We all WANT pizza to be healthy, but is it? The answer may surprise you.
Pizza Nutrition Facts
So how nutritious is pizza? Well, that depends on the ingredients and type of pizza.
Fresh pizza is what you’ll find at your local pizzeria, which is typically made with clean ingredients including homemade dough. While the nutritional value can vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant, fresh pizza traditionally contains fewer, if any, preservatives or artificial flavors. Freshly-made pizza dough from scratch uses simple ingredients like olive oil and flour, and can be topped with fresh cheese and other healthy toppings like raw tomatoes, peppers, onions and more vegetables.
Frozen pizza is staple in many of our freezers, but it’s generally an unhealthy option when looking at the nutritional breakdown. Frozen pizzas are processed foods that contain artificial ingredients and preservatives to keep it fresh on the grocery store shelf. It’s also usually high in calories, sugar and sodium to fill and satisfy you. Adding toppings like pepperoni and sausage or even extra cheese will increase your calorie intake, as will the type of crust if you favor a stuffed crust or French bread-style pizza.
Fast-food pizza, which is pizza sold at fast-food joints, pizza chain restaurants and some convenience stores, is the least healthy option when it comes to grabbing a slice. While it’s not surprising that these options tend to be highest in calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates, it’s also worth noting that they usually contain more ingredients than homemade pizza and are often laced with bad-for-you additives like MSG, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colorings.
What Is Unhealthy About Pizza?
While pizza varies greatly from place to place, there are certain things to look out for that make pizza unhealthy.
As we mentioned earlier, the more processed the pizza, the more unlikely that the ingredients are made from scratch and therefore contain preservatives, additives, colorings and unhealthy fats. This is true for frozen pizza and fast-food pizza from a chain restaurant. Even if the pizza is made fresh, pizza chefs often use refined wheat flour, which is linked to weight gain because it’s low in fiber and less filling than whole-grain. Be sure to ask what type of flour the restaurant uses before placing your order.
High in calories, carbohydrates and sodium.
Pizza tends to be high in calories because it’s packed with cheese, salty meats and other decadent toppings. Occasionally, you’ll also find added sugar in the pizza crust and some sauces. Consuming refined foods that are high in calories, carbs, sodium and sugar on a regular basis can be linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and obesity.
Can Pizza Be Healthy?
Actually, yes! While you want to avoid anything with preservatives and artificial ingredients, pizza is traditionally a pretty simple food. The crust is made with a blend of flour, yeast, water, salt and oil, and then topped with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese. Pizza made from scratch using quality ingredients can actually be good for you, especially when paired with toppings like vegetables and healthy protein like grilled chicken that boost the nutrient content.
How to Make Healthy Pizza
Pizza lovers, rejoice. There IS a way to have your pizza and eat it too. Here are a few ways to make your favorite meal healthier and more nutritious.
Make your own pizza.
All you need is a DIY-attitude and some simple ingredients to make pizza yourself. When ordering out, you don’t have any input on the recipe, but when making it at home, you have full creative control. Let’s start with the crust. An easy homemade crust with whole-grain or gluten-free flour helps boost your fiber content. As for topping your pie, choose a sauce made with fresh ingredients and no added sugar, high-quality cheese and some healthy toppings.
Use whole ingredients.
Forget the pre-made pizzas and the crust mixes, as these tend to contain unnecessary additives like corn syrup and artificial flavors. Instead, prepare your own pizza crust and load it with nutritious toppings. The sky’s the limit when it comes to whole pizza toppings. Chop up some peppers, slice some onions, dice up some tomatoes, do your thing! Grilled chicken, arugula, mushrooms and garlic are other healthy topping ideas that’ll keep your belly full.
Healthy Pizza Tips
There are a few more things you can do to make your pizza healthier.
Pack it with veggies.
Cooked or fresh vegetables increase the nutritional value of your meal, including fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Say no to meat.
Unless it’s a healthy meat like grilled chicken, you should forego processed meats like pepperoni, sausage and bacon.
Whole-grain or bust.
It’s easy to use whole-grain flour when making your dough at home, and this option increases your fiber content.
No added sugar.
Be sure to use ingredients with no added sugar. Tomato sauce can be tricky so make sure you read the label and nutrition facts before buying.
You have the tools to make a healthy pizza AND you know what to avoid, so experiment! Maybe even host a pizza party if you’re feeling crazy.