What happened when one 23-year-old made a cheese slice her morning meal.
I’ve always been a fan of pizza. In high school, I looked forward to the one time each week my parents would order a pie for dinner—and then the cold leftover slice I would inevitably eat for breakfast the following morning. So when I heard about a nutritionist who said pizza can be healthier than a bowl of cereal for breakfast, I was intrigued.
Instead of eating my usual cereal or Greek yogurt for breakfast, I thought it was worth trying pizza for five days straight. The right pizza supposedly can provide more nutrients than a bowl of sugary corn flakes, the nutritionist said, and I wanted to test the theory. To make sure I was doing breakfast pizza the right way, I spoke with Health contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, who provided a few essential pointers on how to healthify my daily pizza.
“A pie piled with processed red meat and cheese with a thick crust may leave you feeling sluggish, sleepy, and bloated all day,” says Sass, “but a pizza loaded with veggies, lean protein, and light cheese (or no cheese!) on a healthy crust can be a nourishing and energizing way to start your day, and may even help with weight loss.”
She suggests using a crust made of cauliflower or almond flower for a lower carb count and choosing a healthy base like dairy-free pesto or tomato sauce. Then, top she recommended I top the pizza with lots of vegetables to get vitamins and keep it light.
With Sass’s tips in mind, I headed to the grocery store and prepared for my foray into breakfast pizza. I chose a whole wheat crust from Trader Joe’s, which I rolled out on my own and topped with tomato sauce, feta cheese (Sass says this cheese is lower in fat than your typical mozzarella), prosciutto slices for a protein boost, peppers, and basil.
After baking the pizza on Sunday night, I couldn’t resist and ate part of my breakfast for dinner. Spoiler alert: it was delicious. I went to bed excited to eat more pizza for breakfast.
Day 1: Homemade pizza topped with greens
Before heading to work, I wrapped a slice of my pizza creation in aluminum foil. I ate my first slice cold, which may sound unappetizing to some, but I personally love cold pizza.I topped my slice with arugula for extra greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Halfway through my breakfast, I texted my friend just to tell her how great pizza for breakfast is.
My pizza held me over for about three hours until lunch. That’s much longer than when I eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, but about the same amount of time as when I eat Greek yogurt for my morning meal. Still, it felt nice to switch up my a.m. routine with a savory rather than sugary breakfast option.
Day 2: Pepperoni pizza from the freezer aisle
I thought I might be bored of pizza two days in a row, but the leftovers were just as delicious as Day 1. I decided to heat up the pizza today to mix it up a little, but overall the same great flavor was there and I enjoyed every bite. After finishing my slice, I realized I had consumed the last of my concoction, so I would have to figure out where my next three day’s worth of slices would come from.
Since I wanted to see how eating not-so-healthy pizza could affect me too, I stopped by a local drugstore and stocked up with one frozen pepperoni pizza. I got home and threw that sucker in the oven for 25 minutes and boom, breakfast for the next three days was ready to go. I loved how easy preparing my breakfast pizza the night before was, but was curious to see how it affected my body.
Day 3: Post-pizza hunger kicks in
I’ll be honest: when I pulled out a slice of pepperoni pizza at 9 a.m., my coworkers looked at me funny. Still, nothing could stand between the golden buttery crust and me, so I happily ate my slice. I topped the frozen pizza with arugula again, because it felt strange to only eat cheese, bread, and pepperoni first thing in the morning when I usually have something lighter and more nutrient dense, like Greek yogurt and fruit.
By 11 a.m., I noticed I was getting pretty hungry. That hunger persisted throughout the entire day. Normally, I can wait until 7 p.m. to have dinner, but I was starving by 6 p.m.
Day 4: Craving sweet cereal or fruit
It pains me to say this, but by Day 4 I was getting a little bored of my beloved pizza. I craved something sweeter for breakfast, like a bowl of Raisin Bran or even a banana with peanut butter. It didn’t help that my office had a bagel spread. I couldn’t resist, so I got fruit and a croissant and ate them along with my pizza.
Still, my carbo-loading didn’t keep me full for very long, and once again I was hungry before noon. According to Sass, a nutritionally balanced pizza should keep you feeling satisfied for about four hours, so I knew I was failing on that front. Still, I proceeded in the name of journalism.
Day 5: Boredom...and bloat
On my final morning, I gazed sadly at my lone pizza slice. I really was not in the mood to eat pizza for breakfast again. I realized that I like to switch up my meals and get bored easily, so eating the same food for a week straight was getting to me. I ate my final slice as quickly as possible to get it over with.
On a positive note, eating pizza for breakfast every day eased my usual dinner pizza cravings. And on Day 5, I didn’t feel hungry again until noon. Maybe it was the kombucha I drank alongside my slice, maybe it was sheer luck, but I was happy with how full I felt.
In terms of the overall physical effects, I was noticeably more bloated than usual by the end of the week and excited to take a break from pizza. I thought eating pizza for breakfast would affect my mood or energy levels, but I didn’t experience any adverse effects besides getting hungrier earlier than usual for lunch. My experiment did make me think harder about what the rest of my meals would look like for the day since my breakfast seemed so, well, unhealthy.
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Was pizza for breakfast worth it?
Overall, the pizza satiated me until lunch, especially when I opted for the right toppings, like vegetables and lean protein. Eating pizza for breakfast on the regular is definitely doable if you put some thought into your slice. Greasy pepperoni and cheese aren’t sustainable and healthy breakfast options, but a few key substitutions can turn pizza into a great breakfast—with a lot less sugar than typical breakfast foods.