Andrew Zimmern's Unpopular Opinion About American Breakfast

It's often said that breakfast is "the most important meal of the day," and in America's food-centric culture, that's saying a lot. Apparently, in the 1960s, Adelle Davis, an American nutritionist, said "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper," per Medical News Today

But, If you break down the compound word "breakfast," it literally means "to break a fast,"  and Etymology Online explains that "fast" means "a voluntary abstinence from food and drink," often for religious reasons. Digging a little deeper reveals "fast" to mean an Old English root word meaning "fortress" or even "prison." Breakfast, clearly, is liberating.

Unsurprisingly, in the Super-Sized food culture of the U.S., breakfast is big — and big business. Statista reports that 283.39 million Americans chowed down on cold breakfast cereal in 2020, and in 2022, the country spent almost $1.40 billion on bacon and ate almost 300 eggs per person. But the idea of a hearty, greasy morning meal is kind of unique to the States. Around the world, breakfasts tend to be on the lighter side, like pastries, fruits, and simple plates of meat, fish, and veggies. CNN Travel juxtaposes international breakfasts like Tunisian chickpea soup with American buttermilk pancakes, which are often made with chocolate chips, paired with bacon, and always drowning in maple syrup. So it's little wonder that globetrotting food celebs like Andrew Zimmern have experienced all kinds of breakfasts — and find the stateside spread to be problematic.

Breakfasts then, now, and elsewhere

According to The Atlantic, breakfast was frowned upon in medieval times for its indulgences, even being considered a form of sinful, self-destructive gluttony. But the outlet adds that morning meals helped make breakfast an accepted and even necessary part of industrialized America, and a celebrated fixture of the English upper-class lifestyle. Perhaps it was these conflicting ideals that eventually led to massive egg, meat, and batter plates, rainbow breakfast cereals, and sweets of all forms, like donuts, muffins, and sugary lattes.

It's precisely the latter that Andrew Zimmern called out in an interview with lifehacker. He said, "The American breakfast is toxic for people. It's all that sugar and carbohydrates," adding that "It's almost like child abuse to feed your kids the 'American Breakfast.'" As a seasoned world traveler, Zimmern added that he especially enjoys the drastically different Japanese breakfast, which CNN Travel describes as contrastingly umami, and includes the likes of fish, miso soup, rice, pickled veggies, or perhaps a simple omelet.

Look on the sunny side

On his website, Andrew Zimmern lists his most memorable eats from his Travel Channel show, "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," including fermented Greenland shark, horse rectum sausage, and tarantulas. But his contempt for "French toast and maple syrup, and cereal with sugar" seems to convey a criticism of ingrained American eating habits and hint at the country's infamous various health crises. However, in the same lifehacker interview, Zimmern does admit to being quite the coffee snob, and a fan of eggs, toast, and bagels with cream cheese or smoked fish for breakfast, interspersed with diligent eating of dinner leftovers in the morning.

It would appear, then, that the issue with the American breakfast is not just its saccharinity, but its glaring lack of moderation. We're not the only country with beloved breakfasts that make the arteries quiver. Take the English fry-up, for example. But while it's fine to crush the occasional powdered sugar-dusted, whipped-cream-topped waffle, there are plenty of easy, healthy breakfast ideas out there that don't venture out of the comfort zone. Overnight oats, avocado toast, and kale smoothies have all risen to fame via the internet, and there are also the likes of vegetarian breakfast burritos and chipotle sweet potato egg cups that stay true to American heartiness. For everyday fuel, opt for something wholesome — but don't forget to treat yourself with a fat stack of flapjacks sometimes, too.