In the constant battle of the bulge, pizza would seem to be off-limits. But one British professor of nutrition is aiming to change that with a pizza designed to provide all essential nutrients.
Dr. Mike Lean, professor of nutrition at the University of Glasgow and working physician, designed the Eat Balanced brand pizzas to offer the correct balance of all the nutrients recommended through the day. According to Lean in theory three pizzas a day would give the exact daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals based on United Kingdom guidelines.
Lean was inspired to make the pizzas after even he had difficulty putting together meals that had the right mix of vitamins and nutrients.
"We want to make nutritionally balanced meals, we want to eat balanced," said Lean. "[But] It's jolly difficult."
To get the right nutrients in the right amount, Lean worked with the Eat Balanced founder Donnie Maclean and others to figure out how to get the recommended nutrients including vitamin C, iron and zinc into the pizza without losing the pizza taste. The team ended up putting unusual ingredients like seaweed in to the crust and red peppers in the tomato sauce to get all the nutrients. However they made it a priority that the pizza would still taste like pizza.
"[Seaweed is] in the bread mix, the upshot is it had all these nutrients," said Lean. "People say, 'Oh it tastes and looks and smells like pizza.' It's made by an Italian [chef] with a round tummy who knows who to make pizzas."
This week the pizza went on sale in the United Kingdom, but Lean has bigger plans.
"I'm going to recommend to NASA [that the astronauts going to Mars] should eat three pizzas every day," said Lean. "They are going to get all the nutrients [they need]."
However, some nutritionists are skeptical of the "healthy" pizza label. Susan Levin, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at the food watchdog group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said the pizzas should not replace actual proven healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
"In fact, these percentages [of total and saturated fat] are not so different than what an American consumes on average," said Levin, who pointed out that the use of processed meat is linked to other diseases like heart disease and cancer. "I appreciate the niche this company is trying to target. But I wish it did it with really high-fiber, low-fat, cholesterol free offerings."