Use MyPlate to Make a Better Pizza

MyPlateAMES, Iowa — MyPlate, the new food icon from USDA, recommends each meal include all the food groups — dairy, fruit, grain, lean protein and vegetables. One food with the potential to include all the food groups is pizza. But can this well-loved entree that is notoriously high in fat, sodium and carbohydrates fit on MyPlate? Yes it can, with a few modifications, said Sarah Francis, an Iowa State University assistant professor and ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist.

The USDA Farm Service Agency has reported that Americans eat about 100 acres of pizza daily, Francis said. “This amounts to 46 slices for each man, woman and child in the United States each year. We love pizza even though it is one of the top three sources of refined grains, solid fats, saturated fats and sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting our consumption of each of these nutrients because of their potential adverse health effects.”

However, as with all foods, moderation is key to a healthful diet, Francis said. “There are many ways we can make pizza healthier without compromising flavor and enjoyment. So we can have our pizza — and eat it, too.”

Francis offers these tips to have a MyPlate friendly and tasty pizza:

  • Location, location, location. Make a pizza at home rather than eating out or ordering in. The time it takes to make a semi-homemade pizza is the same amount of time it takes to go out or wait for delivery.
  • Start with a good base, the crust. When given a choice, choose a thin crust to lower the amount of carbohydrates per slice as well as calories. Also, select a whole grain crust, Francis said. “Many grocery stores sell whole-wheat, ready-made crusts. They have great flavor and texture and will help you incorporate more whole grains in your diet. When eating out or ordering in, ask if a whole grain option is available, such as wheat, oat or corn.”
  • Vegetables and fruit first. Pizza sauce counts as a vegetable, Francis noted. “In addition to the sauce, top your pizza with a variety of vegetables and fruit. This will help fill you up with fewer calories, as well as help you meet your recommended daily vegetable intake. In regard to fruit, a great addition to pizza is pineapple.”
  • Select lean meats. Traditional pepperoni, the most popular pizza topping, offers 10 calories, 1 gram of fat and 33 milligrams of sodium per slice. A typical slice of pepperoni pizza with four pepperoni slices includes 40 calories, 4 grams of fat and 132 milligrams of sodium just from the pepperoni, Francis said. “If you eat two or three pizza slices, you’ll be eating up to 120 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 396 milligrams of sodium just from the pepperoni. When choosing meat toppings, look for lower-fat options like turkey pepperoni or sausage, Canadian bacon, chicken or lean hamburger.”
  • Dairy. “Choose part-skim mozzarella cheese for this final pizza ingredient; it’s lower in fat and calories than regular mozzarella. If eating out, ask for half the serving of cheese. This will help lower the amount of extra fat and calories you will consume,” Francis said.

Live Healthy Iowa

Join the Live Healthy Iowa 100-Day Challenge. This team-based weight loss and physical activity program helps Iowans make positive changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. The 2012 program began Jan. 23, but there is still time to register at Live Healthy Iowa is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Sports Foundation and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

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