Pizza is one of the most popular types of “junk food” on the planet today. It’s available in literally EVERY city around the country, with more than 70,000 pizzerias around the U.S. serving 3 billion pizzas a year. Sadly, despite the fact that it’s absolutely delicious, pizza is one of the least healthy foods around. The mixture of white flour, processed meats, and high-fat cheese makes for a fairly low-nutrition meal. But can eating pizza be healthy? If done right, it may be healthier than you’d think…
Watch the Cheese
While the saturated fat in cheese is good for you, too much can be bad for your health—both your cardiovascular system and your waistline. The problem with most pizza cheese is that it’s highly processed, containing far less nutrition and more artificial ingredients (additives, flavorings, and preservatives) than regular cheese. If you have a choice, always pick cheeses like mozzarella that contain high nutritional value. Avoid any three- or four-cheese pizza, which just packs on more calories than you should be eating.
Avoid Meat Toppings
Pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, ham, and other meaty toppings are likely to do more harm than good. Not only are they overloaded with sodium (used to preserve the meat), but they also contain a lot of unnecessary fats and calories. Adding meaty toppings to your pizza is like adding a third scoop of ice cream onto an oversized sundae. If at all possible, avoid the meaty toppings, and stick with veggies, olives, and herbs. It’ll cut calories and avoid excessive trans fat intake.
Ask for the Right Crust
Some pizzerias offer you the option to order a whole wheat crust instead of white flour, and you should ALWAYS take them up on the offer. Whole wheat flour contains more fiber and nutrients than refined white flour. Though the pizza won’t taste quite the same, it’s worth it to enjoy a healthy pizza. But if you only have the white flour options, always order the thinnest possible crust. Less flour is always a good thing!
Make Your Own Crust
You can get really creative and experiment with different ingredients to make a delicious pizza crust at home. For example, grate cauliflower into a natural veggie flour and use for your pizza crust. Or try working with a non-grain-based flour. Basically, the flour/crust is the worst part of your pizza, so it’s always best if you can find ways to improve its nutritional value by working with better-quality nutrients.
Be Wary of the Tomato Sauce
Surprisingly, the tomato sauce used for your pizza isn’t the healthiest thing on the menu! Some pizza sauces are high in trans fats, while others are loaded with sodium and artificial ingredients. You should try to find pizzerias that make their tomato sauce using fresh ingredients, but always ask for the low-sodium, low-trans fat sauce whenever possible. You’ll do your cardiovascular system a favor by avoiding high-sodium tomato sauces!
Colors are Better
Whenever possible, load up your pizza with as many veggie ingredients, and make them as many colors as possible. Tomatoes are an amazing source of lycopene, and red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are rich in Vitamin A. Olives are loaded with Vitamin E and antioxidants. Spinach and basil are both naturally rich in fiber and important minerals, while mushrooms add to the fiber and protein content of your pizza without adding more calories. Your goal should be to load up the pizza with all the veggie toppings on the menu, as that will improve its nutritional value significantly.