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Pizza Doesn’t Have to Be Junk Food!

Pizza
Photo by Theodore Scott via Flickr

It’s pizza night! You finally have that perfect slice of pepperoni pizza you’ve been craving all week poised on your fingers ready for that first joyous bite. Mmmmm!

Despite the jokes that it is the perfect food because it incorporates all the food groups, pizza is usually not considered part of a healthy diet. That is because it tends to be high in total fat (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol and total calories. But if you are a pizza lover who wants to lose weight or become healthier, do not despair.  You can still eat your pizza.  But you may have to tweak your ingredients a little and make healthier choices when you pick your pie.

Why should I worry if my pizza is unhealthy?
High fat diets increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, some types of cancers, diabetes and other medical problems.  Even if you only eat pizza infrequently, you want to be careful because a lot of people eat a lot of different unhealthy foods infrequently.  So, in aggregate, they aren’t eating unhealthy food infrequently.

For example, if someone only has a latte with extra whip once a week, that’s infrequently.  If they only have a burger once every other week that’s infrequently.  But when some people total all the unhealthy foods they eat together, they might find that they eat unhealthy foods almost every other day.  That’s not infrequently. So, you want to make better choices with the foods you eat all the time.  That way even when you eat unhealthy foods, they don’t do as much damage to your health.

What can I do to make my pizza healthier?
Looking for a lower fat, lower calorie pizza? Try these suggestions:

  1. Crust: Choose a whole wheat pizza crust.  Whole wheat pizza crusts provide more nutrients and fiber than white flour crusts and they will make you feel full faster.  If you are making pizza at home and you don’t have time to make it from scratch, you can either buy pre-packaged whole wheat dough or crust.  If you are at a restaurant and whole wheat crust is not available, opt for thin crust instead. You’ll consume less calories that way.
  2. Sauce: Don’t skimp on the tomato sauce.  Tomato sauce is a good source of lycopene and may decrease your risk of several medical conditions.  Medical studies are still ongoing.  If you’re making your own pizza, make your own sauce, if possible.  Many canned or bottled sauces are high in salt.
  3. Cheese: Decrease the amount of cheese.  Although cheese is rich in calcium and protein, it also tends to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol.  Plus, a lot of the calories from the pizza comes from the cheese.  So, use less cheese or choose a lower fat cheese and you will have a lower calorie, lower fat pizza.  If you are at a restaurant, ask for less cheese.
  4. Processed meats: Avoid or limit high fat, processed meats, such as pepperoni, salami, ham or sausage.  These choices are high in saturated fat and cholesterol.  If you want meat on your pizza, but want a healthier pizza, try chicken instead.  It has less saturated fat and cholesterol.
  5. Vegetables: Load your pizza up with vegetables.  Not only are vegetables low in calories, but they are also packed with nutrition.  There are many wonderful vegetables that you can choose, such as spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, artichokes, etc.
  6. Toppings in General: Make sure that your pizza is made from all natural ingredients.  You want to avoid artificial colors, flavors, fillers and preservatives.  They don’t add anything to your health and some are known carcinogens.  Tasty shouldn’t involve raising your risk of cancer.

And if you must eat a greasy, unhealthy pizza, watch your portions.  A typical slice of pizza is between 250 and 300 calories, which is quite a lot.  Especially since pizza is a food that is easy to overeat.  So, eat slowly and stop when you are full.  A good trick is to eat a nutritious salad beforehand.  That will give your meal more of a nutritional kick and will curb the worst of your hunger, making you less likely to binge on the pizza.

The bottom line:
You can eat healthy and still eat pizza!  You don’t necessarily need to eliminate it from your diet.  You just need to make smart, healthy choices!

Comments (8)

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  1. Shawno says:

    One of my favorite lunch spots offers a slice of pizza and salad special. I find it’s a good way for me to get my pizza fix without eating too much pizza.

  2. […] Original post by Being Healthy for Busy People […]

  3. Helen Ryan says:

    I agree. I am a trainer (who previously lost a lot of weight) and I enjoy pizza – I just on longer eat 5 slices. You have to have some fun in life, but with balance. I wrote a blog entry on my weight loss blog about pizza http://realworldweightloss.com/weightlossblog/?p=199 and the MENTAL health benefits after my son and I attended a concert together and ate greasy pizza). Sometimes you’ve just gotta do it….

  4. Maria Isabel says:

    Great article. I can’t eat pizza because of the spicy meats and sauce that they put in them but I like your idea of making your own, so I will try to do so. Thanks for your suggestions on how to make it healthier.

  5. Trader Joe’s has a fabulous whole wheat pizza crust and a delicious herb crust as well!

    Another great option is making personal pizzas out of whole wheat pita bread or english muffins. If there’s less pizza overall, you’re less inclined to overeat!

  6. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Kristin That is a great idea of using whole wheat pita bread or english muffins to make your pizzas! 🙂

  7. Teriss says:

    Pizza can be low calorie and the most delicious meal you can have along with a healthy large salad -its dinner time!!! I love combining different flavors using herbs like fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, parsley and basil and they are filling.

  8. Rosy says:

    Nice post, Talli! I use pita bread, too. I load up on my veggies, herbs, and add a bit of cheese on top. And if I’m having some pizza out, I do get the thin crust. 🙂 Yeah to Healthy Pizza! 🙂

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