After going on a healthy eating plan, there’s no question that from time to time, you’ll find yourself craving certain foods that you used to eat in the past. For a great many people, there is one food in particular that comes to mind time and time again.
Just hearing the word may cause you to start salivating. Pizza is a loved food by many, but unfortunately, at over 300-400 calories per slice for most varieties, it’s simply not something that you can have as part of your diet plan on a regular basis. At least not if you expect to maintain a healthy body weight.
That said, if you make a few key adjustments to the classic pizza and prepare it yourself, you might just find that it can make its way into your plan and you can enjoy it guilt free.
Next time you have a craving that seems to overpower your thoughts, you might want to reconsider restricting yourself from giving in.
All in all, pizza, when prepared wisely, is actually a very well-balanced food. It provides all three macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats. It will also cover the main food groups as well: meat, grains, dairy, along with fruits and vegetables.
So let’s get to it and show you how you can create a healthier pizza recipe so that you can start planning it for dinner tonight.
Let’s Talk Crust
The first thing we need to talk about is the crust. Typical pizza crusts start the nutritional problems off as they are high in refined carbohydrates that provide little nutrition-wise.
What’s worse is that many pizza crusts at gourmet pizza restaurants are now being stuffed with cheese or wrapped in bacon. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has.
This is what you don’t want.
When it comes to crusts, there are a few options to consider.
The first option is to simply swap out pizza crust entirely and instead, use a soft whole wheat soft tortilla shell. This will be the ultimate in thin crust pizza’s, but given it is so thin, it dramatically cuts back on the carbohydrate content. You’ll easily get away with just 10 grams or so of carbs per quarter of this pizza, which is a far cry from the 50-75 or so you’d likely get from a traditional small pizza.
If you want something a little thicker, another good alternative option is simply pita bread. By placing both sides of the pita bread together (not opening the ‘pocket’) you’ll create a thicker, double layer crust that can work well also.
Just keep in mind when baking these, you’ll use a much lower bake time (or maybe eliminate bake time entirely and just broil the pizza instead) in order to avoid burning that crust.
Another option is to prepare your own pizza crust. There are many recipes you can find that use whole wheat flour for a more nutrient dense option. Alternatively, omit the flour entirely and make the pizza crust gluten free by using ingredients such as protein powder, almond flour, or coconut flour.
For those who really want to take healthy eating to a new level, you can make a cauliflower based pizza crust as well. To do this, you’ll simply want to place your cauliflower into the food processor, processing it up into tiny particles and then microwave it on high for a few minutes until it’s cooked. Then let it stand for a few minutes before squeezing out as much liquid from the cauliflower as possible. The more liquid you get out, the more it will resemble that of a pizza crust. Add whatever spices you desire and then simply roll into a pizza crust as you would any other dough.
The nice thing about preparing a pizza crust yourself (regardless of the type of dough you use) is the fact that you can roll it much thinner than most crusts you would purchase, meaning you take in fewer carbs per slice.
A Word On Pizza Sauce
Before we move forward and talk about the toppings that you are putting on your pizza, let’s quickly talk about the sauce you are going to be using to cover that crust.
Overall, most pizza sauce varieties are quite low in calories, low in fat, and will contain a good dose of nutritional value in the form of lycopene and vitamin C thanks to the tomatoes used in the ingredients.
The only factor you’ll want to take into account when selecting your pizza sauce is the sodium. Many sauces can easily contain 25-50% of your total sodium intake for the day in one serving, meaning you really need to go easy here.
Try and find a lower sodium sauce if possible. If not, simply use a very light hand when spreading it on. As an alternative, consider preparing your own sauce or simply using a salsa instead. Salsa can add a unique twist to your pizza, while also increasing your vegetable intake.
Addressing The Topping Factor
Bacon and cheese? Beef and onion? Pineapple and pepperoni? All of these topping combos have one thing in common: poor nutritional value.
If you want to make a pizza variety that will please both your taste buds and your diet, you need to be selective with the toppings you choose.
Just as you would with any other meal, you’ll want to stick to lean protein varieties here. Pre-grilled and sliced chicken breast is a perfect solution for instance and typically isn’t offered in most pizza restaurant establishments.
If you must have the crumbly effect that ground beef creates, consider ground turkey instead. While it won’t be 100% the same as it’s not nearly as greasy, which will influence the taste, it will still be quite a delicious option that’s far more nutritious.
Prawns are another great choice to top your pizza and are more commonly used on classic pizzas. They are one topping that you can feel good about, as they are typically low in fat and very high in protein.
If you want to use deli meat, choose wisely here as well. You can find lower fat and even reduced sodium varieties of turkey, ham, or chicken, which can work well on your pizza. While processed sandwich meat will never be as healthy for you as real meat, these options are still a step above putting on pepperoni.
Since one of the primary goals of healthy eating is to make sure that you are adding enough protein to your daily diet, make sure that you add a good dose of these lean proteins to your pizza.
Remember that you will likely only eat a ¼ to a ½ of the pizza (depending on the type of crust you used and how calorie dense it is). Therefore you’ll need to add 2-4 servings of lean protein too.
Once you have your protein topping selected, then it’s time to look at your vegetable options. Here you’ll want to add as many vegetables as possible. No restrictions. If vegetables can make up the bulk of your toppings, then you are creating a delicious pizza that packs in loads of nutrition.
Great veggies that go on pizzas include onions, peppers, and mushrooms. However, don’t be afraid to get creative and use other veggies as well. Finely chopped broccoli, spinach, or thinly sliced zucchini can all work perfect as well.
Finding A Better Cheese
Finally, the last step in forming your pizza is to look at the cheese that you’re spreading on top. Cheese is a great source of calcium as well as protein, so can contribute positively to your diet.
The only problem is that it’s also a good source of saturated fat and calories – something that isn’t so appealing to your diet plan.
So what are you to do?
Try browsing your supermarket to find a reduced fat variety of cheese. In most cases you can find one and this will work perfectly. While the calorie content is still decently high, if you only sprinkle on a little as you prepare your pizza, it can really control the overall damage that pizza does to your diet plan.
Or, for those who are really serious about keeping it healthy, you might forgo cheese entirely. Simply top your pizza with some fresh herbs (oregano, basil, etc.) and then bake or broil.
It will be much different than classic pizza, but a much leaner version as well. Other options might include topping the pizza with feta cheese, which has a completely different profile than regular cheese and will also add a unique taste to the dish.
So next time you’re craving pizza, don’t be too quick to completely rule out the option of going in for a slice. If you are smart with how you prepare it, it can be a regular meal in your weekly diet plan. Experiment using different ingredients yourself and see what you can come up with.
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