I probably sound like everyone else when I say pizza is one of my favorite foods. Really, though, I can't get enough of it — my husband and I make it at home every single week, get in serious debates over styles and toppings, and even centered our welcome dinner at our wedding around a truck slinging out fresh pies.
I also truly enjoy eating in a way that makes me feel healthy (I am a Registered Dietitian, after all), so I am constantly seeking out ways to make pizza a wholesome choice since I don't plan on giving it up anytime soon. Here are a few things I keep in mind every time I order a pie or make one at home to make sure I'm always feeling good about every slice.
1. Always embrace veggies.
I know there are pizza purists out there who want nothing but sauce and cheese on their pie, but I say yes to veggies. I find it's the easiest way to make any pizza, whether it's homemade or not, a tiny bit healthier.
Keep it as simple as adding mushrooms and onions to your usual order or try unloading your farmers market haul onto it — you can't go wrong whichever path you choose, as long as you're adding some sort of vegetable to your pizza that you enjoy.
2. Stick with fresh mozzarella.
If your pizza joint offers pies with regular, part-skim shredded mozzarella or fresh mozzarella, go for the fresh stuff. While both are similar calorie-wise, shredded mozzarella contains a whole lot more sodium — over 200 milligrams more per ounce. Pizza is flavorful enough that you won't miss the extra sodium one bit.
3. Be strategic about meat to make room for veggies.
I really love prosciutto on pizza. I go light on it, though, because it's really so salty and flavorful that you don't need a whole lot to reap its benefits. Sausage is also one of my favorite pizza toppings, but when I put it on my homemade pie, I use just a single link in combination with some vegetable topping (peppers are classic, but I also highly suggest sautéed broccoli rabe). I sometimes go for chicken or turkey sausage, too, which is leaner than pork sausage.
When I am out, I order a meat pizza that also includes veggies so that there's less meat than if I were to order one that just had meat as a topping.
4. Try a whole-grain crust if you can.
Adding a little healthy fiber in the form of whole grains is never a bad idea. Check to see if your local pizza joint can make your favorite pie on a whole-grain crust — it might not be a option, but it never hurts to ask.
At home, you can try making your own by either following a recipe for a whole-grain crust or using your usual, go-to crust recipe and swapping up to half of the all-purpose flour for white whole-wheat, whole-wheat, or another favorite whole-grain flour. Many grocery stores also sell whole-grain pizza dough alongside their regular pizza dough.
Get a recipe: The Tastiest Whole-Grain Pizza Crust
5. Never forget the salad.
Every single time I either order a pizza or make one myself, I have a salad alongside it. Not only does this add more vegetables to the situation, but it can also actually help control portion size since it adds bulk to the meal and leaves you less hungry to go in for a third slice. Keep your salad a simple affair — my favorite is always this arugula number.
What are some of your favorite ways to make pizza healthier for you and your family?