Is Pizza Healthy for Pregnancy?

Pizza with mushrooms and ham
Pizza on wood cutting board (Image: Barbara Dudzińska/iStock/Getty Images)

Although pizza can in fact be healthy during pregnancy, there are healthier choices and limits to how much of it you should eat. On average, as a pregnant woman you only need about 300 extra calories per day, even if your appetite is suggesting otherwise. Too many calories from any food group can lead to excessive weight gain that is more difficult to lose after pregnancy, so make wise food choices when you can.

Calories and Fat

Salads are a perfectly healthy meal until you start adding meats, croutons, cheeses and loads of salad dressing. The same holds true for pizza. A slice of regular-crust cheese pizza contains on average 300 calories and 11 grams of fat compared to a slice of pepperoni pizza, which is slightly higher in calories and fat with 338 calories and 15 grams of fat. Ordering thick or pan-crust style, extra meat toppings or even extra cheese ups the total calorie and fat content.

Healthy Options

There are many ways to make a more nutritious pizza choice for you and your developing baby. First, select thin crust, or better yet, crust made with whole-wheat flour for a few extra grams of fiber and B vitamins. Order extra sauce, unless you are having trouble with heartburn. Tomato sauce is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene, which may help lower the risk of certain cancers. Part-skim mozzarella cheese is nutritious in that it provides 207 milligrams of bone-building calcium and 7 grams of protein in just 1 ounce, but since cheese is also naturally high in fat, don't go overboard. Adding more vegetables like sliced tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green peppers and olives can give your pizza a boost in flavor and beneficial nutrients like folate and beta carotene without bumping up calories.

What About Heartburn?

Many pregnant women experience heartburn, most often toward the end of their pregnancy. Heartburn can be caused by eating too much, eating foods high in fat, having spicy foods or lying down shortly after eating. When you add a green salad or fresh fruit to your meal, you can still enjoy a slice or two of pizza, which is a more balanced option than just pizza alone.

Foods to Avoid

During pregnancy, both you and your unborn baby are at greater risk for complications from foodborne illness. One of the more serious foodborne illnesses is listeriosis, which is caused by eating foods contaminated with the listeria bacteria. If you would normally add feta or blue cheese to your pizza, skip it during pregnancy. Be sure any pizza is thoroughly cooked before eating.

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