How to go about enjoying pizza the healthy and guilt-free way

A thin base, different cheese options and adding vegetables are some ways to make a pizza healthier. l FILE

A thin base, different cheese options and adding vegetables are some ways to make a pizza healthier. l FILE

Published Mar 5, 2024


Pizza is a universally loved comfort food but it is also regarded as one of the unhealthiest dining options.

The excess carbohydrates and cheese might be delicious but for many health-conscious individuals, the guilt that often accompanies indulging in a traditional pizza can be a real struggle.

Health care provider Affinity Health believes that it is possible to indulge in a pizza while also remaining healthy.

“You shouldn’t sacrifice your health to savour a slice,” CEO Murray Hewlett said.

“The secret lies in making wise choices.”

Here are his health-conscious approaches to enjoying pizza:

1. Opt for a whole wheat base

Making a healthy choice with this beloved meal starts with choosing a base, which is the foundation of any pizza.

Hewlett explained that traditional pizza bases are typically made from refined white flour, which lacks the nutritional benefits of whole grains.

But choosing a whole wheat base offers a wealth of health advantages, as it is high in dietary fibre, which assists digestion.

“Other healthier options include low-carb, gluten-free alternatives, such as cauliflower, zucchini and chickpea,” he said.

2. Load up on the vegetables

One of the easiest and most effective ways to make your pizza healthier, is by piling on the vegetables, Hewlett recommended.

“Veggies provide a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre.”

Here are some veggie toppings that can elevate your pizza’s nutritional profile:

Spinach: Rich in iron and calcium, spinach adds a mild, earthy flavour to your pizza.

Bell peppers: These peppers come in various colours and offer a sweet, crunchy texture.

Mushrooms: Low in calories and high in antioxidants, mushrooms are a flavourful addition.

Broccoli: Packed with vitamins C and K, broccoli adds a delightful crunch.

Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes provide vitamin C and a juicy burst of flavour.

Red onions: These add a hint of sweetness and a dash of colour.

Zucchini: Thinly sliced zucchini, also known as baby marrow, creates a tender and slightly sweet topping.

A thin base, different cheese options and adding vegetables are some ways to make a pizza healthier. l FILE

3. Choose lean proteins

Hewlett suggested opting for lean protein sources, in order to avoid excessive saturated fats and calories.

Some healthy protein options for your pizza include:

Grilled Chicken: Skinless, boneless chicken breast or thigh meat is a lean choice.

Turkey Sausage: Turkey sausage offers a flavourful alternative to traditional pork sausage.

Shrimp: These seafood delicacies are low in calories and high in protein.

Tofu: This protein-rich topping is derived from soya, which is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

4. Be mindful of cheese

Hewlett warned that cheese is known for its calorie density, high sodium content and status as a leading source of saturated fat.

“Consuming excessive saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels.”

And as cheese remains an integral part of the pizza experience, he believes that the answer lies in striking a balance.

To enjoy the cheesy goodness of pizza, follow these tips:

Opt for part-skim cheese: Many pizzerias offer part-skim or reduced-fat cheese options lower in saturated fat, while retaining traditional cheese’s creamy texture and flavour.

Choose mozzarella or ricotta over cheddar or gouda: These healthier cheeses are made from whey protein and are relatively low in fat and calories. Hewlett said that at the same time, cheddar and gouda are higher in fat and calories.

Go light on the cheese: Instead of piling on heaps of cheese, use a moderate amount to maintain the taste while reducing the calorie load.

Choose feta or goat cheese: These cheeses have a stronger flavour, allowing you to use less while still enjoying the taste.

5. Control portion sizes

Even a healthy pizza can become a calorie bomb if you overeat, Hewlett warned.

Here are some portion control strategies to consider:

Share with others: Splitting a pizza with a friend or family member can help you enjoy a delicious meal without consuming excessive calories.

Order small or personal sizes: Many pizzerias offer personal-sized pizzas, automatically limiting your portion size.

Choose a thin crust: Thin-crust pizzas generally have fewer calories than their thick-crust counterparts, making it easier to manage your portions.

Pair with a side salad: Complement your pizza with a side salad of fresh greens and vegetables. This will help you fill up on nutritious, low-calorie foods, Hewlett said.