Don't be so quick to think of pizza as junk food. As with so many other dishes, it all comes down to how it's prepared. If you choose healthy pizza toppings, like vegetables, you could give this ever-popular crowd pleaser a boost in nutritional value.
Choosing Healthy Pizza Toppings
Here's a hypothetical situation that many people can relate to: It's the end of a long day and you don't feel like cooking. Maybe you've got a house full of kids who are claiming they're practically starving. You start wondering, "What's the healthiest pizza to order?" Because, hey, just because you're ordering pizza doesn't mean you want to be unhealthy.
Take a look at how two popular pizza chains, Domino's and Papa John's, compare in their veggie pizzas. This won't give a definitive answer to "What's the healthiest pizza to order?" but it will definitely help you make an informed decision.
Fortunately, Domino's makes it easier to track the calories and ingredients in your pizza. The hand-tossed crust contains enriched wheat flour, water and soybean oil, along with 2 percent or less of ingredients like sugar, salt, whey and so forth. The pizza sauce is made from tomato puree, sugar, salt, spices, garlic, soybean oil and citric acid.
But what's really important is choosing healthy pizza toppings. If you order a traditional pizza at a 6-inch personal size and top it with all the veggie options — garlic, green peppers, green chile peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, black olives, green olives, banana peppers, roasted red peppers and spinach — a two-slice serving of this pizza would come out to 250 calories with 9 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbohydrates and 9 grams of protein.
That's not bad when you compare it with what you could be having. If you decided to order that same 6-inch personal pizza with Alfredo sauce, double cheese, ham and sausage, two slices would carry 340 calories with 16 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of protein.
Like Domino's, Papa John's offers veggie pizza with calories in a reasonable range. And Papa John's also makes it easy to track your ingredients and calories the same way Domino's does.
If you order an 8-inch personal pizza with a normal amount of the three cheese blend and top it with healthy pizza toppings like banana peppers, black olives, mushrooms, spinach, green olives, green peppers, jalapenos, onions and Roma tomatoes, each slice will have 220 calories with 7.5 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of protein.
Can Pizza Have Health Benefits?
Pizza doesn't have to be an unhealthy food, and although delivery and take-out make for convenient options, you'll have even greater control over the pizza health benefits if you make it yourself (or at least adapt it a little bit).
The Cleveland Clinic emphasizes that it's all about the toppings, as extra cheese and meats like sausage, ham, pepperoni and bacon could deliver a week's worth of saturated fat in a two-slice serving. Instead, let pizza be a vehicle for lots of colorful veggies. You can augment the pizza health benefits by adding a side salad or a side of cooked vegetables. Not only will these offer extra nutrients but they will also help you feel fuller faster.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages ordering a side salad and either serving it on top of your pizza or chopping your pizza up and tossing it in your salad the way you would croutons.
Of course, you can also ensure your pizza has health benefits by making it at home with lots of vegetables. The USDA offers an easy recipe for a veggie pizza made on a baguette and topped with mushrooms and green peppers.
It isn't just for toppings that veggies come in handy. You can make cauliflower crust or zucchini crust to cut back on calories and increase your veggie intake. From there, get creative with the many vegetable pizzas you can make, such as a gluten-free margherita protein pizza, a white bean and spinach pizza or even a kale and wild mushroom flatbread pizza.
So next time you find yourself wondering, "What's the healthiest pizza to order?" remember that healthy pizza toppings and sides like veggies and salads will go a long way in making your meal nutritionally sound.