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Tomato sauce on pizza a serving of vegetables?

November 30, 2011 - Carla Tracy

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I’m finally finding time to clean up my emails. One of which was an email on the new ruling by Congress that is still shaking up the food pyramid; the fact that a smidgeon of tomato sauce on pizza now counts as a serving of vegetables on school lunches.

While it appeared as big news a week or two ago, it appears that it’s a hot topic that will stay on our front burners for awhile. Perhaps we can now also start claiming chocolate ice cream as a fruit. Cacao does grow on trees, after all.

Author Shereen Jegtvig, who worked for 16 years as a certified nutrition specialist before becoming a health and nutrition writer, also disagrees with the congressional ruling. Her publicist contacted me and asked if I wanted to ask her some questions, which I did.

Jetvig teaches for the Human Nutrition Program at the University of Bridgeport, Conn., and is a member of the American Dietetic Association and the Association of Health Care Journalists. She most recently wrote about the “Road Map to Healthy Foods in Schools” for

Does she consider tomato sauce a vegetable? — I asked her.

“I think it’s a poor excuse for a vegetable and used in this manner it’s only going to promote obesity. Tomato sauce or paste certainly can be good for you, but there are two problems here:”

“As it is right now, only two tablespoons of sauce are required to fulfill that one serving of vegetable. That's really not much, at less than 1/4 cup of sauce. A real vegetable sized serving of pizza sauce would have to be closer to 3/4 cup.”

“And, that little bit of sauce is accompanied by a lot of cheese and a refined flour crust, so it's going to be high in fat, calories and sodium with very little fiber.”

What can we do to help the situation?

”Parents can upgrade school lunches by packing lunches for the kids or by sending healthful snacks to augment the school lunches. Items like sandwiches made with lean meats, lettuce, and tomato on 100% whole grain bread; soup or healthy leftovers can be kept hot in insulated containers. Be sure that temperature sensitive foods are kept at the correct temperature until lunch time.”

”Parent groups can also meet with the food service directors to discuss issues like installing salad bars and offering healthier choices at lunch and breakfast programs. Adding healthier foods may mean cutting back on the foods kids often choose.”

”Education can help too - some schools have vegetable gardens or take kids on field trips to farmers markets - the idea is to get young kids to try fresh fruits and vegetables so they'll learn how good they can taste.”

”And lastly, have healthful foods at home for after-school snacks and dinners. Healthy eating becomes a habit. Often times, the school lunches aren't the only culprit behind a poor diet.”

You may find more hot nutrition topics such as these on Website.


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