Kids today are eating themselves into an early grave. So many children are not just overweight, but obese.
I don't have all the answers, but I do know that one of the first — and easiest — ways to combat childhood obesity is to teach ourselves and our children to cook wholesome, nutritious foods. Which doesn't mean you or the kids need to sacrifice the foods you love.
Pizza is a great example. Kids love pizza. But pizza is one of those foods with more sodium, fat and calories than anyone needs.
A large slice of pizza can have 600 or more calories with 26 grams of fat. My version? Just 226 calories and 8 grams of fat for two pizza pockets.
OK, technically my recipe isn't a classic pizza. This is a "pizza pocket" made from whole-wheat bread and stuffed with traditional pizza toppings. I've used lean Italian turkey sausage, shredded fresh zucchini, fresh mozzarella cheese, a natural marinara sauce and fresh basil — all low-calorie ingredients.
It's something your kids can help with, and when kids help make something, they are much more likely to think it tastes good.
Just be sure to resist the temptation to use processed, low-fat mozzarella cheese, the sort of shredded cheese so often used on regular pizzas. Fresh mozzarella has a sweet, rich, milky quality, and a low melting point, which allows it to meld with flavors such as basil. And best of all, I have found it as low as 60 calories per ounce, compared to 80 to 100 calories for regular mozzarella.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 (2 pockets per serving)
1 link raw Italian turkey sausage, casing removed (about 4 ounces)
1 small zucchini, coarsely shredded
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely shredded
1/2 cup no-salt, no-sugar, fat-free marinara sauce
12 leaves fresh basil, torn into bite-size pieces
8 slices whole-wheat bread, flattened with a rolling pin
Extra-virgin olive oil cooking spray
Heat the oven to broil.
In a small saute pan over medium heat, cook the sausage until cooked through, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into crumbles as it cooks. Drain off any fat.
In a medium bowl, mix the zucchini, mozzarella, marinara, basil and the cooked sausage. Place the flattened bread on a work surface. Spoon the zucchini mixture evenly in the middle of each piece of bread. Fold one corner of each slice to the opposite corner and seal the edges by pressing with a fork. Trim off the excess crust.
Place the pockets on a baking sheet. Lightly spray both sides of each pocket with olive oil cooking spray.
Place on a rack 4 to 5 inches under the broiler and broil until browned and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip each pocket and then brown the other side under the broiler, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Nutrition information per serving: 226 calories; 8 grams fat (31 percent of total calories, 3 g saturated); 29 milligrams cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 15 g protein; 4 g fiber; 501 mg sodium.