The Obama administration apparently has just said so. Purists and food lovers back home debate on whether it’s a passing fad or if the pizza finally makes the healthy mark. Ismat Tahseen reports.
It’s being hailed as the biggest nutritional blunder in America since when President Ronald Reagan tried to declare ketchup as a vegetable to cut costs. And now with the final version of a US spending bill released recently, it may unravel the school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year to allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable. This current step is also being ridiculed, with nutrition advocate Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest telling a website, “It’s ridiculous to call pizza a vegetable.” Foodies and health lobbyists back home debate on whether the pizza ought to get into healthy ‘veggie’ garb.
‘It’s very wrong’ Mumbai health experts are shunning the move. “Calling pizza a vegetable just due to its sauce is outrageous,” says diet and naturopathy expert Sejal Vora. “It can never happen here, because for one, the pizza served to us often has this pureed industrial sauce that is full of additives and preservatives and stored for days. Let’s assume you may put fresh tomatoes on it, what about the maida or white processed base that is has? It’s extremely harmful, so is the cheese content. So in the name using a tomato or two you’re giving people other poisonous ingredients. Pizzas and burgers are the leading cause of obesity worldwide and the chief cause of lifestyle diseases back in India too, so we must watch what we eat,” she advises. Adds dietician Priya Karkera, “Even ketchup as a vegetable is a totally wrong notion. No pizza sauce can have the critical number of nutrients and vitamins and I would never classify a pizza as a vegetable. Perhaps switching the usual sauce for a home-made salasa one, may help a little but that’s it.” Foodies, say ahoy! “Anyone who calls pizza a vegetable must be out of their minds, but this could be a temporary phase,” says foodie Kunal Vijaykar, adding. “If my ‘guess-timate’ is right they first said egg yolk was bad for cholesterol, then they said it was good for cholesterol then chocolate and butter was bad and then good and so on, so the see-saw goes on there.” His own favourite? “A really thin crust pizza with lots of meat and cheese, oh and you can take the crust away,” he laughs.
What happened so far… Under a House spending bill, pizza would still count as a vegetable serving — without extra sauce. It reverses previous school lunch standards proposed by the Agriculture Department limiting the use of potatoes and allowing tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable.