Most American cabinets and freezers provide shelter to plenty of unhealthy breakfast cereals and nutrient-deprived frozen pizzas. Their health consequences aren’t news. That’s why the internet freaks out when experts say you can eat your favorite unhealthy food for a “healthy breakfast” — as long as you stop eating another. Are they right?
We’ll compare a Tombstone Original pepperoni pizza and a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch to find out. Let’s be honest: You’ve probably eaten both first thing in the morning — more than once. But which one was the least terrible choice?
The ‘bad’ kind of fat
An official serving of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is only ¾ cup. But you probably fill an entire bowl without thinking twice about it, so keep that in mind. There are 0.5 grams of saturated fat per serving — 3 grams total. All things considered, that’s not so bad.
A slice of Tombstone pizza contains about 5 grams of saturated fat — and 12 in total — because of all that delicious cheese and mouth-watering pepperoni.
Next: There isn’t as much protein in pizza as you thought.
The protein factor
When it comes to protein, Cinnamon Toast Crunch doesn’t have much. Many cereals like it also lack an essential part of a decent early-morning meal. Just 1 gram of protein doesn’t give you the long-lasting energy you really do need to function.
Because there’s pepperoni on this pizza, there’s also a lot of protein, right? Nope. There isn’t any at all. All that cheese might not be worth it after all.
Next: One of these has more sugar than the other.
The sugar high
There are 9 grams of added sugars in just ¾ of a cup of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. For context, you’re really only supposed to have about 25 grams in a day. You might not want to use up your sugar allowance before you’re even fully caffeinated.
There are only 2 grams of added sugars per pizza slice, which isn’t too surprising. Still, that means the calories you’re getting don’t come from the best sources — and that’s a problem.
Next: Are these calories “good” calories?
The ‘wrong’ kind of energy
At 130 calories per gram — a standard amount for many breakfast cereals — you’re not only getting minimal energy but the wrong kind. Most of it comes from sugar and not from fiber or protein, the calories that last longer.
You’ll get nearly 300 calories from just one slice of frozen pizza but not “quality” calories. You won’t get fiber or protein. You’re basically just eating salty carbs. Yum!
Next: Try not to get too salty over this news.
How much salt is too much?
You’re not supposed to eat more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium in a day — if you don’t want to die of heart disease, that is. There are 180 milligrams in a serving of cereal, which is fairly low.
Just 580 milligrams of sodium isn’t bad for a slice of pizza. The more cheese, sauce, and toppings you layer on, the saltier things get. Sticking to one slice, you might not do much damage unless your hydrating liquid of choice happens to be worse for you than the pizza itself.
Next: Is pizza really better than cereal?
So which should you choose: Pizza or cereal?
Not all cereals — not even all pizzas — are created equal. But looking at the numbers, the answer’s not hard to figure out. Both options, as breakfast choices, are pretty terrible.
When building a healthy breakfast, it’s not so much about what you are eating as it is about what you aren’t. A well-fueled body optimizes protein and fiber, burning quickly through its sugar reserves. You might enjoy these things early on in your day, but in truth, they’re just not good enough to sustain you.
Next: So basically, you’re never allowed to eat cereal again — or are you?
Do healthy breakfast cereals exist?
Technically, yes. Healthy breakfast cereals, such as Kashi and FiberOne, provide — you guessed it — more fiber and higher-quality ingredients then the Cinnamon Toast Crunches of the breakfast world. Name your favorite unhealthy food, and there’s likely a slightly healthier version of it out there.
Just because it’s better, though, doesn’t mean it’s your best option. You need a “real” breakfast — one that’s just as quick and delicious as pouring sugar squares into a bowl.
Next: Here are some better breakfast ideas.
Healthier breakfast options just as easy as cereal
You might not even like cereal that much — it’s just convenient. Surprise! So are dishes, such as oatmeal, toast, and pancakes. You can make these breakfasts in five minutes or less. The best part is, you won’t feel hungry two hours after finishing them.
And if you really can’t figure out a breakfast food that fits your needs, go ahead and redefine what “breakfast food” means for you. Baked potato? Sure. Turkey sandwich? Great. Leftover pizza? Maybe every now and then, if you’re desperate.
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