Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pizza, Now Available in the Produce Section!

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I can see the headlines now: Vegetable Consumption at an all time high! Getting your 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables has been made easy now that Congress has declared two tablespoons of tomato sauce equivalent to one serving of vegetables. Where can one find tomato sauce within the school lunch spread? Pizza! Let us set aside the fact that most school lunch pizzas are processed foods high in calories, refined carbohydrates, sodium, fat, and are often accompanied by a side of French fries.

It has been over a decade since I have had to consume lunch in a school cafeteria regularly, but pizza has always been the talk of the tray line. If you weren't purchasing a la carte items such as chips, snack cakes, and sodas, then you wouldn't be caught DEAD getting the meatloaf and green beans. Pizza and fries with chocolate milk seemed to be the only respectable option amongst your peers. Forgive me if my school lunch experience is a far cry from yours, dear reader. Perhaps you attended an avant-garde private school?

So what is so wrong with sending the message that pizza is a vegetable? Unless the slice is piled high with spinach, onions, bell peppers, and artichokes--eating a slice of cheese and pepperoni pizza will not give you the same benefits as eating fresh, whole foods. I'm not totally against tomato sauce, it is high in lycopene--a pigment and phytochemical found in tomatoes that has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer (namely prostate cancer) and it's yummy. Without it, spaghetti dinners wouldn't be the same. My fear is that by Congress fixing a problem simply by putting sheep's clothing on a wolf, public school students will continue to displace actual vegetables with foods that are energy, rather than nutrient dense.

Parents, here is where you come in. Set an example for your mini-me's by being a food model. No, don't wear the fruits and veggies--eat them! If your children see that you enjoy broccoli or Brussels sprouts, they are more likely to give them a try. Even better, let them pick out the accompanying vegetable with dinner and allow them to help you prepare it. I got a group of kids to try squash and zucchini in their quesadillas because they rinsed them, chopped them up and sauteed them. The kids were open to trying it because they made it! Whenever possible, pack your child's lunch. You can find great tips on the American Dietetic Association website for packing healthy lunches.

Until next time my fellow foodies, I've got to go--- the vegetable delivery guy from Pappa John's is at the door!

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