When you think of “health” food, pizza is probably not the first thing to come to mind. While pizza can certainly be and often is far from nutritious, if done right, it can be a fairly balanced meal and actually provide a good amount of nutrition. Here are some tips to make pizza a healthier, and therefore more regular, part of your diet.
1) Homemade – making homemade pizza gives you a LOT more control over what is (and ISN’T) going into your meal. You can do a whole grain crust, a cauliflower crust, or even mini pizzas on slices of eggplant. You can also opt for a thinner crust and simpler ingredients so you aren’t using most of your calories on greasy dough. You dictate the amount of cheese. And, you can control your sauce ingredients!
2) Sauce Magic – sauce is a great place to pack extra nutrients, just like smoothies. For a tomato sauce, try adding some pumpkin puree or spinach to increase the veggies. Or, opt for a non-tomato sauce like a simple pesto. Pea + mint, kale + walnuts, arugula or spinach – all make for some killer pizza sauce bases and offer not only a different delicious twist, but much-needed nutrients, as well. To make these pestos even more nutritious, use as little olive oil as needed to get a spreadable consistency, omit the cheese, and limit or remove the nuts/seeds. And if you really want to get creative, try a non-conventional sauce like butternut squash puree or pumpkin.
3) Toppings – what you put on top of your pizza base can derail your healthy day or finish it with a bang. Fresh veggies, especially seasonal ones, grilled fruits, and sparse or lean proteins amp up the nutrition per bite and slice without compromising on flavor. Use bold cheeses to decrease the amount you need to use to have a flavor impact and choose/shred finely shredded cheese so that a little really goes a long way. For a twist and a lighter option, try adding a lightly dressed salad of fresh greens on top just before serving in lieu of toppings other than sauce and a bit of cheese.
4) Size Matters – just about anything can become “unhealthy” if eaten in mass quantities. Avoid overdoing your pizza intake by making homemade, smaller pizzas, getting store bought individual pizzas, or ordering a small pizza for delivery. This keeps you from over-indulging! Can’t beat the price of that huge pizza? Wrap half in foil and place in the freezer for later consumption before digging in!
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Aubrey Phelps MS RDN LDN