Nutritionally balanced ready-meals can be done, says expert

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nutritionally balanced pizza proves it can and should be done

Related tags: Vitamin, Nutrition

A newly developed ‘nutritional pizza’ should spur industry into action to create ready-meals that offer real nutritional value, according to the co-creator of the new product.

The new pizza product, developed and brought to market by a nutrition expert and a Scottish entrepreneur, contains a third of the recommended daily amount of calories, protein and carbohydrate for an adult, in addition to 30% of the guideline daily amount of vitamins and minerals.

Speaking with FoodNavigator, Professor Mike Lean from the University of Glasgow, UK – the academic behind the pizza – argued that the fact that a two person team had managed to put together a product that offered consumers ‘a real nutritionally balanced meal’ meant there was no reason why major industry players should not be developing new products or reformulating in a similar way.

“My aim is to get the message out there,”​ said Lean. “To tell food manufacturers and caterers that they need to think about nutrition. To show them that we can make a pizza that tastes nice and is very attractive to consumers – as well as being nutritionally balanced.”

“If we can do it, why can’t you do it … why are you still selling nutritionally chaotic meals to people.”

Lean said that at a time when people were increasingly consuming ready-made meals, industry needed to take action to provide better nutritional quality in its meals.  

“If you rely on somebody else to define your nutritional intake, and they don’t think about it, then that is a recipe for disaster,”​ he warned.

The nutrition expert said he hoped there would be a more responsible approach towards designing nutritionally balanced foods in the future "so that at least people have the option”.

“If you go to a supermarket to buy a ready-meal, like lots of people do, then unless it states otherwise, it should by default be nutritionally balanced … It isn’t difficult to achieve.”

Balanced pizza

Lean told FoodNavigator that the new pizzas were the culmination of a year’s research and development, to try and adapt current pizza recipes. The work mainly involved analysing pizzas currently available commercially – at which point he realised that the nutritional content of pizzas currently available was ‘all over the place’.

The team then took a traditional Italian recipe, and tweaked it by adjusting the toppings and sauce – to see how close to a fully nutritionally balanced meal they could get.

“It still fell short, because some nutrients are missing," ​said Lean. "For example vitamin B12 was not there in high enough levels, and zinc, iron, folate, vitamin C were all missing.

“We then had to look and think about how to get these into the pizza, and the solution actually turned out to be pretty simple,”​ he said, revealing that the addition of red pepper to the tomato mix and adding a little bit of seaweed to the dough mix provided everything that was needed.

“Both are cheap commodities so it’s not as if we are making some fancy or expensive meal. In principle it should be possible to have the price of a fully nutritionally balanced pizza to be about the same as a rubbish one. That obviously then begs the question, why is anybody still selling rubbish ones?”

The pizzas will feature a range of toppings and should hit UK shops in the next few weeks.

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Posted by Jaideep Sidhu,

This is a magnificent effort and the work should serve as a lighthouse for the industry. People love pizzas and getting the necessary nutrition from it sounds like a great idea.
However, I would still caution that bad eating habits (binge eating) would nevertheless defy the purpose.

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Posted by Robbie Vitrano,

Agree with Mr. Lean, a good for you pizza should cost about the same as a "rubbish one." While we didn't go down the micro-nutrient trail, by eliminating the preservatives and sugar, we get to a little better place than the rubbish pizzas. Pay attention to the processed carbs, a nutritionally stripped single grain in physiological terms, not much different from table sugar, triggering an insulin dump. Instead of 1 grain, we use 10, boosted the fiber. Hopefully, along with Mr. Lean, we'll give folks a great tasting and good for you option.

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