Is pizza your kid’s favorite food? If so, she’s not alone. According to a new study, 20 percent of children and teens in the United States are eating pizza on any given day — and taking in more calories, fat, and sodium than on days when they eat something else.
The results of the study appeared in the medical journal Pediatrics on January 19. Lisa Powell, a professor of health policy and administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study, says that when children eat pizza it makes up more than 20 percent of their daily intake of calories, according to a CBS News report. Poor eating habits raise a child’s risk for nutrition-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
To conduct their study, the researchers analyzed data from four U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2003 to 2010. Families of almost 14,000 children and teens, aged 2 to 19, reported what their kids had eaten in the previous 24 hours.
On the days children ate pizza, they consumed 84 more calories, 3 grams more saturated fat, and 134 milligrams more sodium than average, the investigators found. Teens took in an extra 230 calories, 5 grams saturated fat, and 484 mg sodium on pizza days, according to the report.
Study co-author William Dietz, MD, of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, in Washington, DC, says that children should have pizza no more than once each week and have no more than two slices in one sitting. Other ways to make pizza a healthier option include making pizza at home, topping pizza with veggies instead of meat, using less cheese and substituting a skim-milk mozzarella, and opting for whole wheat crust.