For many Americans, pizza may as well be its own food group. We’re obsessed, and our love affair with this classic comfort food runs deep: according to the USDA, one in eight people over the age of two eats pizza on any given day. That’s a whole lot of pizza! As delicious as it may be, a hot, cheesy slice can be packed with a lot of sodium and saturated fat, and tends to lack the nutrient density of a well-rounded meal. If you crave pizza, we have a few tricks up our sleeves to give your pie a nutritious makeover.
Occasionally ordering takeout pizza is totally OK — in fact, it’s more than OK! Pizza can be a convenient and balanced meal option if you choose your pies wisely. Consider these easy tips before placing your next order:
Find a restaurant that uses fresh, whole ingredients. Not all pizza restaurants are created equal. Find a pizza spot that makes its own dough and sauce from scratch versus using pre-made ingredients sourced elsewhere. Not only will it taste better, it will likely be lower in sodium and added sugars.
Ask about a whole-wheat crust, and go thin. Many pizza restaurants offer alternative crusts, such as whole wheat. If available, go for it — whole-wheat pizza crust has more fiber, essential vitamins and minerals than its refined counterpart. More fiber and nutrients helps you feel full and satisfied over longer periods of time and can help curb overindulging. Opt for a thin crust if available — this alone can save 50–100 calories per slice!
Load it up with fresh vegetables. Veggies taste great on pizza, so pile on as many as you can! Cruciferous and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and arugula are popular pizza toppings that add a ton of flavor, fiber and micronutrients for very few additional calories. Loading up on these types of fiber and water-rich veggies makes you more full and satisfied than you would be with plain pizza, making overindulging less likely and providing a serving or two of vegetables.
Go with more sauce. Though a gooey white slice is tempting, always go with more sauce. Fresh tomato sauce is an excellent source of antioxidants from vitamin C and heart-healthy fats from olive oil. In addition, tomato sauce is a source of lycopene, a carotenoid associated with anti-cancer and heart-protective properties.
Skip the extras. It may be tempting, but skip the extras, including extra cheese, meat toppings and stuffed crusts. With the exception of fresh vegetables, extras add unnecessary sodium, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and calories.
If you have a little extra time, making a homemade pie is a fun way to get your pizza fix. You can customize your pie to fit your exact preferences, and it’s a great activity to share with friends and family. Try these easy, creative homemade pizza recipes for inspiration!
This easy, whole-wheat pizza recipe is a crowd pleaser. It only takes 35 minutes to prep, and has a whopping 17 grams of protein per serving.
Pro Tip: This recipe calls for fresh basil at the end. Topping your homemade pie with fresh herbs and leafy greens is an easy way to add flavor, nutrition and a gourmet flair. You don’t have to stop at basil — there’s a whole world of fresh herbs to try!
This whole-wheat green pizza is loaded with broccoli, arugula and pesto, adding vitamins C and A and fiber. This recipe calls for part-skim mozzarella cheese, which is lower in calories and saturated fat than its full-fat counterpart.
Pro Tip: Go lighter on the cheese, and load up on the veggies instead. Adding the cheese at the end helps give the pizza that dreamy, gooey consistency without having to go overboard.
At less than 300 calories and a whopping 18 grams of protein per serving, this whole-wheat stuffed pizza is a full meal in and of itself. In addition to cheese, this recipe includes plant protein from tofu, which seamlessly takes on the flavor of its partner ingredients. This recipe also contains an incredible 119 percent of our recommended vitamin A.
Pro Tip: Subbing out cheese for lean proteins such as tofu, chicken, egg whites and sardines is a creative way to boost the protein content of pizza without adding too many excess calories. A balance of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats helps curb overeating, and keeps you full and focused throughout the day.
Frozen Pre-Made Pizza
Having a frozen pizza on hand can be a convenient dinner option when you are strapped for time. But most frozen pizzas are loaded with preservatives, sodium and excess calories from saturated fats and added sugars. Before you leave the freezer aisle, follow these three rules to find your best option:
Read the label. Choose a frozen pizza with whole ingredients you can pronounce and understand.
Check the nutrient panel for sodium, saturated fat, fiber and calories. Unfortunately, most frozen options are high in sodium and saturated fat, so choose an option with the lowest amounts of these two unwanted nutrients. Also look for options that are highest in fiber and protein. Two products we love are Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza and Newman’s Own Roasted Vegetable Thin & Crispy Pizza.
Before diving in, pay attention to the number of servings per container. Frozen pizzas often look smaller than takeout pies, but don’t be fooled — they can be just as calorie-dense.