How to Make Pizza for Kids the Easy Way
By Robert Parsons April 24th, 2023
Have you ever noticed that pizza is now a staple in children’s diets? This is one of the most common celebratory fares at children’s parties. Cafeterias served these to students. It’s usually the treat given to kids for any of their success.
Ask any child – there is just one reason why this is their top choice: it’s delicious!
So let’s take an in-depth look at this much-loved dish, an explanation of its prevalence, and some health facts that will help you make better choices about your kids’ diets without letting go of this treat.
Why Do Kids Love Pizza?
There are several reasons why pizza is beloved among children (and adults). And believe it or not, our brain has something to do with it as well.
- Happy Hormones
The smell of fresh off-the-oven pizza is enough to make anyone heave a sigh of satisfaction. Biting into the crusty bottom, the flavourful marinara, gooey cheese, and assortment of cured meats and roasted vegetables flood the brain with serotonin, endorphins, and even naturally-produced opioids, making you happy and reach for another piece. This comfort food is a slice of heaven on earth.
- Social Connection
Pizza is a dish best shared. And rarely will you see this eaten by a lone diner. Most children are exposed to pizza when their parents took them to a fast food chain. It becomes a tradition, seared into their brains. This bonding and sense of community bring the same amount of pleasure as their first bite.
- Freedom of Choice through Customization
Many experts agree that children should be given choices in a whole lot of things. You can do this with pizza because it can be topped with their preferred ingredients. And nothing is impossible when it comes to this dish. Who knew that pineapple would be so well-loved in pizza, right?
The Junk Food Conundrum
Admittedly, it is hard to ignore what doctors and nutritionists are saying about pizza. According to studies, this is a top contributor to solid fat intake among children, second only to sugary treats like cakes and cookies. And with the continuously rising problem of child obesity, this is bad news. Here are some must-know facts about pizza:
- Packed with calories
A slice of a 14-inch regular crust piece contains 266 calories. This can go higher depending on what topping is used. With the recommended intake of 1,400 calories for pre-schoolers (3 to 5-year-olds), this slice is already about 20% in just one meal. And you know they’re not stopping at just one.
- High in sodium
Every single component of the pizza gets the salt treatment – from the cured meats to the gooey cheese. In excess, this can lead to high blood pressure. According to studies, about 1 in 6 kids as young as 8 years old already have this health problem, which could lead to more serious conditions in the future.
- Chock-full of saturated and trans fats
The greasy goodness of pizza is hard to turn down. But it’s that same grease that can cause coronary heart disease, systemic inflammation, and diabetes mellitus. The beginnings of these conditions have been observed among children now because of too much trans fat intake.
- Real Dangers of Refined Carbs
White flour, commonly used for pizza, is a refined carb. And it has been proven to be the cause of so many of the health conditions already enumerated above. Hyperactivity and mood disorders in children are also linked to refined carbs.
- Lacking Vital Nutrients
To ensure kids’ healthy growth and development, they should have Vitamins A, B, C, and D, calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, among others. Pizza, unfortunately, does not have any of these.
How to Make Pizza Healthier for Kids
Most parents want to give the best for their children, there is no doubt about this. But it’s also hard to veer away from undeniably delicious treats like pizza. So here are some solid tips that could help you find that balance.
- Go for Whole-Grain Crust
- Make Your Own Marinara
The trouble with canned tomatoes is that they are high in salt to keep them preserved. Starting from scratch, with fresh tomatoes, isn’t that hard. You just need to choose the ripest and plumpest of the bunch (Roma and San Marzano are perfect options), boil them until the peels come off, blend them in a food processor, and properly season them once they’re back in the pot!
- Choose the Low-Fat Cheese
You might be asking, is there such a thing?! And the answer is yes! According to a dietitian, part-skim mozzarella, Neuchatel, part-skim ricotta, 2% milkfat cottage cheese, and fat-free Swiss cheese are great low-fat options. They might not pack that salty, gooey punch, but they will do the trick for your kids.
- Add Value with Veggies
Pizza is a great way to introduce vegetables to your kids! First of all, roasted veggies taste better than steamed or boiled ones so this is already a win. You could dice onions, bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and eggplants so they can’t pick it out easily. If they’re picky eaters, dump all those in a food processor and mix them in with your pizza sauce. Once this is topped with cheese, they will never know the difference!
- Select Leaner Meats
Instead of salty and nitrate-packed cured meats like salami and pepperoni, go for thinly sliced chicken breast, beef tenderloin, or turkey bacon. These are just as tasty!
- Serve it as Dessert
The best thing about pizza is that you can scrap the traditional recipe and completely change it for the sake of your kids! No top chef will judge you for it. Instead of marinara, use low-fat cream cheese as the base topping. Instead of meats and cheese, add your child’s favourite fresh fruits. It is healthy and delicious, and your kids are sure to love it!
Moderation is Key
Health experts aren’t saying that you should scrap pizza off your kids’ diets completely. But limiting their consumption of this Italian dish is a must. To be honest, having this once in a while is not such a bad thing, especially when it makes them happy.
The best thing you could do is prepare this dish at home. You get to choose ingredients your child likes or negotiate for healthier options. If you don’t have the time or are just craving the real thing, do watch their servings.