Pizza: a serving of vegetables in every slice? (Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

It would appear Congress made the decision for the people who elected them: Last week, a conference committee gutted the Agriculture Department’s proposed nutrition guidelines for school meals in a larger ag appropriations bill, which both chambers then approved and President Obama signed into law. Their decisions immediately drew applause from that guardian of fresh, healthy eating: the American Frozen Food Institute. Schools can safely continue to count 1/8 cup of tomato paste as a half cup of vegetables.

As you might expect, columnists and advocates for healthier school meals opened the knife drawer and started slicing up the government’s decision. Kansas City Star opinion page columnist Mary Sanchez wrote: “If anyone needs more evidence that the U.S. Congress is working on behalf of lobbyists, rather than in the best interests of the nation, this charade is it.”

The Sacramento Bee, in a Sunday editorial, wrote: “For parents who care about their children’s health, the message from Washington is clear. Don’t let Congress feed your child. Avoid the school lunch line.” Even FoxNews’s Deirdre Imus couldn’t support the decision to steamroll the proposed nutrition guidelines: “The reason, as always, is money. Somehow, there’s always enough of it to keep wars going but inadequate amounts to keep Americans healthy.”

The Post’s own Wonkblog took a more dispassionate look at the nutritional information of tomato paste, noting that it compares favorably to fresh apples. (See the graph after the jump.) The only problem with comparing tomato paste to fruits is that no one eats tomato paste straight from the can, as if you’re some bum under the freeway warming up canned soup over an open fire. Tomato paste is kind of like a virus: It needs a host. The host for tomato paste is often pizza sauce (though, really, many pizzamakers prefer canned whole peeled tomatoes, such as San Marzano), one part of a larger round of cheese and dough and whatever else strikes the pizzamaker’s fancy.


Tomato paste vs. apples: On paper, the two compare favorably. On a pizza, tomato paste often suffers from the company it keeps. (Wonkblog)

Dad’s Pizza (from Recipe Finder)

Calories per two-slice serving: 576

Total fat: 26 g

Cholesterol: 49 mg

Sodium: 1187 mg

Total carbs: 59 g

Dietary fiber: 3 g

Protein: 24 g

Meat Lover’s Pizza (from All You)

Calories per two-pita serving: 427

Total fat: 9 g

Cholesterol: 89 mg

Sodium: 854 mg

Total carbs: 44 g

Dietary fiber: 4 g

Protein: 42 g

Three-Pepper Pizza (from Oxmoor House)

Calories per one-slice serving: 236

Total fat: 6.1 g

Cholesterol: 10 mg

Sodium: 352 mg

Total carbs: 36.2 g

Dietary fiber: 2.1 g

Protein: 10.3 g

Sloppy Joe Pizza (from McCormick)

Calories per one slice serving: 402

Total fat: 18 g

Cholesterol: 63 mg

Sodium: 781 mg

Total carbs: 36 g

Dietary fiber: 2 g

Protein: 24 g

Sausage and Pepper Pizza (from Cooking Light)

Calories per one-slice serving: 335

Total fat: 10.9 g

Cholesterol: 23 mg

Sodium: 756 mg

Total carbs: 42.8 g

Dietary fiber: 2.9 g

Protein: 16.5 g

Pineapple Pizzas (from All Recipes)

Calories per one English muffin pizza: 541

Total fat: 28 g

Cholesterol: 79 mg

Sodium: 1518 mg

Total carbs: 45.6 g

Dietary fiber: 2.3 g

Protein: 28.3 g