Image: Croissants for dinner, nothing to see here, folks… (via iStock).
I don’t consider myself a particularly controversial person, but every time I voice my support for eating breakfast foods outside of breakfasting hours I feel like a lynching is imminent.
When my pantry’s looking a little bare, I’ll often serve myself scrambled eggs, corn fritters or, in desperate times, cereal as an evening meal. Yet many of my friends are adamant these delicacies have no place on the dinner table. “They’re not real foods!” they protest. “It doesn’t count as dinner if there’s no meat on the plate!” they cry.
Thankfully, pop culture is on my side. The characters of Parks and Recreation have done wonderful things for the ‘all-day breakfast food consumption’ campaign. “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” Leslie Knope ponders in one particularly memorable scene, to which Ron Swanson replies, “People are idiots, Leslie.”
While Leslie and Ron make a compelling case for eating breakfast at dinner, it's probably not very wise to get your nutritional advice from fictional characters. So I took this very important question to nutritionist and dietician Arabella Forge, one of the expert team behind the new app Trim For Life, for a more reliable opinion.
As with so many things in life, the answer isn't exactly black-and-white.
"It depends on what your definition of breakfast food is; some breakfasts can be extremely nutritious," Forge says. Sadly, I don't think pancakes, waffles and other sweet brekkies fit the dinner bill — but there's always dessert, right? (Post continues after gallery.)
"It also depends on what you're eating during the day and what you had for breakfast that morning - you want as much balance and diversity in the diet as possible," Forge adds.
In other words, eating a bowl of cereal for every meal of the day isn't advisable, even if it's a healthy version like porridge or oats. Sorry, cereal killers... but deep down you probably knew this.
"Porridge is quite a nutritious food, but I guess the thing would be that if you had porridge for breakfast, or you'd had something similar to porridge during the day as well, you might be eating just a bit too much of it," Forge explains.
"Particularly for weight management, you should aim to spread your protein intake throughout the day, so try and include protein with every meal. Your basic cereal would not meet your protein requirements and a lot of your vegetable recommendations as well."
The verdict on my Day Before Payday dinner special, cheese/avocado/insert condiment here on toast, also falls into the 'You Can Do Better' basket.
"I think the downside is you're not getting any vegetables with the meal, and you're missing out on a broader spectrum of nutrients. If you could try and include a salad or something it could be more nutritious. But yeah, cheese on toast would really be a last resort," Forge says.
There is good news, however, for the egg enthusiasts among us: this is one hero ingredient that works at any time of the day.
"Eggs are a very good source of protein, so anything like poached eggs or an omelette is an excellent quick and easy dinner," Forge says. "My recommendation would be to, if possible, include a salad or something on the side so that you actually get some veggies with the meal as well and it's not just protein. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that at all."
If you're not a friend of salad, some pan-wilted spinach, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms make an excellent, healthy side to eggs and will help you hit your daily veggie quota. It's also easy to beef up your average omelette with tomato, onion, corn and capsicum — it's a good way to use up those leftover veggies hanging out in your crisper. Baked eggs on a base of beans, veggies and crushed tomatoes is another personal favourite of mine.
If that's not enough to recruit you to Team Eggs For Dinner, they're also generally less expensive than other protein sources, like meat — and no, Forge doesn't agree with the whole 'if there's no meat it doesn't count as dinner' argument.
"I think it's definitely okay to get protein from other sources — eggs or some dairy products as well, like cottage cheese or feta cheese, which you could easily incorporate into a frittata or omelette," she says. That doesn't mean you can't incorporate meat into your brekky-inspired dinner, but if you're down to your last $5 you can go without.
Obviously eating brekky foods for dinner shouldn't be a daily thing, but there is a case for eating light in the evening and more substantial meals earlier in the day.
"A lighter meal at night can be beneficial because it can often contribute towards better sleep. When you eat a lot you can put a lot of strain on your digestive system, so it's generally recommended that people eat a larger meal in the middle of the day and a lighter supper," Forge explains.
So next time anybody shames you for having poached eggs at 7pm, tell them to go and enjoy a slice of humble pie.
Do you ever eat breakfast food at dinner time? What's your go-to dish?