Pizza is a dish that virtually everyone likes. In fact, many people say pizza is their all-time favorite food. But, while tasty, pizza isn’t the healthiest of choices when it comes to watching your waistline and your calories.
The average piece of pepperoni pizza contains close to 300 calories, 12.1 grams of fat (5.3 of which are saturated), 29 mg. of cholesterol, and nearly 700 mg. of sodium.
However, you don’t have to give up this delectable dish forever. Here are six ways you can make pizza more healthy.
Whole Grain Crust
Perhaps the most unhealthy aspect of most pizzas is the dough used is made from refined grains as opposed to whole grains. Whole grains contain the whole kernel, including the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. When grain is refined, the bran and the germ are removed, which removes important fiber, iron, and a lot of vitamins. Using a whole grain crust means you get the benefit of the fiber your body needs, and the vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B. Many health experts say whole grains should represent at least half of your daily grain intake.
And, while we’re on the subject of crusts, opting for a thin crust over traditional or thick crust is a great way to reduce your calorie intake. Thin crust contains about 100 fewer calories per slice than thick crust.
Make Meats Lean
Meat and pizza go together like fudge on a sundae; for most people, it’s not a pizza unless it has meat. But, a lot of calories, fat, and cholesterol come from fatty meats like sausage and pepperoni. These calories and saturated fat put you at risk for heart disease down the road. If you don’t want to ditch the meat, but do want to be healthier, opt for lean meats like turkey and turkey sausage.
Also, try seafood on a pizza for a healthier option. Crab, shrimp, and lobster are all low in saturated fat, and they give you a healthy supply of vitamin A.
If you’ve not tried a seafood pizza before, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Replace Meat with Veggies
Many people love to go for the meat lovers pizzas where meats like sausage, bacon, ham, and pepperoni are piled high. Sure, these pies are tasty, but they’re also loaded with fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
To eat a healthier pizza, try ditching the meats and loading up on healthy vegetables like spinach, peppers, onions, olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, and squash. When you pair vegetables with a good whole grain crust, you’re more than halfway to a healthy, but satisfying pizza.
Light Cheese or No Cheese
Like meats, cheese tastes great but is loaded with fat and calories. And while many people would say it’s impossible to eat a pizza without cheese, the fact is that most of your pizza’s calories come from the mountains of cheese that’s typical in many American pizza joints.
To fix this and still get your cheese fix, you can opt for lighter cheeses such as those made with part skim milk, provolone cheese, and low-fat Parmesan. If you’re dead set on mozzarella, try to get fresh rather than the processed, which contains more sodium.
Also, when you’re ordering out for pizza, you can tell the restaurant to use half the cheese.
Of course, for an even healthier option, ditch the cheese. There are plenty of great, flavorful pizzas you can make that don’t include cheese at all, and if you just open your mind a bit, you may find them to be better than you think.
Watch Your Portions
If we’re honest, American restaurants, by and large, serve up portions that are much more than the average person needs. It’s understandable to make people think they’re getting their money’s worth when they order out, but we’re also trained not to waste food, and most of us will eat everything on our plate, even if it’s too much.
The same goes for pizza too. When you’re confronted with a pie that’s eight or twelve slices, it’s tempting to eat four, five, or even six at a sitting. This takes a little bit of willpower on your part, but limiting yourself to a slice or two at the most will help you keep your calories down. Maybe consider asking for a togo box to take the extra slices home for later.
Blot Off Your Slice
Have you ever seen someone taking their napkin and blotting their pizza slice before they eat it? If you have, you might think it’s a strange thing to do, but the fact is that this practice can go a long way to making your pizza healthier.
Nearly every pizza you get at a restaurant or pizza joint is loaded with grease and oil. By using a napkin or paper towel to soak up that oil, you can remove calories and fat. How much, you ask? Well, some say blotting your pizza slice can remove up to 76 calories and up to 4 1/2 grams of fat.
Of course, a better option is to find a pizza place near you that doesn’t serve slices soaked in grease and oil, to begin with, but if that option isn’t available to you, blotting can make a healthier slice.
Pizza is so ingrained in American culture it may as well be considered as American as baseball and apple pie. And while there’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in an unhealthy slice or two of your favorite pizza, if you put some thought into it, and exercise a little willpower. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy your favorite meal on a regular basis and keep your waistline from expanding.