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For Thankgiving Dinner, We Are Making a Healthy Side Dish of Pizza

When I was in college, pizza was, for the most part, the primary sustenance of life. It was cheap, it was easy to get and it went really well with beer, the other life nectar of college. I figured I had pizza a few times a week. And every time my dorm mates and I sat down to devour a huge 16″ pizza, we totally rationalized it.

Let’s try to agree on something here. Pizza is a balanced meal. It covers all of the food groups, or is it called the food pyramid now? They keep changing the thing on me. It’s the one that has ketchup in the veggie category?

Hold on here for a quick educational digression…

Anyway, it turns out that there is a shift going on in the education of the food groups, a movement away from the classic food group pyramid to something a bit more understandable. There is a new site put up by the United States Department of Agriculture called “ChooseMyPlate.gov” which aims to educate children and adults alike on the importance of having a balanced meal.

They break down the Food Groups into 5 distinct segments:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Dairy
  • Protein

It seems that people were just not getting the 6 colors of the food pyramid (the five being the items above plus “oils”), so the USDA came up with the new MyPlate symbol (NO, it’s NOT a pizza!) as a better way for people to understand what they should eat and the proportions in each food group to have. You can see in the picture above that Vegetables and Grains have a higher proportion than the other items.

So back to pizza…

Maybe Congress should vote NOT on whether pizza is a vegetable (which they did this past week and it passed in case you weren’t paying attention), but whether if pizza should be considered a “Super Food like broccoli or blueberries.

Applying my college mentality here (the mentality after having a few beers), here’s why Pizza is a Super Food – it covers all of the food groups in a single item:

1) Grains – well duh, that’s the dough
2) Vegetables – this is where Congress just helped me out – Tomato sauce
3) Fruits – this only works if you order a certain type of pizza –> Hawaiian – you have to have the pineapple
4) Dairy – that one is easy, you gotta have cheese on your pizza
5) Protein – well, since you have a Hawaiian pizza already, you have your Canadian bacon so there is your protein

There’s my justification that pizza is a good balanced food that hits all of the food groups. The problem is, probably not in the right proportions. But it worked for me in college…didn’t help my waistline though.

Today I mentioned to my kids that the government now considers pizza to be a vegetable. “WHAT!?” was the common reply. I had to clarify it for them, that in OUR house it is NOT a vegetable. (And what is a vegetable anyway? There is a great article that dissects what vegetables are and aren’t over on Slate – it turns out that the vegetable groups is really a “catch-all” if you look at it carefully).

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pizza. I would have it regularly if it weren’t so fattening and really not that good for you. So, I’m pretty appalled that our government would even come close to considering it a “vegetable”. That’s pathetic and sending the wrong message to kids and parents and schools. According to the WHO (World Health Organization):

  • 1 billion adults are over-weight soon to be 1.5 billion by 2015
  • More than 300 million are “obese”
  • 2.6 million people die each year die as a result of being obese or overweight
  • 42 million children under the age of 5 are overweight
  • Obesity comes from an imbalance of calories consumed vs. calories expended

So, all kidding aside, we will NOT be having pizza for Thanksgiving, but instead, some sort of a healthy, “vegetable” side dish. Thanksgiving is one day though, where you can have an unbalanced diet. Just remember to get back on track with your leftovers, otherwise your New Year’s resolution might be: “lose all of that weight I gained after Thanksgiving!”

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