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Is Pizza Really a Healthier Breakfast Than Cereal?

slicing pizza close up
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD - Blogs
By Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RDRegistered dietitianMarch 4, 2019
From the WebMD Archives

Sometimes, a sound bite is taken too far. That was the case when a fellow dietitian was quoted in an article as saying that a slice of pizza would be a better choice for breakfast than most cereals (the article went viral, of course).

My hunch is that they were illustrating a point about sugary cereals—and I highly doubt they’d recommend a greasy, pepperoni-covered slice over a bowl of high-fiber shredded wheat.

As with everything, you need to read past the headlines. It’s true that some cold cereals pack a lot of sugar and are made with fiber-poor refined grains, giving you a quick, sweet lift—and leaving you hungry an hour later. On the other hand, pizza does have some protein (and fat) to keep you satisfied.

But pizza also covers some pretty wide territory. A whole-wheat crust topped with veggies will deliver more fiber and vitamins (and far less sodium) than, say, a triple-meat on white.

Same goes for cereal. There are hyper-sweetened varieties that contain very little filling fiber or protein. But there are also low- and no-sugar whole grain cereals that, when topped with milk and some berries or banana slices, make a meal that’s got up to half the fiber you need in the day, valuable vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium, and even a decent dose of protein. In fact, a serving of shredded wheat with milk has about 12 grams of protein—compared to 10 grams in a slice of thin-crust pepperoni pizza.

In other words, cereal’s bad rap isn’t necessarily deserved. Ditto for pizza’s health halo here. When a headline flies in the face of common sense (like this one touting ice cream as a brain-boosting breakfast), it probably is.

If you’re worried about the sugar in cereal, use my label-reading rule of thumb: I look for roughly 6 grams or less of added sugar per serving. You can also sprinkle a low- or no-sugar cereal (like plain o’s) with a teaspoon of sugar. Still sweet, but far less sugar than most varieties. Or swap out cereal for plain oatmeal, adding your own sweetener, fruit, and nuts.

If you’re looking for something with more savory, eggs are proven to be one of the most filling breakfasts around. You can also put a savory spin on oatmeal, topping it with avocado, veggies, and cheese.

And guess what? There’s also nothing wrong with an occasional slice of cold pizza for breakfast.

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About the Author
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Sally Kuzemchak is a registered dietitian in Columbus, Ohio. An award-winning reporter and writer, Sally has been published in magazines such as Health, Family Circle, and Eating Well and is a Contributing Editor to Parents magazine. She is the author of the book The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. She blogs at Real Mom Nutrition, a "no-judgments" zone all about feeding families.

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