What if we were just as critical about the junk food we eat as we are about the healthy food we eat? Why is it that products like quest bars get a bad rep for having something wrong with them yet junk food like pizza rolls get a pass? Well, we know that junk foods are not healthy. But how much worse is it than our well-known healthy foods and supplements?
To start with the obvious, of course there will be criticisms about certain supplemental products when they advertise themselves as healthy alternatives and meal replacements. However, will all of the blog posts complaining about things like the large amount of fiber in quest bars, I’d like to write about a far more severe issue: our junk foods. Specifically, pizza rolls.
With many alternative sweeteners, organic ingredients and healthier oil alternatives hitting the markets, why are we still seeing low quality oils and enriched bleached flours in most of the foods on the shelves?
Note to first-timers: Make sure you don't bite into a pizza roll fresh out of the oven; the temperature of the insides rival that of lava.
Why Pizza Rolls?
Mostly for fun. Now I don't hate pizza rolls, I chose pizza rolls because those were one of my favorite junk foods when I was younger. The other day I found these in the frozen food section and thought I’d buy a small bag to satisfy the craving. I ultimately stayed away from them upon a quick glance at the back of the bag. The ingredients and macros in these things are shockingly awful; hence this analysis.
Perhaps I was shocked because I've been spending too much time in the health sphere evaluating nutritional products. I say this because I know there are worse (and better) junk foods out there in terms of nutrition, but pizza rolls are still pretty bad. So I want to review pizza rolls as if they were a healthy product, because I think we should hold all foods to high standards; not just nutrition bars.
Why Pizza Rolls are Terrible (for you)
For me one of the biggest reasons junk food is bad is that these foods aren't volumetric. Oreos and other sugar-dense cookies are some of the worst culprits of this, though pizza rolls are no exception.
220 calories for 6 pizza rolls is a pretty terrible deal given their size, weight and bite-sized nature. You'll likely eat at least 2 or 3 servings of pizza rolls in one sitting, which translates to 440-660 calories which is in the ballpark of a big mac. For some perspective, you'd need to run for around an hour to burn off a plate of pizza rolls.
2. The Macros
A problem that is shared amongst other dishes such as butter-based sauced pastas and pizzas alike, pizza rolls are high in both unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. I like to choose unhealthy foods for one particular area: salty or sweet, fats or carbs. When you have a food that is both high in carbohydrates and fats, it becomes difficult to squeeze in the other nutrients your body needs without going into a calorie surplus.
One of these other nutrients is protein. The protein to calorie ratio in pizza rolls is terrible, and the protein in these pizza rolls come from soy protein isolate. There is some controversy around soy and the products sourced from it.
3. The Ingredients
Unlike my other ingredient analysis sections, I will not be giving a brief summary of each ingredient in the food. Instead, I will pick from the list of (mostly bad) ingredients that concern me the most. There are so many terrible ingredients in these pizza rolls that I will not get to all of them.
One of the most commonly consumed and most unhealthy ingredients in processed foods today. Enriched flour is flour that has been stripped of its fibers, most of its nutrients and phytonutrients. Enriched flours have a high glycemic index and are processed in your body like sugar. That means any excess that you eat becomes stored as fat.
Mechanically Separated Chicken A pink slime created from the remainder of chicken bones that cannot be separated manually, so a machine does it. This chicken puree consists of bone, bone marrow, skin, nerves, blood vessels, and the scrapes of meat remaining on the bones.
A preservative that is thought to damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Other studies suggest that high levels of this preservative can cause problems as serious as colorectal cancer.
A highly processed white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch or wheat which is used to thicken the volume of the pizza roll. It is also used as a preservative. This processed white powder contains a higher glycemic index than sugar, so it will raise your blood sugar very quickly.
BHA and BHT
Bad news. Synthetic antioxidants used to prevent the fats in the pizza rolls from going rancid. The European Union classifies BHA as an endocrine disrupter. Research shows it adversely affects our hormone function. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists BHA as a possible human carcinogen. In certain situations, BHT can promote tumors and cause chronic inflammation. Also according to this study, exposing rats to BHT for long periods of time.
An oil derived from the kernel or seed of the fruit in oil palms. This oil is high in saturated fat and also has conflicting studies around whether or not it is healthy for the heart. Also, the methods of which this oil is obtained generally impacts the environment in destructive ways.
A highly processed and inflammatory oil that contains large amounts of omega 6 fats. Consuming large amounts of omega 6 fats increases chances of inflammatory disease and has been linked to mood disorders.
A crystalline chemical compound used as a food additive to prevent rancidity of unsaturated vegetable oils and other fats. In other words, another preservative to increase the shelf life of the pizza rolls. In a study done by the government, TBHQ increased the incidence of tumors in rats. See the CSPI chemical cuisine entry for TBHQ.
4. Tastier, Healthier Alternatives
Since I’ve started my ventures into my dietary health, I’ve decided to be more mindful of the junk food I eat. If I'm going to eat junk food and consume all the calories that come with it, is this the most preferred junk food I’d like to have? Would there be something better tasting, more fulfilling than the junk food in front of me? I apply this mindset to pizza rolls and foods alike.
I could list a hundred foods that taste better than pizza rolls. Pizza rolls are dry, typically require a sauce and make me feel awful likely because of the exorbitant amount of preservatives and therefore the sodium in them. Why not just have pizza? Even a cheap Little Caesars pizza would be preferable to pizza rolls, and I think those pizzas taste like cardboard.
I have found that applying this mindset to the junk food I eat has helped me avoid binge eating sessions and entire cheat days altogether. Do you really want to eat that Little Debbie snack, or could you bake up a better one yourself? Is it your most craved, favorite Little Debbie snack, or something suboptimal? Who is Little Debbie anyway?