Building and Ordering a Healthy Pizza
Our love for pizza started at a young age with the elementary school pizza parties I’m sure most of us fondly remember. Pizza will probably always remain one of America’s favorite foods… But some of us have been loving it so much that it is starting to show on our waistlines.
Don’t feel like you have to give up pizza all together to be healthy. There are many steps you can take to make a night of pizza slightly more nutritious.
Meat, cheese, and vegetable choices can all impact your healthy pizza. We need to become savvy pizza connoisseurs in our battle for a healthier diet. When calling up your local pizza shop, you can keep the following tips in mind so your party guests can enjoy a healthy pizza.
The foundation of a healthy pizza starts with the crust. The thinner the crust, the fewer the calories. New York style pizza is the way to go if you want more than one slice. Thin crust pizza can save you up to 80 calories a slice. With a shot of vodka costing you about 96 calories, making the trade for thinner pizza seems like an easy choice.
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Whole wheat dough is the only way to go. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get fiber anywhere you can get it. Whole wheat pizza crust on average has 3.5g of fiber per slice; eating two slices in that case, means meeting about 28% of your daily needs.
*Fiber needs can get complicated, but making the move for whole wheat is always good. Fiber has so many jobs in your body, but one the main jobs it performs is removing bad LDL cholesterol from your body by binding with the LDL and removing it before it can be absorbed. This makes for better heart health in the long run. Fiber also keeps you from getting backed up. Other than the awful and ugly bloating that can happen from a backed up gut, you can be more at risk for colorectal cancer. You don’t want to be stuck in the bathroom too long on that hot date, so don’t be shy with the fiber!
We need much more than some 1 topping bullshit!
Variety of the right kind of toppings can make for a much more nutritious pizza. Don’t be shy with the vegetables: bell peppers, pineapple, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, jalapenos, and spinach add vitamins and minerals with fewer calories than other toppings.
BEWARE: olives are brined and lack any nutritional value! Keep them where they belong, in your martini.
When it comes to meat, less is more. Don’t just give it all up (calories that is) on your meat choices. Chicken and shrimp are awesome low-fat, high protein options.
Fat is not the enemy, but the type of fat does make a difference. Go for fresh meats that are lower in saturated fats and higher in unsaturated fats. These meats contain more unsaturated fats, like omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to lower bad LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
BEWARE: Cured meats like bacon, ham and pepperoni are high in unhealthy saturated fats, sodium, and nitrates. We now know through research that processed meats have been linked to colorectal cancer. We need to be kind to our gut and consume these sparingly.
When it comes to pizza, you can’t avoid cheese.
A pizza without cheese is like a party without music.
Luckily, the most commonly used pizza cheeses, mozzarella, is one of the healthier ones. However, if you have the option of fresh mozzarella over the pre-shredded kind, you can usually save yourself from some extra sodium.
If you just love cheese and want variety here are some other options:
- 1oz of feta has 4g of protein and only 74 calories!
- 1oz of parmesan only has 110 calories (but beware, it weighs in a little high in the sodium department).
Pizza needs a friend. And in this case, salad should be your go-to side dish.
Why must every pizza place force more carb dense sides in your face? Because it’s cheap, and usually after some beer a carb orgy sounds delicious.
BE STRONG AND RESIST!
You are already eating pizza, you don’t need cheesy bread, breadsticks, or fried chicken wings.
Making better choices is about making smart trade-offs. You have already committed to stuffing your face with carbs and meat, why not supplement with a side of salad?
But, even salad can be tricky. Here’s what to avoid:
Creamy salad dressing are full of fat and sugar: The average ranch dressing has 145 calories per 2 Tbsp serving (mostly from fat). Opt for vinaigrettes or simply olive oil and vinegar. For an even better eating habit, don’t dump all that dressing onto the salad, instead dip your fork into the dressing and then into your salad to regulate how much dressing you consume.
Skip the croutons: The average crouton has about 30 calories per piece! That is a lot of calories for a food that basically empty of any nutrients.
Cheese? Like your cheese choices on the pizza, the same rules apply here. If you went for an extra cheesy pizza, skip the cheese on your salad.
Healthy Pizza Recipe
Pizza night isn’t a night I break out the cookbooks. Pizza is a simple meal you can freestyle, even if you’re not much of a cook… Here is your basic pizza shopping list.
Bookmark this page so you are ready to rock and roll when you get back from the store.
- Pizza dough
- Olive oil
- Pizza Sauce (tomato, pesto, bbq, etc)
- Cheese (may consider more than one)
- Veggies (peppers, broccoli, onion, mushrooms, Brussel’s sprouts, etc)
- Other toppings of your choice
My favorite pizza dough to utilize is the Trader Joe’s brand. They have a few options, but their whole wheat pizza dough is both delicious and healthy. Trader Joe’s garlic herb dough is also delicious, but not as great for the fiber content. And at $1.29 per dough, there will be plenty of the budget left for some wine.
There is much more to pizza sauce than the basic red sauce. Pesto or just simply garlic and olive oil make for other healthy options. I’m totally obsessed with BBQ pizzas, but often BBQ sauce is full of added sugar.
Just be cautious…
When it comes time for cheese, don’t feel limited to just mozzarella. While fresh, sliced mozzarella is great, goat cheese, like feta, and other aged cheeses, like parmesan and cheddar, are healthier options.
Get creative with toppings! Since you’re in control here, switch up the tired choices of pepperoni and sausage and get artisanal with this shit. Walnuts, arugula, broccoli, and butternut squash are just some of the unique and delicious options you can use to spice up your pizza life.
So let’s get to cooking:
- First, let your dough rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Working with cold dough will leave you frustrated.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees once your dough is ready to be rolled.
- On a large, generously floured cutting board, roll your dough out. Any shape will do, no one said it had to be round. If it’s girls night, something phallic shaped is very acceptable…
- Stir together 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp minced garlic. Brush this on the edges of the dough so that you get a crispy, garlic crust.
- SAUCE TIME! Take your sauce of choice and spread evenly with a spoon. Licking the spoon when done is acceptable…
- Sprinkle on your cheese of choice, but don’t get too heavy-handed! We are still trying to be health(ier) here ok?
- Then top with 3-4 toppings. In keeping with the healthy goals, I suggest no more than one meat topping, since you already have enough fat in the mix with all that cheese. Veggies are where it is at! My favorite combination is prosciutto, mushroom, caramelized onion, and goat cheese.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
If this doesn’t get you salivating, here are some awesome Nutrition Gone Wild approved recipes:
With this pizza knowledge in your arsenal, you should be able to master the art of healthy pizza ordering and healthy pizza creation.
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