Is Pizza Healthy?
I am asked all the time… Is pizza healthy?
It’s usually a mom who peppers this question with a comment or story about how pizza is her child’s favorite food, or how pizza is the only food her child will eat, or how pizza is always offered at parties (and her child goes to LOTS of them).
It’s a really good question, with a really ambivalent answer: It depends.
When Pizza Isn’t Healthy
Every time we order pizza delivery, my husband does the same thing. He pulls out some paper towels, double folds them, and presses the paper towels on top of the pizza to sop up the grease. It’s the first step before we dig in.
Pizza can be a pretty high fat food, especially if you are a meat lover. Pepperoni and/or sausage paired with cheese can pump up the fat grams (and the calories).
If you’ve got a hungry, growing child (like the teenage boy that I have), chowing down on several slices is pretty normal, and if that’s all that is consumed, well, it can be unhealthy. But there are lots of ways you can turn this scenario around, and boost nutrition and health.
Yes, I believe you can still have your meat lover’s pizza and a balanced meal, with a few strategic meal planning moves below.
How to Make Pizza Healthy
There are a few ways to make pizza healthy for your family. I like to break it down into options, that way you have some go-to approaches, depending on the situation you’re in.
Strategy #1: Round out the meal with other foods.
Build out the meal around pizza to encourage a better food balance and improve the health quality of the meal.
For example, serve a bowl of chopped fruit, a fresh salad, and a glass of milk with the pizza meal and… voila!… you’ve stepped up the health quality immediately. Even just adding a one of these items steps up the quality of the whole meal.
Strategy #2: Add vegetable toppings to your pizza.
Toppings matter when it comes to pizza. Start to experiment with different toppings on half of the pizza first, until you find additions that please your family. I’ve discovered in my own family that even though some members dislike mushrooms and peppers, others love them!
If you order take-out, try broccoli, peppers, mushrooms or some other veggie topping in addition to your regular order. If veggies aren’t your family’s thing, try adding some pineapple for a pop of fruit (and extra nutrients) and a twist on the usual.
Or, when you get the pizza, throw a tossed salad on top, California-style!
Strategy #3: Make your own pizza.
There are two things I love about making pizza at home. One, the kids can be involved in the process. You know I’m a big proponent of getting kids in the kitchen, no matter the age, and making homemade pizza is a universal food everyone can take part in the making.
Two, you get to control the ingredients. From a whole wheat pizza crust or a cauliflower crust (see recipes below) to the type and amount of cheese and toppings, your hands are in control.
12 Healthy Pizza Recipes You Can Feel Good About
I have asked my dietitian colleagues to share some of their favorite pizza recipes –one’s they make for their own kids – to inspire some new ideas for you and your family. I hope you check them out!
Zucchini Pizza Boats by Heather Mangieri (Nutrition Check-Up)
Pizza Pockets by Dana Angelo White (Dana White Nutrition)
Naan Pizza Made Three Ways by Jodi Danen (Create Kids Club)
Garbanzo Flour Flatbread and Pizza by Kelly Jones (Eat Real Live Well)
Three Healthy Grilled Pizza Recipes by Abby Sharp
Roasted Veggie English Muffin Pizzas by Katie Caputo Serbinski (Mom to Mom Nutrition)
Spinach, Pepper, and Feta Pizza by Sarah Pflugradt (Salubrious RD)
Flatout Sweet Potato Cauliflower Pizza by Amy Gorin Nutrition
Greek Salad Pizza with Chicken by Jenny Shea Rawn
Rosemary-Roasted Tomato Pesto Pizza by Jessica Levinson
Farmer’s Market BLT & Avocado Chopped Salad Pizza by E.A. Stewart