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Moms Talk (With Poll): Is Pizza a Vegetable?

Congress recently declared pizza a vegetable, and some folks are up in arms. But what's really at the root of our nutrition problem in our schools and our homes? Chime in with your two cents.

You may have heard the recent buzz around your kids’ school cafeteria: Congress has now declared pizza a vegetable. Well, to be specific, they’ve declared that the tomato paste is equal to ½ cup of vegetables. Parents are up in arms, of course. Since when does pizza, the greasy stuff we lived off of during our college dorm days, qualify as a serving of veggies?

Several years ago, our local schools started banning sweet treats on a child’s birthday. Remember those chocolate cupcakes Mom brought in on your special day? No more. Now we’re required to pass out pencils, stickers and other cheap goodies that will most likely be tossed the minute a child gets home. The reasoning behind this? Nationwide obesity. In other words, that cupcake your child might get once a month in class is contributing to this  growing problem, not the two Big Macs the child consumed on the way home from school.

Sadly, many children don’t have parents around to help them make good choices when it comes to food; they rely solely on the breakfasts and lunches they get at school. So it is important schools play a part in helping kids eat healthy. Many schools have already made big changes, taking soda machines off campus and replacing junk food at the snack bars with fruit, veggies and protein items. Michelle Obama has tried to do her part to encourage kids to make healthy choices, and many schools, including my kids’, implement a nutrition unit where they teach children about the four food groups and have them keep a food journal at home. But are these things really helping?

I, for one, am guilty of letting my kids occasionally indulge in junk food. A quick glance around my car will confirm this; McDonalds wrappers and empty soda cups sometimes litter the floors. Am I proud of this? Certainly not. But do we eat this way every day? Definitely not. I’m still a firm believer in “everything in moderation.” Will an occasional cupcake in class hurt a kid in the long run? Highly doubtful. I realize that, as a parent, it is my responsibility to help my kids make good choices. After all, I’m the one who does the grocery shopping, and if twenty bags of Doritos end up in the cart, it’s most likely my fault.

So back to the pizza. Is tomato paste a veggie? Technically, I suppose it is. But is that the real issue at hand? I think we have to look at the big picture, not just a slice of pepperoni. Nutrition is about a lifestyle, not a single food item. We must all play our part in this and take responsibility instead of blaming one particular thing. In the long run, we’re all in this together. But that’s just my food for thought. What’s yours? 

Mick December 01, 2011 at 03:43 PM
Tomatoes and tomato paste are not vegetables. Their seeds are contained internally, making them of the fruit family. Pizza may contain vegetable matter, flour and or vegetable oils, but tomatoes do not a vegetable make. The buck stops with the parents. Schools are for education, not policing the diets of the kids. Kids will forever eat whatever they want when not in the family units' pervue. If the schools offer healthy choices, and the kids don't want to partake, they won't.
Karen Koczwara December 01, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I agree, Mick. Schools are for education, not policing the diets of the kids. Well said.
Janet Whitcomb December 01, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Part of education is the advocation--but not policing--of a healthy lifestyle. If children want to bring sack lunches containing foods with high sugar and fat content, that is the venue of the parents. But schools need to set an example by offering fare that is not just tasty but healthy as well. The typical menu of my own middle school's cafeteria featured fish sticks, tater tots, french fries, mashed potatoes and gravy, and chicken friend steak and gravy. Plus sandwiches made with Wonder Bread and glued together with mayonnaise and God knows what else. All that was missing was Homer Simpson and his doughnuts. Those were the bad old days when everyone turned a blind eye. These days we should know better.
Donna Williams December 02, 2011 at 12:21 AM
I agree with all the comments here, and it would be great if our schools offered and encouraged healthier school lunches. This would be an ideal platform for promoting healthy habits, and schools should set good examples for students. But let's be honest. A lot of kids just throw away the fruits and vegetables when you pack them in their lunches. As for pizza being considered a "vegetable serving," probably not (despite the nitpicking of whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables). Sure, the tomato sauce does have some healthy value, but not a half cup's worth. Maybe schools should offer a thinner crust made of whole grains and maybe other veggies for toppings. But then again, would the students just pick off the vegetables and throw them away? Tough call.

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