Rethinking Pizza for Children’s Health

By Christina Elston

Pizza and Children's HealthMove over sugary drinks, there is a new enemy in the war against childhood obesity. Pizza.

Pizza is the second-largest contributor of calories to the diets of U.S. kids ages 2-19, according to a study in the February issue of Pediatrics, and study authors recommend making it a target in obesity-prevention and children’s health counseling. Here are some findings based on dietary information from more than 12,000 kids across the U.S.:

  • On days when they eat pizza, children take in an extra 84 calories, and adolescents take in an extra 230 calories. Kids eating pizza also consume more saturated fat and sodium than they otherwise would.
  • Pizza from fast-food restaurants had the biggest negative impact on kids’ “energy intake” (excess calories), and pizza eaten as a snack had more impact than pizza eaten as a meal did.
  • Pizza eaten in school cafeterias did not significantly add to kids’ total intake of calories, possibly because it isn’t nutritionally different from other school entrees.

Study data came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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