by Katie Faulkner
Pizza is a popular dish in most of our diets. It’s a social, shareable meal that becomes an event when friends and family enjoy it together. It can be dressed up for a classy date night, or it can be as casual as a family trip to a pizza buffet. No matter how you slice it, we love it!
Unfortunately, it isn’t always the healthiest choice. Whether you’re throwing some dough at home to build your own pie or choosing the best option off a menu, here are nine tips for building a healthier pizza.
1. Start With a Salad
A healthy precursor to any meal, a salad is a great way to fill up on healthy vegetables before starting on the main course. Fortunately, it pairs perfectly with pizza.
2. Opt for an Alternative Crust
There’s no rule that pizza has to be made with a traditional flour crust. You can opt for whole wheat or gluten-free flour or go low-carb. Options like ground-cauliflower crust or layering your sauce and toppings on sliced zucchini or eggplant, are healthy alternatives that pack in more nutrients and still provide some crunch.
3. Spice It Up
Add in red pepper flakes, cayenne, chilies, or sriracha for a flavor boost that doesn’t involve oil or fat. Plus, the added capsaicin (spice in the peppers) gives your metabolism a boost.
4. Double Down on Veggies
Why not use this popular dish to get in some recommended daily servings? Branch out with your choices to find exciting pairings. Layer thick, rich veggies like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, olives, zucchini, or onions. Then top with mounds of fresh greens for lots of unique flavor – cilantro, chives, basil, arugula, or spinach are all great choices.
5. Get Creative With Healthier Toppings
The great thing about pizza is the endless amount of topping options. Choose some creative flavor combinations that allow you to explore healthier toppings – like goat cheese and grilled peaches, summer squash and arugula, or mushrooms and garlic. Think of hearty vegetable options (like squash, eggplant, mushrooms, and asparagus) for a more satisfying experience.
6. Pick Lean Meats
There are healthy options out there for the “meat-lovers” variety! Instead of piling on oily sausage and pepperoni, choose leaner options like chicken, shrimp, turkey bacon, and even thinner slices of lean salami.
7. Make Your Own Sauce
If you’re preparing pizza at home, this is a great tip. Store-bought pizza sauce often contains excess sodium, fats, preservatives, and even sugar, which are really easy to avoid. Pizza sauce is simple – cook down crushed tomatoes in a pan with heart-healthy olive oil and garlic. Or spread some pesto on the crust or simply drizzle olive oil.
8. Choose Lighter Cheese
Parmesan, feta, and goat cheese are all naturally lower in fat, and low-fat varieties are available in other types of cheese. Opt for skim-milk mozzarella or sharp provolone.
9. Be Mindful of Your Serving Size
Pizza is a meal that is easy to mindlessly shovel in. Often eaten in social settings or paired with a movie, we tend to keep munching long after we’re full. Instead of chowing down in front of the television, savor each slice. Most importantly, if you’re full, don’t feel compelled to keep eating.