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Can Pizza Be Healthy and Good?

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Sara Butler

Pizza and Your Health

There’s a common misconception that if something is healthy for you, then it can’t possibly be good. Just a little deep thinking can uncover the flaw in that logic since there are plenty of things that are good for you that also happen to be delicious. Except lima beans. And liver.

Pizza is a perennial favorite of people young and old in the United States thanks to Italian immigrants who brought it here, but it’s not exactly known as a healthy dish. Most pizza is quite calorie-dense due to all the toppings and cheese. It’s often high in saturated fats and the serving sizes don’t typically match how many slices of pizza people eat.

If you have a deep (dish) and an abiding love for the slice but are trying to also lose weight and get healthier, that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the pie. There are ways that pizza can be made healthier, allowing you to enjoy it even as you focus on your health and wellness.

The Basics of Pizza

Pizza is at heart a very simple dish. It’s made from a crust, typically a leavened dough made from wheat flour. Next is the sauce. Traditional sauce is tomato-based, but you can find anything on pizzas from BBQ sauce to alfredo sauce to olive oil. Finally, you have the toppings. A variety of cheeses are used to top pizzas, as well as vegetables, meats such as pepperoni or sausage, and even fruit like pineapple.

Part of what makes pizza so popular is you can tailor it to fit your particular taste. But this is also what can make pizza a healthy option, because you can tailor it to include healthier ingredients, too.

What Are the Health Considerations of Pizza?

The health considerations of pizza depend on what the pizza is made with. How much cheese is on it, the type of crust it has, and the toppings all make a big difference. Typical pizza slices can be high in sodium, calories, sugar, and carbohydrates. The processed meats and cheese add a lot of saturated fats, something that when eaten in excess can increase your risk of heart disease.

Health Benefits of Whole Grain and Alternative Crusts

Pizza crust is usually made with flour, water, and yeast. Sometimes it will contain oil or sugar. This type of crust is high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber, but some alternative crusts can cut the carbs and increase the fiber to make it a more balanced and healthier choice.

A few alternative crusts you may want to consider include the following.

Whole grain - Whole grain crusts have more nutrients and fiber than typical pizza crusts and have less of an impact on your blood sugar as a result. They also often have fewer calories and are higher in protein, something that can help you feel full for longer.

Cauliflower - Cauliflower has taken the world by storm as a way to cut the refined carbohydrates in some of your favorite dishes, including pizza. These crusts have fewer calories and carbohydrates and are higher in protein and fiber. The cauliflower also adds minerals and vitamins that can’t be found in traditional dough.

Zucchini - Zucchini is a great base for pizza bites. Slicing zucchini and topping it with your favorite pizza toppings can be a great way to satisfy your cravings without going overboard. Zucchini is low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Plus, it adds a lot of minerals and vitamins such as potassium and Vitamin C to your diet.

Pizza Sauces and Healthy Alternatives

Pizza sauce isn’t the least healthy part of the pizza usually, especially if you’re using tomato sauce. If you like tomato sauce on your pizza, then make sure to take a look at the sugar content. A lot of tomato-based sauces are high in sugar.

If you want to experiment with other types of pizza sauces, then consider trying a few of these pizza sauce alternatives.

Roasted red peppers - You can get some roasted red peppers (or roast your own) and combine them with garlic, herbs, and a little olive oil to make a tasty sauce.

Pesto - High in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates, pesto is made from basil, olive oil, garlic, and a little parmesan. It’s a very delicious base for your pizza toppings and healthy!

Fresh tomatoes - You can avoid sauces altogether and top your pizza crust with fresh pureed tomatoes. Your doctor can’t complain about that, right?

Pizza Toppings and Healthy Alternatives

To make a pizza healthier, you need to choose better toppings. Instead of a bunch of cheese and high-fat meats, load your pizza with fresh vegetables and low-fat meats. Chicken makes a great pizza topping as does just about any vegetable you can think of. You can also opt for turkey bacon or turkey pepperoni, which is lower in fat, too.

How Can I Master Portion Control?

If you struggle to keep your portions reasonable, then you’re not alone. It can be difficult to understand how much of something you should be eating, especially just by eyeballing it. However, there are some easy things you can do to try to master portion control in your pursuit of a healthier you. Some of these tips include:

  • Drinking water with your meal or having a glass of water before you eat
  • Using measuring cups to portion out the amount of food you eat
  • Using a smaller plate for your meals
  • Eating slowly and making sure to savor each bite

Can Pizza Be Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

You can eat pizza and have it be a part of a healthy lifestyle. You just need to be aware of how pizza is unhealthy and endeavor to make small changes to make it a healthier option. If you want to have your favorite pizza every once in a while, then you can do that as well. You simply need to keep in mind how to control your portions. Remember, no food is bad. Some foods are just better for you than others. If you love pizza, don’t deprive yourself of it. Get creative and build a delicious pizza that satisfies your cravings and delivers a punch of flavor right along with healthy carbs, fresh vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. But skip the lima beans.

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