Extra cheese and pepperoni, step aside. Pizza gets a reputation for being “unhealthy” by some, but let’s think about what it is at its core: a grain (crust), a vegetable (tomato sauce) and a dairy (cheese). Hmm, that sounds a lot like a healthy meal to me with 3 food groups and a mix of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, and protein).
But when most people think about pizza they’re envisioning a high fat cheese, a white refined grain crust possibly covered in extra butter or oil, and a jar of sauce that may contain extra salt and preservatives.
Could we raise the bar for our pizza night right now?
1. Choose a crust that contains mostly whole grains. How do you know if it contains whole grains? If you’re buying a pre-made crust in the grocery store, look for the word “whole” preceding the grain name (usually wheat). If you like, you can make pizza on a whole grain bagel, a whole grain pita, a whole grain tortilla wrap, or my favorite, naan. If you make it from scratch, just choose a whole grain flour recipe.
2. Pick a pre-made jar of sauce that contains few preservatives and <140mg sodium (or as close to it as you can find!). It’s not hard to make your own sauce either - simmer some garlic, chopped onions, puree canned tomatoes, thicken as desired with tomato paste, and season with italian seasonings of your choice. Seriously, this counts as vegetables!
3. Choose a lower fat cheese if you are trying to limit calories and/or go light when spreading the cheese.
4. Toss the high fat meat toppings! This is usually where pizza goes awry! Instead of pepperoni, bacon, and sausage, load it up with mushrooms, chopped peppers, skinless chicken, etc.
5. Get creative! No one ever said you can’t put leftover lentils or fresh zoodles on your pizza! Be adventurous and try new combinations every week!
What cool tips and tricks do you have to up the nutrition value of your pizza night?