Nutrition By The Slice
Everyone loves pizza, and for better or for worse, pizza has become a staple of the American diet. Children and adolescents in particular seem to be enamored with pizza as it remains a major contributor to the overall caloric intake of those under age 18 (which might at least partially explain why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles loved it so much). So what does all that pizza mean for your diet?
Powell and colleagues examined the nutritional effects of pizza consumption in the United States by examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Over the past 10 years, pizza consumption actually decreased slightly in children age 2-11, but remained relatively constant in those 12-18. Those who consumed pizza as a snack were also found to have a significantly higher overall total caloric intake. Pizza was found to contribute between 24-32% of overall caloric intake in children and adolescents.
These data demonstrate a hard reality: Americans routinely choose foods that are calorie rich and nutrient poor. Not that pizza is without its merits – remember that processed foods play a very important role in nutrition and even pizza was even once (controversially) considered a vegetable under certain federal guidelines – at the end of the day, foods like pizza do not provide nutrient density. Pizza isn’t the only commonly consumed food that meets this criteria. In fact, many of the top contributors to caloric intake in both children and adults have this same “calorie rich/nutrient poor” pitfall. What can often be overlooked is that the unintended consequence to the routine consumption of nutrient poor foods is that micronutrient intakes are well below where they should be for most Americans.
Fortunately, we live in a world where we have ways to help alleviate this situation. Tools like dietary supplements and food fortification have been clearly demonstrated to improve nutrient intakes. While these tools shouldn’t be used as a way to justify routinely overeating, fortified foods and dietary supplements have an important role in preventing deficiencies and maintaining public health.
Powell LM, Nguyen BT, Dietz WH. Energy and nutrient intake from pizza in the United States. Pediatrics 2015; 135(2): 322-330.
Fulvoni VL III, Keast DR, Bailey R, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011; 141: 1847-1854.
Weaver CM, Dwyer J, Fulgoni VL III, et al. Processed foods: contributions to nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 99: 1525-1542.