Lit­tle of la dolce vita in calo­rie-con­trolled pizza

Some snacks were born to be in­dul­gences — so let’s not lay down the law to make them un­ap­petis­ing, writes Chloe Lam­bert

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News -

THE best pizza of my life? A margherita in a grubby, neon-lit joint on a stormy night in Naples. The base was tangy and crisp, the bub­bling moz­zarella sweet and salty; not for the first time, I bowed my head and gave a silent prayer of thanks to the culi­nary he­roes who in­vented this dish — then de­voured the lot.

Few foods of­fer such sim­ple, univer­sal plea­sure. So the Bri­tish govern­ment’s pro­posed new ‘calo­rie cap’, which will force restau­rants and su­per­mar­kets to shrink piz­zas or re­move their top­pings to make them less fat­ten­ing, seems mis­er­ably sym­bolic. First came the sugar tax and the latte levy; now gov­ern­ments are com­ing for our pep­per­oni — ac­cord­ing to the pro­posed lim­its on hun­dreds of savoury snacks, a pizza should con­tain no more than 928 calo­ries. I seem to have wo­ken up in a world where I can lis­ten to ev­ery Bea­tles track at the touch of a but­ton and have my gro­ceries de­liv­ered straight into my fridge, yet can’t buy my­self a di­avola. I won­der, when did gov­ern­ments de­cide that their legacy would be the slow dis­man­tling of ev­ery joy we had left in life?

Aside from the grim pa­ter­nal­ism, the as­sault on choice and the po­ten­tial cost to busi­nesses, such a blan­ket ap­proach is also cringe­wor­thy as a pub­lic health mea­sure.

Any di­eti­tian will tell you that our calorific needs (and wants) vary sig­nif­i­cantly from per­son to per­son, and that what mat­ters most is your in­take over a day or a week. A 928-calo­rie pizza is a lot if you’ve al­ready scoffed a Full Ir­ish and had a ke­bab at lunch, but per­fectly within your rec­om­mended in­take if it’s your main meal of the day.

I dread to think, mean­while, of the weird con­coc­tions some man­u­fac­tur­ers might re­sort to serv­ing up in or­der to ad­here to a calo­rie cap. I’m al­ready sus­pi­cious of low-sugar cola and low-fat yo­gurt, but what on Earth might be hid­ing in­side a low-calo­rie pizza?

Our obe­sity rates are un­doubt­edly scan­dalous, and I’m all for en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to make bet­ter life­style choices. The ‘five a day’ cam­paign, for ex­am­ple, is to be ap­plauded.

Calo­rie counts on menus also seem a good idea — they cer­tainly jog me to choose a salad over a toastie from time to time. This new re­turn to ra­tioning, how­ever, is pa­tro­n­is­ing be­yond be­lief.

Far sim­pler and far more ef­fec­tive to im­prove peo­ple’s un­der­stand­ing of foods’ nu­tri­tional val­ues and help them make their own in­formed choices. The proven re­sults of weight­loss plans like Weight Watch­ers — where no foods are off lim­its, and peo­ple can save up ‘points’ to al­low them­selves to in­dulge from time to time — show that’s the way to do it.

When the peas­ants of 18th-cen­tury Naples dis­cov­ered the heav­enly mar­riage of dough, tomato and cheese, they weren’t think­ing about their waist­lines. Pizza is an in­dul­gence that makes peo­ple smile, and we should de­fend to the death our right to eat it.


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