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Healthy Pizza with PIZZAZZ!

Your Taste Buds Won't Know the Difference

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian

Who doesn’t like pizza? Nearly every mouth waters at the thought of sweet tomato sauce, tangy toppers, and that rich golden-brown crust, baked to perfection. This combination food can be a healthy choice, filled with complex carbohydrates, B-vitamins, calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin C. However it often ends up being an indulgent, high fat, calorie-packed nightmare. Whether you're starting from scratch, opening a convenient frozen creation, or placing an order at your favorite pizzeria, the following pizza pointers will surely come in handy.

Consider the Crust
Crust is the foundation of your pizza, so be creative and open your mind to new crust possibilities, such as lower calorie versions. Keep in mind that whole-grain breads or crusts add fiber and additional nutrients to your pizza as well. 

Type of Crust
Calories
Homemade, 1/4 of 12"
164
Plain bagel, 2 oz.
163
Pita Pocket Bread, 1
106
English Muffin, 2 oz.
135
French Bread, 1/4 of loaf (4 oz.)
318
Ready-Made Crust, 1/8 of 12"
150
Tortilla, 1
170
Spread It On
Pizza sauce is loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid thought to protect against several cancers, heart disease, and possibly bone loss. Many tasty, low-sodium versions are now available. <pagebreak>

Load It Up
Pile on the vegetable and fruit toppings—mushrooms, olives, green peppers, broccoli, onions, spinach, pineapple, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers—for less fat, less calories, more fiber and more vitamins A and C.

If Meat is a Must…
While pepperoni may be the favorite, opt for leaner meats such as ground turkey, extra lean ground beef, white meat chicken, lean ham, or Canadian bacon instead. Cooking meats first and draining the excess fat (grease) will save lots of fat and calories. Seafood lovers can try water-packed shrimp, tuna, or crab. But everyone should skip that pepperoni, sausage, bacon, and prosciutto.

Say "Cheese…Just a Little, Please"
Use part-skim mozzarella, part-skim ricotta, a little Parmesan, or reduced-fat varieties. When ordering, ask for light cheese, and when unpacking a frozen delight, brush off some of the excess cheese before baking. Don’t be afraid to blot off some of the grease with a napkin—you’ll save even more calories and fat, but retain taste and texture.

Frozen Pizza Delights
Over the years, frozen pizza has come a long way. Gone are the cardboard crusts, tasteless sauces, and skimpy toppings. However, today’s frozen pizza can tip the scales when it comes to calories, fat and sodium. To improve your odds, select a frozen pizza that is loaded with vegetables and follows these guidelines for each serving— be sure to look at the number of servings on the box. Even a small or personal size pizza can be 2 or more servings:
  • Less than 375 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 4 grams of saturated fat
  • Less than 675 milligrams of sodium
  • Choose vegetable toppings on a thinner crust (or select plain cheese pizza and add your own vegetable toppings at home)
  • Start with a salad and low-calorie dressing and limit yourself to two slices of pizza.
  • Select a single-serving pizza for built-in portion control
  • Stay away from stuffed crust pizza
  • Pass on the pepperoni, sausage, bacon and extra cheese
Dining Out Tips
  • Ask about pizza ingredients when you are ordering
  • Resist the urge to order double-cheese
  • Go for vegetable toppings such as mushrooms, green peppers, olives, tomatoes, and onion. Try some of the new toppers such a broccoli florets, asparagus spears, and artichoke hearts
  • Go easy on the meats. Each meat addition adds 10-40 calories and 1.5 to 3.5 grams of fat per slice
  • Try to hold it to two slices of pizza and order a salad on the side
Lickity-Split Pizza 
If you are looking for a quick way to pacify your pizza taste buds, then try the Spinach Feta Personal Pizza. This lickity-split pizza recipe is ready in 5 minutes or less!
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