Study: Kids are Eating Too Much Pizza

Young boys enjoying pizza.
Robert Deutschman / Getty Images

It's 5 p.m. Kids are coming home from school, mom and dad are coming home from work, and the evening ahead offers a mosaic of homework, sports practices, and getting ready for the next day so you can do it all over again. Everyone is hungry. What's a busy home cook to do?

If you are like a lot of Americans, a popular option is to call your local pizzeria and have a pizza delivered. Fast, cheap, and with a ton of options for everyone (plus, it comes to you!), pizza is definitely a staple in many households.

But a new study warns that families may be too reliant on that familiar mixture of crispy dough, savory sauce, and gooey melted cheese.

The Study

The study, which was published in the February, 2015 issue of Pediatrics discovered that on days that children ages 2-11 ate pizza, they consumed approximately 408 more calories, three grams of fat, and an additional 134 milligrams of sodium than on other days. The authors also found that pizza accounted for 5 percent of a child's diet over the course of the year.

The solution to this pizza problem is twofold, say the study's authors: make sure kids eat less pizza, but also make it healthier.

"It's a very common and convenient food, so improving the nutritional content of pizza, in addition to reducing the amount of pizza eaten, could help lessen its negative nutritional impact," said lead author Lisa Powell, associate director of the Health Policy Center at the Institute of Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.she said.

In response, the American Pizza Community (APC), a coalition of large and small pizza companies; operators; franchisees; vendors; suppliers; and other entities, issued a statement in Pizza Today:

“Pizza is not only a dinnertime tradition for countless American families, it also provides parents the opportunity to customize what their children are eating and make healthy choices for them,” said Lynn M.

Liddle, chair of the APC. “For example, a parent can choose a healthier crust option, such as a thin crust or a whole wheat crust; select from a wide array of vegetable and fruit toppings, including pineapple, green peppers and spinach; as well as choose lean proteins, including chicken. Pizza is a fresh option, delivered fresh from the oven.”

“Moreover, it’s important to note that other common dinner options have far more sodium than pizza,” continued Liddle. “A burrito has four times the sodium content of a single slice of either cheese or pepperoni pizza, for example, and pizza is also a lower-sodium alternative to a turkey club sandwich or a hamburger and fries.”

Offer Healthy Alternatives

Besides being delicious, one of the reasons pizza is such a popular dish is because it is so fast, easy, and cheap! But it doesn't always have to be your go-to dinner when your family needs to eat supper quickly. While making your own pizza is always a fun and healthier option (depending on the toppings and ingredients you choose!), if you are in a hurry, and need to get something on the go, it is possible to make healthy choices when you and your family eat out.

Still, having a quick meal doesn't always have to equate with fast food. If you know you are going to have one of those busy-runnning-around-all-around-town type of days, try planning ahead and using your slow cooker to make the evening meal. There are a ton of healthy, kid-friendly slow cooker recipes that everyone in the family is sure to enjoy. The best part is, you invest a little bit of time in the morning, set the cooker to do its thing, and hours later you have a complete meal that is ready to go. You can usually do most of the prep work in the slow cooker pot, so clean up is easy too!

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