Take a healthy approach to pizza

January 28, 2015 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

It’s the sort of news that can just about ruin a day: A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics suggests pizza may be contributing to childhood obesity.

The study showed that one in five children and nearly one-quarter of adolescents in the United States consume pizza on any given day.

Researchers at George Washington University say pizza consumption has many of the negative effects typically linked to fast food, including excess calories and increased sodium.

They estimate a child consumes an additional 84 additional calories, 3 grams of saturated fat and 134 milligrams of sodium on a day in which pizza is eaten. For teens, the numbers are higher: an additional 230 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat and 484 milligrams of sodium.

Researchers aren’t pushing a “just say no to pizza” agenda. Instead, they’re promoting the idea of “everything in moderation”: watch portion sizes, limit consumption, and choose healthier options, such as veggie pizza instead of meat.

(You can read about the study here.)

Making pizza at home is a first-step to making it healthier.

Making Healthy Pizza

Get creative with crust.

Skip the traditional white-flour crust and opt for whole-wheat dough, which provides extra protein and fiber. You can make your own or purchase it at the grocery store. There are other ways to get creative as well: try a whole wheat tortilla, English muffin or pita. Ready to think way outside the box? We stumbled upon this recipe for cauliflower crust.

Make magic sauce.

There’s a whole culture dedicated to getting kids of every age to eat more vegetables, and it involves a little trickery. Some of the recipes suggest seemingly odd combinations (think spinach brownies and avocado frosting ), but sneaking vegetables into a tomato-based pizza sauce makes perfect sense. Try pureeing roasted veggies with garlic and tomato paste for a healthy, vitamin- and nutrient-rich sauce. We found this sauce recipe.

Stick to mozzarella.

Mozzarella is low in calories and high in protein. It naturally has slightly less fat, including saturated fat, than other types of cheese. Opt for mozzarella over a three-cheese blend, and look for fresh mozzarella, which is lower in sodium than its processed, pre-shredded version. (Part-skim mozzarella is an even healthier choice.)

Get kids involved.

Oftentimes, children are more interested in eating something they’ve helped create. Ask them to help pick out healthy vegetables toppings, and opt for lower-fat grilled chicken, turkey bacon or chicken sausage instead of pepperoni and pork sausage.

Watch portion sizes.

The study in Pediatrics noted that on days kids ate pizza, their overall calorie intake was higher. In addition, eating pizza as a snack tended to make kids consume excess calories during the day. Try creative options such as pineapple, and serve pizza with a salad. (Hey, it’s worth a try.)


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