Pizza Power

 I am tired of pizza getting a bad rap.  There are lots of great things about pizza.  First of all, how many different kinds of   pizza are there?  There’s thin crust, thick crust, stuffed crust, coal-fired, handtossed, deep dish, pan, thin n’ crispy – I could go on forever.  The different toppings – there’s not enough time in the day to list these.  Is there anything you can’t put on top of  pizza that won’t taste good?   It’s readily available.  You can get pizza anywhere, anytime or it’s pretty easy to make yourself.  Have you ever said to yourself  “I wish there were more pizza places around here?”   Me neither.  Kids love it – no explanation necessary.  It’s relatively inexpensive.  It encompasses at least three food groups – protein, dairy, vegetable.  Depending on what you put on it, maybe more!  You’re probably thinking, isn’t it a little unhealthy??  I won’t argue a chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice may be a better choice.  However, sometimes, especially on a Friday night, that’s just not going to happen.  Unhealthy compared to what – other pizza or other food?  If you get the triple meat italiano pizza at Pizza Hut, it’s going to have a whopping 420 calories and 23 grams of fat (basically almost 50% of the calories come from fat AND remember that is 1/8 of a pie).  If you compare that to a  thin n’ crispy slice from Pizza Hut the calories  drop to 190 with 8 grams of fat (38% fat calories – better especially in the calorie department).  How about a chicken caesar salad?  Want a real shocker?  Caesar salad at Outback Steakhouse – 1045 calories, 74 grams of fat.  Wow, that is 64% of the calories coming from fat!!  My point I’m trying to make is don’t discount pizza because you think it is so “bad for you.”    Listed below are some fat and calorie values for various pizzas, all 1/8 of a pie.

Anthony’s Coal-Fired  (Plain Cheese)

425 calories      15 grams fat       32% fat calories

Bertucci’s  (Plain Cheese)                      

330 calories      15 grams fat      43% fat calories



          230 calories            4.5 grams fat           18% fat calories

          Thin Crust                                       

          170 calories             7 grams fat               37% fat calories

          Deep Dish                                         

          210 calories              7 grams fat              30% fat calories

Homemade Pizza

239 calories              5.6 grams fat           21% fat calories

Pizza also packs a great nutritional punch.  Tomato sauce contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant thought to  help protect against cancer.  It is also high in vitamin C.  Cheese is an excellent source of protein and also contains vitamin B-12, calcium, and vitamin D.    Make a whole-wheat pizza crust and add some beneficial fiber.  Added lean meats such as ham and chicken can boost protein.  Vegetable toppings increase the nutritional value significantly by adding a variety of vitamins and minerals (and fiber). 

For takeout pizza, check out the fat and calorie content, if it’s available.  Try to pick venues where pizza is closer to authentic italian with thinner crust, more sauce and less cheese.  You probably know which pizza places have more greasy and/or breadier dough pizzas.  Avoid these.  Make homemade pizza with your child and let their imaginations run wild thinking of toppings!  Pizza on the grill is very popular now – there are a variety of cookbooks available with some great recipes.   Wegman’s makes it easy by having a section that includes sauce, cheese, and pizza dough all in the same place.   My daughter LOVES to make homemade pizza and thinks it tastes better than takeout.    It is a fun thing to make for kids of all ages.

Add to your to do list this week:  get pizza stone, pizza cutter, pizza cookbook.   Have fun!

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”  Jack Brooks

There’s Got to Be a Morning After

The holiday season is over (thank goodness).  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.   Looking at (not so much hanging) the decorations and lights, getting together with family and friends, and enjoying all of the special things that are unique to this time of year.  Unfortunately, we know there is a price to pay for having  too much of  a good time.  Exhaustion, disorganization, financial ruin, and maybe an extra pound or two.  That’s why it’s so great that this time is followed by the start of a new year.  New year – new beginning.   That’s how I feel after the new year begins.  Our children may not feel exactly the same way we do.  They may be sad the holidays are over and it is time to go back to school.  It’s time to get back to some routine.  Listed below are some suggestions on how to get you and your child back on track.

  1. Take a few minutes to sit down with your child.  Better yet, take a walk with them and talk.  Let them know it’s time to refocus on their nutrition and exercise goals.  If they maintained their weight, praise them for a job well done.  If they gained a little, make sure they know they just need to get back to business.  It’s ok.  No matter what goals we make in life, there are usually ups and downs getting there.  It is important to emphasize this to your child. 
  2. Take a trip to the grocery store with your son or daughter.  Encourage them to do some label reading to help them pick out some appropriate food choices.  Try to make it fun and not seem like a chore.  Timing is everything so pick a time that works best for your child (and you, of course). 
  3. If they are not so eager to get to the store, see if they would rather make a recipe together.  Maybe they search online for a baked chicken tender recipe and you go to the store and get the ingredients.  The point is, get them involved in and thinking about good nutrition.
  4. Write down their reasons for wanting to lose weight.  Two at the most.  They need to keep in places where they will be visible several times a day – by their bed, in a drawer, screen saver on an iPod touch or computer (only if they are comfortable with that). 
  5.  Encourage them to be aware of what, why, where, how they are eating.  Am I hungry?   What mood am I in?  Does the food I am eating still taste good?  Is there a better snack choice that would be healthier?  Am I eating in front of the TV?  Have them write down for easy reference.
  6. Make a specific plan with your child for the upcoming week.  What meals and snacks will you be eating? What is the exercise routine?
  7. Part of the plan must  be increased intake of high protein foods.  They speed up metabolism while helping to keep you full.  Limit carbohydrate intake except for those high in fiber.
  8. Drink plenty of water.
  9. Activity and exercise!!  Whenever possible.  Encourage at least 30 minutes of structured exercise each day.   However, try to keep your child moving.  Playing interactive video games, shopping, shooting baskets, cooking, etc.  or whatever keeps them from spending too much time in front of the TV or computer.

The above ideas incorporate mentally and physically what needs to happen when your child falls off the wagon (notice the reference to TAP from my last blog – thinking, awareness, and planning).  Talk to your child about New Year’s resolutions and have them make one regarding nutrition that is realistic and attainable.  Remember you need to keep positive and consistent.  Your child needs to keep at it! 

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

My Doctor Said My Child’s Weight is Fine…But is it?

You suspect your child is overweight.  You’re not sure if they are going to outgrow it, maybe they are just going to be a little “bigger” than average, or maybe it really is a problem.  You really don’t want to believe the latter.  On your child’s well visit to their pediatrician, your doctor informs you of your child’s BMI (Body Mass Index), used to determine overweightness or obesity.  If you are told that your child falls above the 85 percentile for weight, you should be concerned.  The 85th-95th percentile is considered overweight and above the 95th percentile is considered obese.  The problem is I have been hearing over and over again from people that their pediatrician was “not concerned” about their child’s weight when they fell into the above categories.   There also have been recent articles addressing this problem.  I’m not sure if it is linked to the whole “body image” thing and eating disorders.  Of course, we do not want to do anything to promote an eating disorder.  Yes, not everyone is going to be “thin.”  But to not seriously address a weight issue with a parent or caregiver is difficult for me, as a dietitian, to understand.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut as a parent.  Sometimes we are in denial about our child’s weight and it is reassuring to hear a physician say they will probably outgrow it.  The  BMI guidelines are clear regarding overweightness/obesity in children.   If you are told your child’s BMI is above the 85th percentile, it is very likely your son or daughter could benefit from some form of intervention.  It certainly couldn’t hurt but ignoring things may make this problem a bigger one to overcome in the future.  Listed below are some reasons why your child may benefit from seeking help from a registered dietitian:

  • BMI greater than or equal to the 85th percentile.
  • Any change in your child’s growth chart pattern – for example, weight begins to exceed height.
  • Any sudden or large weight gain.
  • Changes in eating habits that you think are worrisome.
  • Poor eating and exercise habits.  All children could benefit from education in these areas.
  • Suspicion of any eating disorder – all too often I hear parents of adolescent girls, in particular, questioning their eating habits. 
  • You just feel something is not right with regard to weight and or eating behaviors.

Not all of the above mean that your child has a weight problem.  They simply should raise a red flag.   Upon further investigation, you  may find out everything is fine and no intervention is necessary.  But maybe it is and you may have just prevented a little problem from becoming a great big one down the road.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”       Theodore Roosevelt

Helping Your Child Avoid Overeating When Dining Out

      When dining out, we all know it is difficult to avoid eating too many calories – let alone the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium which skyrocket in restaurant foods.  The best way to help your child or teen avoid overeating, is to discuss the guidelines listed below when going to a restaurant.  Now, of course, on special occasions they may want to splurge.  That is fine, however, many families are eating out more than ever.  If you find this is the case, splurging all the time will lead to extra pounds and having a plan when going to a restaurant is a great idea!  These suggestions should be followed by everyone when eating out.   

  1. Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side.
  2. Use condiments like salsa and mustard instead of mayonnaise and oil.
  3. Order non- or low-fat milk or chocolate milk.
  4. Order baked or grilled lean meats instead of fried or fatty ones.
  5. Ask for half portions or only eat half a portion.  Have them wrap half your meal as soon as it is served.
  6. Order a sandwich with lean meats:  chicken, turkey, tuna,, lean ham or roast beef.  Choose whole-grain bread instead of white.
  7. Avoid the bread basket!!!!!  Danger!!
  8. Ask for child size portions – usually enough for grown adults!!
  9. Avoid cream-based soups and sauces.
  10. Order pasta with marinara sauce as opposed to heavy cream sauces.
  11. Have fruit for dessert.
  12. Steer clear of food descriptions containing these words:  alfredo, pan-fried, crispy, crunchy, battered, au gratin, a la mode, scalloped, loaded/covered, cheesy, buttered, creamed, fried or deep fried
  13. Opt for: steamed, broiled, grilled, baked, seasoned, stir-fried, poached, roasted
  14. Save buffet or brunch style eating for special occasions.  Try not to go back for seconds!
  15. Never think you have to finish what’s on your plate.  Ask for a take out container and make it a meal for the next day.
  16. Check out the menu ahead if it is available on-line.  Decide with your child what the best selection might be prior to sitting down at the restaurant.   (This is my favorite – planning ahead!)
  17. Order an appetizer instead of an entrée  (be cautious – some appetizers have more calories than an entrée!).
  18. BEFORE  you go out have a snack to make sure you are not starving when you get to the restaurant.  Remember, never let yourself get too hungry!  It works!

Remember the goal is to incorporate behaviors into our lives that support lifelong healthy eating habits.  Establishing these guidelines will surely help do that.  Don’t forget that your practices will have the biggest  influence on your child’s behavior so follow your eating out tips together.

“People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”