, Amer is right about a few things. For one, most cereals on the market today are full of sugar and not much else.
“Most cereals are sugary, carby and full of crap; they’re basically like eating candy for breakfast,” says Dr. Quinn Hand, a naturopathic doctor and founder of Q Wellness in Toronto. “If you have to choose between a sugary cereal and pizza, go with pizza. But it’s really an argument about choosing the lesser of two evils.”
There are healthy cereals that are high in fibre and low in sugar that make a good choice, although they still don’t provide the requisite 20 grams of protein that Hand tells her patients to shoot for. She advises they opt for items like eggs, which will keep them full longer, and prevent their blood sugar from spiking and crashing.
“Considering that most breakfast cereals have negligible amounts of protein, you’re doing better with a slice of pizza,” which provides protein via cheese. Especially since the classic cheese topping for pizza is mozzarella, which is lower in fat content than other varieties.
Of course, all pizza isn’t created equally; there is a way to make healthier choices when it comes to your pie.
Hand encourages people to use resources like the internet to find alternatives to not-so-healthy traditional elements — like making pizza with a cauliflower or ground beef crust, instead of the standard one that uses white flour. And load it up with lots of vegetables and lean protein.
“If you’re choosing a conventional crust, opt for a thin crust pizza because that will lighten the load, and put on lots of toppings that add nutrient density, like chicken or turkey, broccoli and mushrooms,” she says. “Your ideal breakfast pizza will include toppings that will satisfy you, give you nutrients and provide flavour reward.”
She also says there’s no reason to steer clear of toppings that are otherwise considered unwise, like prosciutto, which provides protein, is relatively lean and packs loads of flavour, or marinated artichokes, which have the added benefit of being stored in olive oil.
“But I caution against the concept that eating pizza for breakfast all the time is a healthy choice — after all, you wouldn’t think it was healthy to eat pizza for dinner every day.”
An ideal breakfast is one that combines protein, carbohydrates and good fats, which is the combination you need to provide energy and satiety. Some days that could very well look like pizza, other days it might be an omelette with lean meat and vegetables or avocado toast.
“It comes down to being educated and reading labels,” Hand says. “It’s OK to eat leftover pizza for breakfast once in a while [versus sugary cereal], but it’s very easy to use that as an excuse to tumble into poor nutrition habits.”
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