How to Make Pizza Healthier
A dietitian shares how you can make pizza – from toppings to crust – healthier.
With a few mindful tweaks, you can transform your favorite slice into a healthier choice without compromising on its taste.(GETTY IMAGES)
I’m a nutritionist. I also love pizza. Many people don’t think the two go together, but I beg to differ. While pizza has a reputation of being an indulgent treat, with a few mindful tweaks, you can transform your favorite slice into a healthier choice without compromising on its taste.
Here, I share some steps to make pizza healthier.
|The DASH diet is a flexible, balanced and heart-healthy eating plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
|This diet is based on the traditional way of eating in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The diet primarily consists of plant-based foods, whole grains, beans, nuts, seafood, lean poultry and unsaturated fat from extra-virgin olive oil.
|With a flexitarian diet, also known as a semi-vegetarian diet, you don’t have to completely eliminate meat to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism.
|The Ornish diet is best known for reversing heart disease, but followers can customize the plan to their goals – whether that’s losing weight, lowering blood pressure or preventing cancer.
|The MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, takes two proven diets – DASH and Mediterranean – and zeroes in on the foods that improve brain health.
|The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet calls for eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, bread, cereals and lean meats. The guidelines are broad enough that you’ll have a lot of latitude with what you eat.
Tips to Make a Healthy Pizza
1. Choose a healthy crust.
The foundation of a healthy pizza begins with its crust. I like to choose a whole-grain crust which offers numerous health benefits. Whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, vitamin E and folate, and they provide a slower release of energy than refined grains. Fiber helps you feel more satisfied for longer and will also help you maintain a steady blood sugar. Whole grains have also been shown to help control cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. They may also reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. A thin crust pizza would be lower in carbs and calories if you are watching your weight or your blood sugar.
Some people choose cauliflower crust hoping for a healthier, low-calorie option. While cauliflower is the main ingredient, the nutritional value of cauliflower pizza crust will vary depending on which ingredients are added. Cauliflower crust may be a healthy alternative to the traditional wheat-based crust, but it has its pros and cons. One plus is that it is lower in carbohydrates, making it an option for those with diabetes or high blood sugar. It is also gluten-free, appealing to people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Cauliflower also contains vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, and potassium, providing a nutritional boost to your pizza. On the downside, some commercially available cauliflower crusts may contain added salt, sugar and fillers, increasing the calorie and fat content.
So I suggest you check the ingredient list. The texture and taste may also differ from a traditional pizza crust, giving it a softer texture and a slightly nutty flavor. If you enjoy the taste of cauliflower crust, go for it, but if you don’t, I suggest you enjoy roasted cauliflower at a different meal.
2. Add an assortment of colorful vegetables.
Vegetables provide flavor, color, and health benefits to your pizza. Experiment with different nutritious toppings such as spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers and grilled eggplant. Mix and match your favorite veggies. I love adding spinach, broccoli and grilled eggplant. Pick vegetables you enjoy (but I suggest skipping fried eggplant.) Different vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals, fiber and are low in calories. Spinach contains iron, while broccoli is rich in the antioxidant vitamins A and C. Vegetables add flavor and a boost of nutrition to your pizza.
3. Choose cheese in moderation.
While cheese can add flavor to your pizza, it’s healthiest not to eat too much. Cheese provides nutrients, including protein and calcium but also contains saturated fat, which can elevate your cholesterol levels. Opt for part-skim cheese if you are watching your saturated fat intake or choose a modest portion of the real thing. Part-skim mozzarella or ricotta are great choices.
Skip menu offerings which offer pizzas with four cheeses or extra cheese. By going easy on cheese, you can decrease the overall calorie and saturated fat intake of your pizza, making it a healthier choice without sacr
4. Slather on the red sauce.
Red sauce is a flavorful topping that enhances the taste of pizza. It also provides healthy nutrients: vitamin A (in the form of lycopene) and vitamin C. Lycopene, the antioxidant responsible for the red color in numerous fruits and vegetables, has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers. Choosing a red sauce over a creamier sauce provides a nutritional advantage. If you are not a fan of red sauce or you simply want a change of pace, pesto sauce, which is made with heart-healthy nuts and oils, including pine nuts and olive oil, is a delicious alternative.
5. Practice portion control.
Being mindful of portion sizes is important for maintaining a healthy diet. When enjoying pizza, I advise practicing portion control. Instead of eating multiple slices, savor one slice and eat mindfully. Eat slowly and enjoy the taste. Pair your pizza with your favorite salad or another vegetable-based side dish to create a balanced meal. This approach ensures that you satisfy your pizza craving while keeping your calorie intake in check.
6. Complement your pizza with your favorite salad.
Complementing your pizza slice with a salad is an excellent way to boost its nutritional value. Prepare a colorful salad using leafy greens, colorful vegetables and an olive oil-based dressing. The combination of pizza and salad will provide a balance of nutrients, flavors and textures, making your meal more satisfying and healthier.
7. Enjoy your favorite pizza!
Here, I’ve provided you with numerous ways to make your pizza healthier, without compromising on taste. I believe it’s important to enjoy your meal and derive pleasure from the foods you eat. Thus, I encourage you to choose your favorite combination of crust, vegetables, sauce and cheese. By customizing your pizza to suit your preferences, you can enjoy every bite.