From ‘Traditional meat-lovers’ to ‘Chicago-style deep dish pizza,’ it’s fair to say the modern-day pizza is not exactly a wholesome balanced meal.
Heck, even the crust on pizzas have been taken to a whole new cardiac level, with the invention of the ‘Ultimate Stuffed Crust Pizza,’ which boasted pepperoni, bacon, Italian sausage and cheese in the crust. Seriously, who sits at home and thinks, ”Cheese in the crust just isn’t gluttonous enough; let’s chuck in all sorts of pig, too!”
For the record, just one slice of that particular pizza tops you up with 510 calories and 28 grams of fat. That amount of calories is equivalent to eating seven boiled eggs or five whole potatoes. And let’s be realistic, who stops at one slice?
Not all doom and gloom for pizzas
Alas, it’s not all lost for pizzas on the health front. Maybe.
A study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition concluded that healthy, nutritionally balanced pizzas can actually be manufactured and produced on a large scale.
Known as ‘health by stealth,’ the concept was derived by scientists who believe it’s possible to reformulate many take-away foods to improve public health. The trick is to accomplish this without spoiling taste, in order for the product to remain a commercial success.
“We can’t all make entirely home-made meals,” says Mike Lean, one of the study’s several co-authors and a nutritionist from the University of Glasgow. “So it’s about time that manufacturers took steps to make their products better suited to human biology, and we have shown them how to do it.” (Just a side note, how fitting is his name?)
And if you thought there was not much art or science involved in the production of pizzas, a mathematician from the University of Sheffield has just recently created the world’s first formula for perfectly-portioned pizza. The formula calculates the best ratio to ensure maximum flavour of topping to base. Pizza has become a serious topic, no doubt.
Researchers of the ’health by stealth’ study investigated 25 different Margarita pizzas currently on the market in order to understand the nutritional content and quality. They discovered:
- Calorie content ranged from 200 to 562 kcal. A standard meal is generally around 600kcal.
- Six pizzas had too much total fat (greater than 35 percent total energy), whilst only two were low-fat (less than 11 percent total energy). The majority of fat in these pizzas comes from the cheese, because they are meat-free.
- Salt was far too high in almost all the pizzas; unfortunately that’s what it takes to resourcefully preserve pre-made food.
- No pizzas met the recommendations for vitamin C, vitamin A or iron content.
Teaming up with food producer Donnie Maclean, the team set out on modifying those existing pizza recipes into something more beneficial. They swapped to wholemeal flour and added synthetic fibre, iron, iodine, and vitamins A, C and B12. They also adjusted the proportion of the base to improve the carbs-to-fat ratio. Running consumer taste tests, they found members of the public enjoyed the end result.
The most ingenious part of all, however, is that they swapped most of the salt out for seaweed, which provides the same salty taste without the sodium.
“There really is no reason why pizzas and other ready meals should not be nutritionally-balanced. We have shown it can be done with no detriment for taste,” said Professor Lean.
Business is business
The study was great first-hand proof that nutritious pre-made (simple) pizzas are feasible. However, the ‘health by stealth’ premise — the idea that these pizzas would appeal to customers with health issues — is not so clear. There are already healthy, or at least healthier, pizzas in existence. However, these premium quality pizzas come at a premium price, too, simply providing another alternative for already health-conscious consumers. Unless nutritionally balanced pizzas are marketed to not-so health-conscious consumers and offered at an affordable price for lower income consumers, healthy pizzas just won’t catch on.
Business is business, and with an increased cost and far lower demand, healthy pizza varieties cannot be as profitable for manufacturers to produce. ’Improving the health and wellbeing of customers’ is simply not a metric in Pizza Hut’s annual shareholder report.
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