It became a viral trend in 2020 and continues to hold sway – the trend of having dessert for breakfast. The concept might not be new to you; in fact, in countries such as India it is traditional to have jalebi (fried batter soaked in sugar syrup) or shrikhand (hung yoghurt sweetened) for breakfast.
But in 2020, dessert for breakfast has been elevated into a big food trend of miniature proportions.
People are eating mini pastries, and heaps of it. Tiny doughy bites that masquerade as regular cereal in the mornings.
And so it began…
It all started with mini pancakes. It’s no secret that comfort food saw a massive spike in popularity during COVID-19 quarantine last year. As the world seemed to crumble around us, we collectively turned towards carbs. No surprise then that eating tiny pancakes soaked in syrup and butter for breakfast was soon the norm.
Quickly, the hashtag pancake cereal was exploding with millions of views on TikTok (it has over 1.5 billion views). Immediately, YouTubers, TikTokkers and Instagrammers got on board. Both novices and experts from all corners of the world were soon weighing in.
Mini-everything at once became both the ultimate at-home cooking experience and a fun, fascinating way to elevate the cereal game. Highly Insta-worthy, adapting to everything from sprinkles and icing, it’s easy to see why the trend catapulted into fame, and why everyone was soon piping, drenching and decorating.
Pancakes just weren’t enough, so twists were attempted. You could stick with the classics, or you can get ambitious and branch out into everything from mini croissants to mini donuts, brownies, cupcakes and cookies. Just add them to a bowl, pour milk over, and call it cereal.
Bloggers Shalean LaBerge and Steph Ghitis of food blog @soflofooodie did a variation with waffles - their #wafflecereal Insta video garnered close to 300,000 likes. After seeing mini pancakes all over their social media feeds, they had initially experimented with different pancake flavours and textures, using Oreos and cocoa, and also used food colouring to create unicorn pancakes.
Then they took the trend one step further – using waffles, with waffle batter going in a Ziplock bag and mini versions of waffles piped into the waffle maker, then serving it drenched with syrup and some butter. “Some people were adding milk to their pancake cereal while others just did mini pancakes and syrup. We’ve always preferred waffles. We think it’s so cute! There’s something about mini foods that catch people’s eyes.”
After the popularity of waffles, the food bloggers went all in, creating mini versions of everything from French toast cereal to grilled cheese and pizza bagels, with how-to videos and recipes for each on their Instagram feed. Anything they could make normally, they made in a smaller size. Tiny donuts and tinier coin-sized ones: “Cuter and better and hold up well in milk.”
Their followers loved it. “People were very intrigued to try new things and find ways to make fun food items while at home. The trend did spark a lot of conversation and creativity that’s for sure. We had some people not understanding the term cereal because milk was not added.”
Shay and Steph aren’t fans of adding milk to most of them just because of the soggy texture that results in. “Also there was no way we were putting milk into the savoury versions.”
Just for the social media likes?
Blogger Izzy M from @itsahealthylifestyle says while the trend started on TikTok, the Dutch people have been making mini pancakes called Poffertjes long before it became trendy. She halved the recipe of regular pancakes for the mini ones, and has continued making mini cereals since the start of the trend. She’s made mini croissants using premade vegan croissant dough, which she cut into smaller pieces. She made mini cinnamon buns using a premade puff pastry, to which she added cinnamon/brown sugar/margarine. She used a recipe for homemade Oreos but made them mini. She made Reese’s puffs and Cocopops at home - sticking to the cereal bit of the trend and not using flour or white sugar. She’s even explored the savoury end of it, with chickpea pancakes.
“It’s a trend that is something new, different and creative, as well as being very photogenic and therefore very popular on social media - perfect for TikTok and Instagram. People are more likely to try it just for social media.”
Izzy received some great responses to the mini-series, and while she doesn’t deny the fun and potential for creativity with the trend, she’s wary about its longevity. “As a nutritionist and health coach, I am well aware that it is neither cereal, optimally nutritious nor something to be eaten every day. As actual breakfast - on an everyday basis it isn't the most nutritious, but as a one-off thing it’s just fun. It might work as a fun and delicious dessert as part of a balanced diet.”
So, does this trend really have staying power as a breakfast staple?
The unsavoury side of it
Building a whole meal around sugar – what’s not to like?
Plenty, says Dubai-based dietitian Jordana Ventzke.
While she acknowledges the need to start looking for alternatives to our regular cereal and milk, she stresses on the need to ensure that these foods are not adding dramatically to our already increased sugar intake and unhealthy fat intake. Instead, she says what’s key is a focus on foods that provide our bodies with nutrients that will help with normal daily functioning.
“Most of these new breakfast foods, along with the more traditional cereal and milk, tend to lack fibre - essential for our gut health,” she says. “What we put into our bodies affects our mental and physical health, especially when we look at how this food is benefitting our gut biome. If our gut is not healthy, neither are we, physically and mentally.”
Jordana says by increasing sugar and unhealthy fats in our already traditionally poor diets, we are only increasing our risk of developing lifestyle diseases. “We are also seeing a lot more overweight children and children suffering with behavioural problems, which are both being influenced by what children are eating and how they are starting their day. How we eat can affect our ability to concentrate and will play a role in how our day continues with respect to what we choose to eat.”
A sugar crash, anyone?
Ditching the sugary breakfast might seem all the more enticing when we realise you’re going to get hungry very, very soon after.
“To put it simply, our appetite is controlled by how long we stay full for. Sweet foods and meals containing mostly carbohydrates are going to be digested quickly by the body, and so you will feel hungry sooner than if your meal contained some protein, vegetables (increased fibre), and healthy fats. These foods also tend to cause a glucose spike within the body, which is followed by a spike in insulin. This then leads to a ‘crash’ in glucose levels, causing us to crave more sweet foods or foods that are going to rapidly digested and help resolve this feeling of tiredness and grumpiness (typically seen in the afternoon).”
Instead, she recommends as a healthy breakfast with one source of protein, along with some vegetables and a carbohydrate. A healthy fat can be added as well. “For example – 2 boiled eggs, served with avocado and spinach; this can be served with a smoothie (made with fruit and vegetables),” Ventzke added.
Looking for a sweeter start?
If you really want pancakes or waffles, reach for the jar of nut butter. For an extra dose of veggies, she suggests making spinach pancakes or cheese and egg waffles, “And serve with a protein spread such as cottage cheese or a nut butter, rather than always going straight for the maple syrup or Nutella.”
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