Milwaukee Rules the Frozen Pizza World!

April 05, 2008

 Milwaukee Rules the Frozen Pizza World! 

 Competency # 20:  The Cuisines of the Long Lived                   Reference: Forbes Magazine, April 28th, 08 “America’s Junk Obsessed Cities” 

 It’s official.  We made the top ten list.  We, on average, eat more Frozen Pizza than any other city in America.  And when taking an index of total “junk food” consumed by Nielsen ratings of sales per person per supermarket, we come out #9 in the country, just a shade ahead of Minneapolis.  But when it comes to pizza, we rule.  Our Nielsen rating for pizza is 2.44, which means we are eating about 244% of what the average person eats in America.  

Now, Forbes Magazine may not have been in Milwaukee a lot recently because they do suggest that the reason we eat so much pizza is that it goes well with beer, and Milwaukee brews “Pabst, Schlitz and Miller”.  Did I miss something?  Are Schlitz and Pabst still in town? What’s the big deal?  Pizza, along with a variety of other easy to prepare foods is fast, easy, convenient and calorie dense.  

A pizza is not “nutrient dense”.  Nutrient density is a complex concept that many nutrition folks are struggling to figure out.  It combines ideas like amounts of vitamins, fiber, trace minerals, polyphenols, saturated fat, and easily digested refined carbohydrates into formulas that give a summary analysis of the value of that food.  As a general rule, whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains all rate pretty high.  Spinach is a champion.  

This months Tufts Health and Nutrition newsletter has a very nice comparison of the cost of “junk food” and the relative cost of “high nutrient density foods.”  What they found was that it can cost as little as $ 1.76 to buy 1,000 calories of “junk food” and some $ 18.16 to buy 1,000 calories of nutrient-dense foods.  Buying low nutrient density foods is an economic decision.  It makes sense in the short term to buy cheap food, with devastating long-term consequences.  The resulting obesity in folks who are actually malnourished, or mis-nourished is a phenomenon we have all witnessed.  Our national health costs are directly related to this misdirection in public policy. 

 The Forbes article outlined very nicely how many cities have taken the amount of junk food their kids want and eat in schools very seriously.  Minneapolis started a School Wellness Policy in 2006 that included the mandate for healthy vending machines, maximum of 35% calories from sugar or fat, less than 10% calories from saturated fat etc.  Changing the environment in schools has also been successful in Wisconsin in the Fox River Schools with their approach to health eating.  It can be done.  If we all put our shoulders to the wheel, and get our political process to start, we can change our city.  We’re number nine, maybe we can drop down to #11 and get off the list! Want to know the other cities?   Oklahoma CityPittsburghMemphis, Tenn.Little Rock, Ark.St. LouisMinneapolis, Minn.,Milwaukee, Wis.Birmingham, Ala.Indianapolis and Nashville, Tenn. 

 WWW: What will work for me?  My junk food life is in terrible jeopardy.  I can’t eat a cookie anywhere and not get grief from someone who says, "You aren't really going to eat that!"  This virtuous living stuff is a drag.  I’m heading for ice-cream tonight and unstressing.  I had a bad day.  Ok.  So, just one scoop with nuts on top. But we have stopped buying frozen pizza.  It’s just not there in the freezer.  

The column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)