Choose a Healthy Pizza – No Matter How You Slice It
Since approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold each year in America, and 5 billion are sold worldwide, we know people love pizza. But for the health conscious, that love can quickly turn to hate since pizza is one craving that isn’t at the top of anyone’s healthy food list. Not to worry, though – there is a way to savor a slice and not blow your diet. With just a few simple strategies you can learn how to choose a healthy pizza (really!).
Healthy Pizza Your Way
The best way to enjoy a healthy pizza is to make it yourself, since you can better control the ingredients. To start, what better foundation for your toppings than a whole wheat crust? Check with your local grocery store; often the deli or prepared foods department will sell balls of whole wheat pizza dough that save you the trouble of making your own crust. A pre-made whole wheat crust is a quick and healthy option, too.
Once you’ve got your crust organized, take the opportunity to be a creative pizza chef with lots of healthy toppings: roasted chicken, black beans, salsa, spinach, broccoli, corn… all healthier (and tastier!) choices than you’ll find on the standard pizza shop menu! Make cheese the finishing touch – a light dusting of reduced fat cheese adds just enough flavor and keeps the fat manageable.
Takeout Pizza Makeover
When making your own pie isn’t possible, you can still salvage a reasonably healthy pizza if you’re ordering takeout. Start by choosing a thin crust veggie pizza. The difference between a thin crust veggie and a deep dish veggie can be about 100 calories and 5 grams of fat (sometimes even more depending on the restaurant). To add a little more nutritious punch, order extra veggies on top or add your own when the pizza arrives at your door. Adding your own veggies makes great use of that leftover produce you’re pretending isn’t still in your fridge… Chop up that half bell pepper or a stray handful of spinach while you wait. When your order arrives, top it, stick it under the broiler for a few minutes, and you’ve got a personalized healthy pizza.
Pizza Parlor Plan
If you find yourself in a pizzeria, devise a plan before you dive into the menu. Your first line of defense: order a salad as an appetizer. A healthy dose of satisfying fiber will take the edge off your hunger so you won’t be tempted to fill up only on pizza. Another strategy: resist the temptation to order side items to go with your pizza. Just one cheese breadstick can add about 200 calories and 10 grams of fat (3 grams saturated!) to your meal. And of course, most people don’t stop at just one. Also, since pizza is usually a shared food, attempt a compromise if you can’t get your thin crust veggie. Ask for a half and half (half of the pizza is veggie, the other half is your dinner companion’s choice). If you don’t want just veggies, toppings like Canadian bacon or ham are lower fat choices than pepperoni.
The Bottom Line
Pizza isn’t health food, but it’s a treat to enjoy occasionally if you employ a few smart strategies. If you make your own pizza, it’s easy to create a healthy, quick dinner that can be enjoyed more often. A healthy pizza pie? Now that’s amore!
Beth Sumrell Ehrensberger is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master Degree in Public Health. An experienced nutrition counselor, writer and public speaker, Beth specializes in translating complex nutrition information into practical concepts. Beth was awarded a Nutrition Communications Fellowship to the National Cancer Institute, and has worked on the internationally recognized Nutrition Action Healthletter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.