To Your Health: Hold that pie! How pizza is putting kids’ health at risk

Pizza is a favorite meal for kids and adults, but a new study shows parents might want to think twice before serving up a cheesy pie for dinner.

Researchers at the University of Illinois found that on days that kids ate pizza, they consumed significantly more calories, fat and sodium than on pizza-free days.

pizzacalsWhat’s wrong with a little splurge? Well, nothing.

The problem is pizza is a regular part of American kids’ diets. About 20 percent of youth eat pizza on any given day.

The study’s authors say curbing pizza consumption among youth could actually be a weapon in the nation’s fight against childhood obesity.

But they also say kids can’t just eat less pizza. They have to eat healthier pizza.

“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 nutritional impact,” said lead author Lisa Powell, in a news release.

Powell and her team, who published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at caloric intake among youth ages 2 to 19 participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2010.

They found that on days when children ate pizza, they consumed about 84 additional calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 134 milligrams of sodium compared to pizza-free days.

Adolescents took in an extra 230 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat and 484 milligrams of sodium.

If you don’t think life without pizza is worth living, there are some things you can do to make the meal choice a healthier one for you and your kids.

• Consider making your own. You can pile the veggies on high, and be skimpy with the cheese and other high-fat toppings.

• If you’re eating pizza out, eat smartly. Know how many calories that slice has, and look for a reasonable option. Also, keep your serving size in mind. Limit yourself and your kids to one or two slices each.

• Add a salad to your meal. The salad will curb your desire to eat the whole pizza, and will add a little more green to your plate.

Looking for a healthy pizza recipe? Check out these fun, hearty veggie pizza rolls.

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