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All About Pizza

pizza, healthy pizza, pizza slice, whole vegetarian pizza

Whether you order from a pizzeria on a Saturday night or sell homemade slices at the school dance, everybody loves pizza. Depending on how it’s made, pizza can be a nutritious choice. Here are some tips for healthy and great-tasting pizza.

Pizza crust

The basic ingredients in pizza crust are yeast, oil, salt, water and flour. Oil helps create a tender pizza crust. Olive oil is traditional, but any vegetable oil will work. They all contain healthy fats. If you buy ready-made dough, make sure it is trans fat-free.

Salt creates a higher rising crust, but a pinch is all you need. Most of the sodium in pizza comes from the cheese and toppings, not the crust. 

Plain dough is usually made from refined white flour. Whether your order in or make pizza at home, you can increase the fibre, vitamins and minerals by choosing whole wheat flour instead. 

Many pizzerias offer whole grain crust. Don’t confuse this with “multigrain.” The word “multi” may simply mean “many,” but the dough may contain many refined grains. Ask if it is WHOLE grain. If you buy pizza at the grocery store, the first ingredient for the crust should say whole wheat flour – or even better, whole grain flour.

Healthy weight tip: Choose thin crust. Don’t choose crust with cheese baked into it.

Pizza sauce

Tomato-based pizza sauce contains disease-fighting antioxidants including lycopene and vitamins A and C. Some brands may be high in sodium, so choose one with no more than 40 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon (15 mL). Tomato sauce is a better choice than barbecue, pesto and Alfredo sauces, which usually have more salt:

Type of sauce

Sodium (per tablespoon/15 mL)

Tomato/pizza

30 mg

Barbecue

178 mg

Pesto

180 mg

Alfredo

103

If you make your own sauce, start with fresh tomatoes, or use canned tomatoes that contain no added salt.

Healthy weight tip: Skip the dipping sauce. A small container (50 grams) of creamy garlic or ranch dressing adds as much fat and calories as eating a whole extra slice of pizza!

The cheese

Cheese is high in calcium but it does add a lot of fat and calories to your pizza. Cut back on the amount of cheese you use. Mozzarella is the most common cheese used on pizza. It has less fat than cheddar or Swiss. Feta and goat cheese are popular pizza options too. Both have a similar fat content to mozzarella, so you can use them instead. Feta cheese is a lot saltier, so mix half mozzarella with half feta. Sprinkle just a little bit of Parmesan-- it is high in fat and salt.

Or for something new, try part-skim ricotta on homemade pizza. It has half the fat of mozzarella and is lower in sodium too.

Comparing cheeses – per 50 g (1.75 oz) serving

Type of cheese

Fat

Sodium

Mozzarella – 22% MF

11 g

314 mg

Mozzarella – 16% MF

8 g

310 mg

Feta cheese

11 g

558 mg

Part-skim ricotta

4 g

130 mg

Soft goat cheese

11 g

184 mg

Parmesan

14 g

764 mg

Cheddar

17 g

310 mg

Swiss

14 g

96 mg

Try preparing the pizza by sprinkling the cheese on top of the vegetables, instead of the cheese first. You’ll use less cheese that way.

Healthy weight tip: Most pizzerias will recognize the phrase “easy on the cheese.” With those magic words, they’ll sprinkle on a little less. You won’t notice a difference in taste, but is better for your waistline.

Pizza toppings

Load on the vegetables! From onions to broccoli to basil, decorate with nutrient-rich veggies. Grilled eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes or red peppers are also great options.  Limit sundried tomatoes and olives, since they are high in sodium.

There are more combinations than just cheese, mushroom and pepperoni. If you like a meaty pizza, choose sliced chicken breast, shrimp or extra lean ground beef. These options have less fat and salt than pepperoni, bacon or sausage.

Try one of these exciting pizzas:

  • Shrimp and pineapple
  • Grilled vegetables and goat cheese
  • Roasted garlic, tomato and fresh oregano
  • Chicken with spinach and peppers
  • Your own exciting creation!

Healthy weight tip: Choose chicken breast instead of pepperoni. You’ll save 20 grams of fat. Or, try a vegetarian slice with a green salad on the side and use hummus as your dipping sauce.

Buying pizza

If you are buying frozen pizza, read the Nutrition Facts panel on different brands and choose one that is lowest in salt and fat. Pay attention to the serving size too. The nutrition information will probably be for a portion of the pizza – not for the whole pizza. That’s probably all you should be eating. Pizza is only one part of the meal. Enjoy a slice or two, and then fill up on a side salad or crunchy raw vegetables.

Bottom line:

Pizza is a healthy choice when you pack all four food groups onto a slice. Start with a whole grain crust and add tomato sauce, low-fat mozzarella or goat cheese, and lots of vegetables. 

Recipes

Funny Face Pizza
Mini Pizza Sandwiches

Last Update – May 10, 2017

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