Pizza is very popular among American kids. Studies have in fact revealed that children tend to eat pizza more often than adults but some experts have raised concerns over this food and advised parents to curb children's consumption.
In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday, Lisa Powell, from the University of Illinois, and colleagues analyzed the data about the diets of children and teenagers between 2 to 19 years old from questionnaires that were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which were completed every two years from 2003 to 2010.
The researchers found that although the amount of calories that children consume from pizza has dropped by 25 percent from 2003 to 2010, the food is still a common part of the children's diet with about 20 percent of children and teenagers eating pizza at any given day.
During the days when children consume pizza, they also end up taking in increased amount of saturated fat, more salt and more calories overall. When teens eat pizza, they consume about 230 more calories and 484 milligrams of sodium, while younger kids consume about 84 more calories and 134 milligrams of sodium than during the days when they do not eat pizza.
Kids also tend to consume more saturated fat when the pizza is on the table and all these have unwanted implications. Increased salt, calorie and saturated fat intake could lead to unwanted health consequences such as heart disease and obesity, which has become very prevalent among children in the U.S.
Powell said that given the prevalence of pizza in the children's diet, there is now the necessity to make healthy pizza the norm and this entails having food producers and restaurant reduce the food's saturated fat and salt content as well as increase its whole grain content.
"This is not saying don't eat pizza," Powell said. "It's a nice opportunity for us to make some small changes because it's such a prevalent item in children's diets. Hopefully we can make healthy pizza the norm."
The researchers advised that parents avoid giving pizza to children between snacks and that should it be given as a meal, pizza should be made of healthy ingredients and served with vegetables and salads as well as lean mean to reduce the number of slices that children would consume. Experts also recommend making pizza at home rather than ordering to have control over how it is made.