Some parents feed their kids pizza every day.  Some parents even encourage their kids to pound down the pizza 2 or 3 times a day. Can you believe it?

No? OK. Maybe most parents aren’t exactly passing out pizza 2 or 3 times a day, but they are giving their kids pizza-equivalents: grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, mac & cheese…

From a nutrition perspective, these foods all have basically the same nutrition profile.

More importantly, from a habits perspective, regularly eating pizza and pizza-equivalents reinforces your kids’ love of pizza; it does nothing to teach them to eat peas, broccoli, or mushrooms…  That’s why pizza makes it onto my list of The 10 Most “Dangerous” Foods.

When is pizza not pizza?  When it’s pasta! Pizza equivalents are all made with the same ingredients.

Flour. Cheese. Tomato.  Here are 10 equivalents.  See what I mean?

  1. Pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese
  2. Grilled cheese sandwich
  3. Quesadilla
  4. Bagel with cream cheese
  5. Macaroni & cheese
  6. Ravioli
  7. Cheese and crackers
  8. Cheese sandwich
  9. Lasagna
  10. Calzones (AKA Pizza Pockets)

So a child who wakes up to a bagel and cream cheese, moves on to a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch, and finishes up the day with a bowl of pasta has eaten…well…a lot of pizza.

Read What’s the Problem with Cheese? and La Crème de la Crème.

Pizza equivalents have the same nutrition profile.

Here are the numbers for a slice of pizza from Pizza Hut compared to a Kids Grilled Cheese from Panera Bread.

Honestly, I don’t make this stuff up!

Pizza equivalents constrict rather than broaden the number of foods your children will accept.

It’s true that pizza is crunchy and pasta is gooey, but if you go down the list of pizza-equivalents you will see that they offer a limited range of mouth-feel experiences.  And it’s mouth-feel that determines what your kids will eat.

Read Pizza and Peas: The Untold Story.

There are lots of other equivalents out there.

Most “child-friendly” foods are sweet, gooey or crunchy.  If you have trouble introducing new foods, overusing child-friendly foods may explain why.  Even if you think you are offering up a diverse diet, your kids are probably not experiencing a lot of variety.

Read The Variety Masquerade.

You don’t have to introduce new foods to expose your kids to different tastes and textures.

I’m going to say that again: You don’t have to introduce new foods.

You simply have to start examining the foods you offer from your kids’ perspective, and then consciously rotate through foods based on flavor, texture, aroma, appearance and temperature. For instance, serve eggs for breakfast one day, cereal the following day, and yogurt smoothies the next.  Read House Building 101.

Remember, every time you feed your kids, you are:

  • Training their taste buds.
  • Teaching them how often to expect certain flavors.
  • Shaping their ideas about what foods they should want to eat and when.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~