Pizza is a Vegetable and other Offenses to Food Groups

Image from Drunk Tiki
In case you've recovered from the debilitating reality of how corporate interests have shaped public food policy in America (ahem, USDA Food Pyramid), here's another shock to the system:

Pizza is now a vegetable.

Yup, really.

Screaming headlines last week everywhere from the Huffington Post to Fox News decried Congress' new bill that would label the tomato paste in personal pizzas doled out in lunchroom cafeterias across the country as a serving of vegetables.

Congress' proposition was that pizza and French fries remain school lunch staples—in spite of standards proposed by the Agriculture Department earlier in 2011 that would have limited the use of potatoes, put restrictions on sodium, and boosted whole grains.

Makes you wonder who Congress is actually working for.

Forget that a tomato isn't a vegetable to begin with (it's a fruit), check out the full list of ingredients in a 4x6 lunchroom personal pizza, as is distributed by ConAgra to thousands of schools countrywide.

Yum, no?

So where can we turn for good information about good food? Common sense. Eat vegetables and fruits as much as you can. Make as much of your own food as you can. Choose whole grains and beans over processed wheat. Buy local. And for more good, common-sense ideas, refer to this list, gleaned from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules:
  1. Eat food.
  2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
  4. Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
  5. Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.
  6. Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
  7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
  8. Avoid food products that make health claims.
  9. Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names.
  10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not.
  11. Avoid foods that you see advertised on television.
  12. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
 Now that's food for thought.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.