In Defense of Pizza
In Defense of Pizza

 

In light of childhood obesity awareness, more and more foods get blamed for the problem and recommendations to remove these "bad" foods from our diets are presented as the solution. Pizza is often presented as a food to eliminate for health reasons. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I will fight to the end to defend my family’s right to enjoy pizza because I know that it’s not breaking our commitment to healthy eating. 

Here’s my defense…

  • I credit pizza, and my parent’s willingness to expose me to a variety of foods, for promoting the versatile palate I have today. As a child, my father and I would enjoy a mushroom, olive and anchovy (yes, I said anchovy) pizza together. I never even knew anchovies were unusual until I went to my first childhood party and asked, “Can I have a side of anchovies and red pepper flakes, please?” It wasn’t until I studied nutrition in college that I realized the many nutrients that this pizza provided, such as calcium, protein, carbohydrates, B-vitamins and omega-3s, just to name a few. 
  • Pizza, if prepared correctly, can include all of the food groups. How many foods out there can do that? The crust is made of grain, which provides the carbohydrates and B-vitamins we need for fuel and energy. The tomato sauce, which would count as a vegetable serving, is a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which is important for heart health. Cheese is packed with calcium and protein for strong bones and muscles. Top with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and even pineapple and you have added servings of vegetables and fruit that provide other important vitamins and minerals. Want to include some extra lean protein for a boost of iron? Add some Canadian bacon, which is lower in fat and calories than pepperoni, or grilled chicken breast. Put all of these ingredients together and you have one delicious and nutritious meal that kids and adults love!
  • Pizza is the perfect communal food because it’s meant to be shared. Pizza has a long, rich history in our country. It started out as a diet staple for many poor Italian immigrant families. However, it wasn’t long until this delicious, inexpensive, handmade food increased in popularity among all Americans. To this day pizza is enjoyed by groups of people gathered together. What a perfect way to enjoy a wholesome meal with the family!

There are many things in life that I am passionate about, with the highest on my list being family, friends and food. Most of my significant memories involve at least one of these things and many involve all three. It was my love of food and its ability to bring families together in a positive way that led me to this career. My most important role as an RDN and as a mom, is to help others continue to experience the joy of consuming all foods, just doing it in a way that is conducive to health and well being. So I encourage you to continue to serve your family pizza and to feel confident that you are making a good choice. And if you really want to be adventurous, try adding a few anchovies. 

Here are a few fun links you can use with the kids to encourage creative pizza making:

My Very Own Pizza - Online game

Breakfast Pizza Recipe

Mini Maui Pizza Pie Recipe

 

References:

ChooseMyPlate.gov

Positive Approach

Do you know what foods you should be eating? Start with the Healthy Eating Planner to make a plan for eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods.