Get a Healthier Pizza on the Dinner Table

As a dietitian and food lover, I am often asked two things: What is my favorite healthy food, and what is my favorite not-so-healthy food? The best part about it? It’s the same food. I LOVE PIZZA.  

Pizza comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. It can be easily found in the grocery store's frozen section, in slices at your favorite convenience store, or delivered to your front door. The thing that excites me the most about pizza is that I can have the best of both worlds. It can taste delicious and be healthy. 

Why Pizza is Healthy

Pizza can be a very healthy food because it can have almost all the food groups in one dish and bring balance to your meals. This is why choosing quality and high-nutrient ingredients is a must to increase your pizza's health factor. Pizza is loaded with vitamins and minerals (tomato sauce and vegetables), calcium (cheese), protein (lean meats) and fiber (whole-grain or whole-wheat crust). 

Dine-in and Carryout

Yes, you can have healthier pizza when dining out and without changing much of the flavor. When ordering, here are some healthier pizza tips:

Crust. Ask if a whole-grain or whole-wheat option is available. If it is not, always choose the thinnest crust option to keep your starch servings in check. 

Extra sauce. Always choose a tomato-based sauce and ask for extra. Pizza sauce is a great source of the antioxidant lycopene that helps keep our cells happy. 

Load up with vegetables. Many restaurants offer a long list of vegetable options for pizza. I recommend choosing a vegetable pizza as your base and then adding the protein you like.

Less cheese, please. I love cheese, and cheese is a very important component of pizza, but a pound of cheese is not necessary. I recommend choosing mozzarella cheese and ask if you can have half the regular amount of cheese on your pie. 

Meats. If you like meat on your pizza, I recommend ham or Canadian bacon, chicken, shrimp and beef as leaner options. These are usually going to be the healthiest proteins on the menu. 

Skip the Parmesan and add the red pepper flakes. The red pepper flakes add more flavor to each slice, which will encourage you to eat less. Also, the heat from the pepper may increase your metabolism. 

Making Pizza at Home

At home, the healthier pizza possibilities are endless! You can get creative and try new flavor combinations. Follow the tips above for dining out, and then add these:

Make your own sauce. Pizza sauce can be high in sodium, so why not make it from scratch? There are plenty of no-salt-added canned tomato products available, and you can adjust the flavor by adding your own herbs and spices. 

Herbs and spices. Adding flavor to your pizza is important because the more flavor it has, the less you need to eat to be satisfied. Dried herbs like oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes and fennel have antioxidants similar to fruits and vegetables. 

When choosing a cheese, choose ones with richer and stronger flavors. I enjoy using parmesan, blue and goat cheese instead of mozzarella. The more flavor, the less you need. 


Honey Whole-Wheat Pizza Crust

Recipe developed by Chef Stacey Wertzberger

Makes two crusts

Ingredients
1 cup warm water
1 (.25-oz) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup flax seed, milled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place warm water (105-115F degrees), yeast and sugar into a small bowl. Gently stir and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour, flax seed and salt. Make a well in the middle and add yeast mixture and honey. Stir well to combine. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into two balls. Take one ball (you can freeze the other if you're only making one pizza), place on a floured pizza pan and roll out to about 12 inches, depending on thickness of crust desired. Poke about 15 holes in it with a fork.
  5. Spread your toppings over the pizza crust and bake for 13-16 minutes until desired crispiness.
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Anne Cundiff
Anne Elizabeth Cundiff, RD, LD, FAND, is a retail dietitian in Iowa, author of "I’m a Registered Dietitian ... Now What?" and host of Conversations with Anne Elizabeth podcast. Read her blog, Nutritional Noshes, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram