Share Your Thoughts: Pizza as 'Vegetable' in School Lunches


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  143 comments   :  18,185 Views

I recently spent a day speaking to high school students at my alma mater, where my sister is a senior. I was thrilled to see healthier options (like fruit and salads) than when I was there, but looking up and down the table, most of the kids had French fries, some variation of breaded meat on a white bun, and chocolate milk or a juice drink. Many also had a vegetable or, more commonly, a piece of fruit, but those bags of French fries were ubiquitous--just as they were when I was in school.

Clearly, kids are still resisting the healthier options in the lunch line, but I don't think any of them would argue that the pizza and French fries they love so much should be considered vegetables.

Pizza is a vegetable, at least according to the government. More specifically, the tomato paste on frozen pizza served at schools is considered a vegetable. And French fries stay on the menu, too.

Last January, the Agriculture Department proposed changes that would have limited the number of potatoes served each week and required that at least 1/4 cup of tomato paste be used per serving before pizza could be categorized as a vegetable.

The changes were aimed at reducing childhood obesity rates and getting more greens veggies and fruits to the lunch tray--and cutting the amount of salt in half over the next decade.

We already know that eating lunch at school increases a child's risk of being obese, so what happened? Congress last week blocked the Agriculture Department from moving forward with those rules, and the status quo lunches will remain.

This news
surprised me, but I want to know what you think: What is your opinion on the matter? What actions should be taken? Does pizza count as a vegetable?

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  • 143
    Something of a stretch to call pizza a vegetable. They serve it because kids will eat it. - 6/19/2017   5:21:30 AM
  • 142
    I have a doozy. Fort Worth ISD says that M&M's and any type of chocolate are healthy because it contains Milk! So guess what? That is what the teachers started giving out as treats! Chocolate! Really? By the way, it is given out on a daily bases. Stop rewarding the kids with crap! What happened to a pat on
    the back? A way to go? Name on the chalkboard? Special trips to the library? And by the way, Pizza is not a vegetable. They serve Pizza at my child's school every Friday! Along with Ice cream, chips and cookies that can be bought separately. So if a child has lunch money, they do not buy the hot lunch, they buy the other crap! Kids do not know how to make healthy decisions, that is why they have to be taught! But I am sure Fort Worth ISD makes a nice amount of money from those extras they sell. Hmmm. What is done for the almighty dollar? - 7/31/2012   8:58:36 PM
  • 141
    tomato is biologically a fruit but nutritionally considered a vegetable. but calling tomato paste a vegetable is definitely pushing it. I've been out of high school two years ago, but I still remember that the vegetable options we had - corn, carrots, green beans, or mixed - were not terrible at all. I can however attest that it is really, really, REALLY hard to eat healthy when you're getting lunch at school. Not necessarily due to lack of options, but just because kids don't really care about it. - 7/2/2012   12:09:53 PM
  • 140
    If they actually added veggies to the pizza then OK. I don't see how 1/4 cup of tomato paste will count, but back in the 70s when I was a child the government tried to say that ketchup with school lunches counted as a veggie! I am absolutely against banning foods from school menus and I remind everyone who pushes for food mandates.... We all have free will, even children. I know when I was in school I had the choice of healthy options and I always went for the junk food options. My choice. When I wasn't interested in the junk food offered that day, I ate rolls only. We can't force people to eat healthy. We all have a choice in what we want. I don't want the government telling me what I can eat or setting up laws that I may break b/c I want some kind of splurge. Get real people. Pay attetnion to what your children eat and help teach them at home how to make healthier choices. Take some responsibility in your own and your children's lives! - 12/4/2011   4:01:24 PM
  • 139
    OK, so who in Washington is channeling Ronald Reagan? - 12/3/2011   4:09:18 PM
    I work in a school. Most kids get their tray and throw it into the trash. Many do the same thing with a meal they bring from home. They don't offer to try any fruits or veggies. I agree that pizza is not a veggie and I cringe to pair it with French fries for a meal, but no matter what is served, most do not get a healthy meal. - 12/2/2011   1:12:19 PM
  • 137
    There is no way that pizza should be counted as a vegetable in school lunches, My daughter who is a senior never eats the school lunches because they are extremely unheathy. - 12/2/2011   1:52:08 AM
  • 136
    Am I the only one who remembers the Reagan era "Ketchup is a vegetable"? I have to agree that pizza is not a vegetable. I can see how with the right toppings it would qualify as providing a serving of vegetables, it is not a vegetable itself.

    As for everyone saying that tomato is a fruit, well, so are squash and eggplant. Nevertheless they are sold as vegetables in the produce department. - 12/1/2011   3:19:05 AM
    If Pizza is a vegetable then Cherry Garcia ice cream is a fruit..... - 11/30/2011   8:43:10 PM
  • 134
    I don't understand how a combination food can be given a single classification. What would a ham and cheese sandwich be, a grain, meat or dairy? Obviously it's all 3, just as a pizza has grain, dairy and fruit/veggie (whichever you want to call the tomato sauce). It took long enough to figure out that multi-racial kids shouldn't have to pick one race on forms, maybe in a decade or so, they'll figure out food can be mixed too. - 11/30/2011   3:32:38 PM
  • 133
    Congress seemed to forget one very important thing. Tomatoes are actually a fruit. So maybe they should start serving pizza smoothies and marketing them as a health drink. I for one think it is ridiculous and am very glad that I live in Canada, and that I currently don't have children. When I DO have a child, they will know, Pizza, in my house, is NOT a vegetable. Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Corn? THOSE are vegetables. Pizza is an extra that you can have once in a while. That's my 2 cents. - 11/30/2011   3:17:23 PM
    Tomato paste as a vegetable? Yuck. I don't think it should count as vegetable without a substantial variety of vegetables on the topping, with less cheese.
    I am now an "old person." We got through school lunches just fine with never a thought to french fries or pizza. - 11/30/2011   2:56:01 PM
  • 131
    It sounds like the government is shirking responsibility by making such a inane claim.

    I'm guessing the executive decision went a little something like this:
    "It costs too much money to feed kids ACTUAL vegetables so this will do."

    - 11/30/2011   11:22:15 AM
  • 130
    I think there should be more vegetables on the pizza to call it a "vegetable." - 11/30/2011   8:55:04 AM
    the whole notion seems asinine to me - 11/29/2011   9:20:02 PM
  • 128
    It just doesn't surprise me that they can call pizza a veggie. The government is poisoning our food system with so many chemicals, preservatives and GMO products. It's come to the point that pizza is a veggie.
    Can I ask if you call it a veggie to combat obesity, than can I call chocolate bars a fruit and not get fat when I eat too many??
    - 11/29/2011   8:31:52 PM
  • 127
    Its terrible to say, but every day there is a new standard or policy in this country that compels me to move out of it!
    So pizza is a vegetable.....just to be clear, is this in real life of at the Wonka Factory? - 11/29/2011   7:09:41 PM
  • 126
    I guess if restaurants can list mac and cheese as a veggie, schools can list pizza as a veggie. least there are some veggies on a pizza!! - 11/29/2011   3:44:10 PM
  • 125
    I'm not buying into this. Tomoatoes are healthy...didn't they use to be a fruit? Of course it all depends on how the pizza is prepared as to whether or not it's healhty. I don't think schools or the government has a right to ban certain foods, even unhealthy ones. That is overstepping their boundaries. You can't make people eat or behave like you want them to. People can choose to be a healthy weight or overweight/obese.

    I live in the South and ate fried chicken, pork chops and fish during my childhood. I also ate school lunches during my middle and high school years. Also went to college where there were more fast food options than you could count. I want to point out that every school that I went to offered the healthy options, I just didn't choose them! I never had a weight problem until 4 years ago when I started having children. You can't blame school lunches for everything! My redeeming quality was always being active. I've been exercising every day since I was a tween. Plus, our generation use to get outside and ride our bikes and go roller skating or walking around the neighborhood. It's not just the food that is contributing to kids being overweight/obese. - 11/29/2011   2:57:43 PM
  • 124
    My kids love "spinoccoli" pizza. I think the best way of getting kids to eat healthy foods that will help them develop well and think well, is to add wholesome ingredients to the foods they already love. Spinach and broccoli added to the tomatoes under that layer of cheese is delicious and teaches kids, incrementally, to like veggies. I also make a mac and "cheese" where the cheese is a small bit of good cheese and mostly pureed Winter squash. It looks like mac and cheese, kids love the taste, and you get some veggies into their diet in a way they can palate. As a kid, your taste buds haven't quite accepted the bitter taste of veggies, but veggies in the mix with the sweet tastes of tomatoes or squash are more acceptable to them. Here we package local apple slices and carrot slices for school lunches because those are sweet veggies kids already have a taste for.

    On the bright side of this, it's one step up from the 80's when ketchup was declared a vegetable. :p - 11/29/2011   11:37:46 AM
  • 123
    We are very poor and cant afford pizza very often. I say that there are alot of children that go to public school that wouldn't otherwise be able to have pizza if it wern't served at school just like mine! No they should NOT take that wonderful thing away from my child! And I for one think that they are simply calling it a vegetable to keep the health nuts from taking things too far by taking away a usually ONCE A WEEK TREAT from the kids who NEED it! Call it a vitamin for all I care but don't take that away from my kids, please! - 11/29/2011   11:21:17 AM
    It seems like everyone these days is looking for something or someone to blame obesity on especially in children. When I went to school in the 60's and 70's our hot lunch at school usually consisted of a scoop of potatoes and two slices of white bread all covered in gravy with some type of shredded meat tossed in and whole milk to drink not healthy at all. There was only one overweight girl in our class and it was me and it wasn't from school lunches that was to disgusting to eat. - 11/29/2011   11:18:13 AM
  • 121
    I don't consider Pizza as a vegetable. It is definitely a carb, lots of bread dough. Schools just prefer-- to make it, since it is easy to serve and they know kids like it. Now, if they used homemade, whole grain dough and put 3-4 veggies on top with lower calorie sauce + reduced fat cheese, this may cut the high calories some and help the problem with Obese children in school. Also serving it with a apple or another fruit may add to the healthier choice meal. - 11/29/2011   10:47:33 AM
  • 120
    It's alarming what passes for food. However, school lunches are generally better than they were ten years ago -- there are attempts to improve them. The issues are much bigger than the school cafeteria, however. Most of the students eating school lunches live in poverty, so school lunch has the potential to be the main and likely the most healthy meal of the day. We need to keep pressure on to improve things, but the change must be gradual. And the food must be attractive to the kids or they won't eat it no matter what we adults think they should do. - 11/29/2011   9:25:40 AM
    While you may be able to consider the tomato paste a serving of fruits and vegetables, the fat and cheese parts of the pizza greatly outweigh the benefit of the tomato. But what really concerns me is this......has everyone forgotten that a tomato is a FRUIT?!!? - 11/29/2011   8:46:52 AM
    There is no way that school pizza is a vegetable. However, I understand why they serve it. To me the bad part is that the government would issue a statement saying it is. It further erodes credibility in those who represent us. How dumb do they think we are? - 11/29/2011   6:20:55 AM
    Homemade pizza with healthy ingredients is great; kudos to the school cafeterias that serve it. But the article specifically talks about tomato paste on frozen pizza. This is not the same as vegetarian whole wheat crust etc pizza. There is no teaching about healthy choices involved here. Just the frozen food lobby getting its way. - 11/26/2011   12:26:45 PM
  • 116
    Comment based on personal observations in multiple, real-life school cafeterias: please keep in mind that for some children... pizza IS healthy eating. That tad bit of tomato sauce or ketchup may be the only veggie in their diet for a variety of reasons including their own picky eating habits and/or what is available at home. - 11/26/2011   11:02:07 AM
  • 115
    I think 1/4 of a cup of tomato sauce is too much for a piece of pizza to be palatable to children. I also do think it counts as a vegetable when nutritionists calculate required servings of various nutrients. Pizza can be made healthful, as one poster said, by care in its preparation. The school lunch may be the only meal a child living in poverty receives for the day so it does need to taste good so the child will eat it. I think that is more important than semantics. :) - 11/26/2011   10:13:34 AM
    Pizza is NOT a veg. At least not the pizza that's served in our public schools. The schools in my area have to serve the cheapest possible food, hitting a budget of $0.96-1.50 or less per student! Very hard to offer healthy choices at that price, as the least expensive food is the most cost-effective. The majority of the students who eat the school lunch are on government assistance. - 11/26/2011   10:12:03 AM
  • 113
    When has Pizza ever been considered a vegetable? I am sorry but damn, this is so stupid. Did Jamie Oliver teach the world nothing?! Here in Australia many school have banned chip/fries, pizzas, etc from the school lunch line. There is obviously a reason for this, its unhealthy. I hate seeing overweight children, I know their pain and I think that we can prevent it by getting rid of the greasy deep fried and unhealthy options. Dont make it an option, problem solved, you wont be depriving them of anything. - 11/25/2011   7:19:03 PM
    As one who works in a school cafeteria before you judge you may want to see what is actually going into some school lunches. I live in a state where the rules are higher then the government. As for the pizza that everyone keeps bringing up we use a whole wheat crust, make the sauce from scratch from tomatoe suce not just paste with lower salt options and have reduce the cheese on top by half and finally have added different types of veggies instead of pepperoni. So we do count it as a veggie and a whole grain. The other thing to consider is that change has to be gradual otherwise children will not eat them at all. The fry issue is a culture thing but they are also mde from whole potatoes and baked not fried. We are taking steps so I ask that you consider a great majority of the children in our country get free or reduced lunch so yes we want it nutrious but we also want them to eat because it may be the only meal of the day. Was a final word we have noticed taking a great number more of fruits and veggies but they have to be made appealing or they won't touch them no matter how hard you push. - 11/24/2011   9:05:28 AM
  • 111
    I dont think the issue is whether to serve pizza or not. Its whether pizza and french fries should count as a vegetable being offered. Why not call it what it is (or isnt and in my opinion it is not a vegetable) but offer both. We have to focus on teaching our youth (and adults) to make healthy choices. This is a balance. You can not omit something from your diert but you have to know how to balance it. As a child growing up play time was comprised of make believe games, playing outside and running around. Play time now often involves a TV and a remote. Physical education was a requirement in schools, not something that cost too much money and had to be cut from our curriculum. Lets get the attention back on balancing a healthy lifestyle and teaching people to make those healthy choices. - 11/23/2011   3:47:13 PM
    The government makes money off of unhealthy people!! Why would they want to ACTUALLY make school lunches healthier? If kids have bad eating habits, it means more trips to the doctors, more medicines purchased, etc. etc..... It's a load of poo. Indeed the choices all start at home but I do believe that even kids who have been raised eating even the perfect healthy foods, will at some point decide they want those chicken nuggets or pizza. It's appealing to kids. And the government knows that. Granted there are kids that will stay true to their upbringing but the schools that our money is keeping afloat could be making it easier on us as parents.. Instead of paying them to be against us. I love the fact that some private schools have gone to fresh, local, organic menus.. Let's push this for our kids!!! I think all school's should have a garden and greenhouse that the kids participate in and that the things they grow should be served to them for lunch! You can do your part... Do not buy school lunches for your kids... Keep up with teaching them healthy eating at home.. If you can afford to, get with a parent who cannot afford to send their kid with a healthy lunch and make a lunch for that kid too.. Maybe twice a week or something. Or get a group of parents together to raise funds for it. If the school's are not making money off of their junk food, they will have to change. - 11/23/2011   3:38:30 PM
  • 109
    School lunches are horrible. My kids take lunch from home most of the time. - 11/23/2011   12:34:55 PM
  • 108
    I ate the same type of lunches that they are servicing now when I was in school, but I truly believe the difference between now and then was the fact that I was REQUIRED to take gym.. now they are not required.. I took it all through Jr. high and all through HS even though I wasn't required.. I think that it is crazy to totally blame childhood obesity on their lunches.. this starts at home! Get your kids active!! - 11/23/2011   11:45:45 AM
    Why is anyone surprised what our government says? ...and who changed the tomato from a fruit to a vege? Let's see; we have our whole grain crust ...healthy, cheese ...hmm, dairy product, isn't pineapple still belong to the fruit family (especially if the tomato is now changed from fruit to vege, and (what I am thinking are vege's, minced celery and sweet peppers, etc.Why is the gov't and the cafeteria fixing something that is not a problem! lmybutt off in St Louis MO. - 11/23/2011   11:36:19 AM
    Why is anyone surprised what our government says? ...and who changed the tootato from a fruit to a vege? OH, - 11/23/2011   11:23:32 AM
    i actually heard this on the radio the other day while getting ready for work. at first i thought it was a joke. how can they say the obesity rate in kids is increasing and then in the next breath say that pizza is a vegetable. - 11/23/2011   11:21:15 AM
  • 104
    None of this surprises me AT ALL! My teenage daughter has told me on several ocassions how bad the school lunches are here. She said her school still considers ketchup on a hamburger to be a vegetable. The difference is that she laughs at it because she was taught better at home. And she often picks salads over pizza anyway. I agree that lunches should be healthier, but it starts at home. Unfortunately, most parents out there aren't educated about nutrition either. Add to that the kids on the free lunch program that have the choice to eat the garbage served- or go hungry. There is no easy fix for this one- especially not increasing the amount of tomato paste to consider pizza a vegetable. - 11/23/2011   9:56:21 AM
  • 103
    Although I admit my daughter eats lunch at school and sometimes breakfast I'm disgusted by the choices. For breakfast they serve Cinnamon Toast Crunch as a breakfast cereal...I was shocked. We talk about what she picks and I applaud her when she makes healthy choices and skips the bad ones but can they make it any harder? The worst part is we constantly get school mail talking about their healthy choices...I don't get it...what planet do they live on? It is bad they give such unhealthy food it is disgusting they pretend it is healthy. No, pizza should not be considered a vegetable. - 11/23/2011   8:50:38 AM
    When Reagan was president there was an attempt to declare fries and ketchup as two vegetable servings. So we've come full circle. Very disappointing. The frozen food industry wins and the kids lose. - 11/23/2011   8:50:36 AM
  • 101
    Once again the government falls a vegetable puhleeze let's get real!!! - 11/22/2011   10:11:02 PM
  • 100
    Pizza's not a vegetable. While healthy eating starts at home, it is also helpful not to have one's efforts sabotaged. I send my little one off with a packed lunch now and while her PBJ is not health food, she does proudly tell me how she at all her carrots or broccoli in the lunchbag, and she brings a water bottle of water. I would like to see the school lunches rely less on the carbs and load up more on proteins and veggies to keep the kids awake and blood sugar even. Pizza is a veg only if there's actually a complete helping of veg on the slice. - 11/22/2011   9:59:35 PM
  • 99
    It has to be more than the school lunches that lend to the childhood eating problems. If a child is fed well at home they will also eat better at school. - 11/22/2011   9:46:13 PM
  • 98
    Wonder who lobbied that one. It's the ketchup-as-vegetable all over again. Well, kids won't learn healthy habits in school that way, for sure. - 11/22/2011   8:49:51 PM
  • 97
    School meals are NOT making our children overweight. I ate school meals and was not, and never have been, overweight. This movement to blame every one and every thing save the one who is in control is blinders on a near-sighted horse. It starts and ends at home. - 11/22/2011   6:29:11 PM
    So ridiCulous! Our government decides to actual tagged on something...and their actions end up putting our children's health in even more risk?! They should be ashamed of themselves!!! - 11/22/2011   5:31:00 PM
  • BUNNIE510
    Of course not. Not only are tomatoes fruit!!, tomato paste has been boiled down and reduced to paste (like paste...) and probably doesn't have any active nutrition in it anymore. Plus, the schools are paid for by tax dollars, any have a responsibility to taxpayers to provide the best possible products possible. Let kids eat as much junk at home as they or their parent like, but for MY tax dollars, I want the choices to be as healthy and high quality as possible. If the cheap pizza makers and potato growers and other providers of crappy food want their products bought, MAKE THEM BETTER.
    - 11/22/2011   4:31:24 PM
  • 94
    Our kids don't have a chance! They don't really care about nutrition when they are hungry, they want what pleases them. Shame on our government. Shame on the food lobbies that paid off their congressmen. - 11/22/2011   4:07:54 PM

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