1. Load your pizza with veggies for extra nutrients
Think of pizza as a delicious way to throw loads of vegetables into one pan. Add as many vegetables as you can. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber! says Kimberlain.
Not sure which vegetables work well together in a pie? Try Kimberlains favorite combination: For traditional red sauce pizza, I like to add all the vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, artichokes, olives, basil. I love the combination of them all, she says. This way, you get a meal packed with the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
Mushrooms, for example, are a great way to get vitamin B3 (niacin), according to Harvard Health Publishing and the USDA. One cup of raw, sliced brown mushrooms provides 3 milligrams (mg), which is 21% of your Daily Value (DV), notes the Mayo Clinic. And this multitasking vitamin helps keep your digestive system, skin, and nervous system healthy.
Meanwhile, bell peppers provide vitamin C; as the USDA notes, you’re getting 142 mg per 100 g of bell pepper, which is more than 150% of the DV.
So when in doubt, add more veggies for a filling, vitamin-packed pie.
RELATED: What foods are rich in vitamin C?
2. Opt for a thin-crust pizza to reduce calories
Whether you’re ordering in or making the pizza yourself, opt for thin crust when you can. Why? The thin crust means you can get more veggies in before you’re full, says Lemond.
Going the thin crust route, the main focus of the meal is the vegetables, not the bread. Why this matters: Eating a more plant-based diet is a completely healthy way to eat.
For example, one study foundthat people who ate mostly plant-based diets, focusing on vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits and legumes, had lower chances of dying from heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, compared to people who ate more foods of animal origin.
A thin crust has other advantages as well. Choose thin crust over thick crust or even stuffed crust to help reduce total calories and sodium, says Kimberlain.
A slice of small, thin-crust pizza with cheese has 230 calories and 564 mg of sodium, according to the USDA. Meanwhile, a small slice of thick-crust pizza with cheese has 312 calories and 687 mg of sodium, according to the USDA.
So to fill in more veggies, the MVPs of your pizza, and cut down on calories and sodium, thin crust is your best bet.
3. Be mindful of the cheese you choose to limit saturated fat
Most pizza lovers will tell you that cheese is essential to a good pie. Still, it’s important to be smart about the cheese you add.
Cheese will provide protein and calcium; simply be mindful of how much you’re adding, as it also contains saturated fat, says Kimberlain. Opt for 2% or partially skimmed mozzarella or skimmed ricotta.
Here is the nutritional information for these cheeses, which tend to be lower in fat than their whole-milk counterparts:
Part Skimmed Mozzarella
According to the USDA, 1 ounce (oz) contains:
- 72 calories
- 4.51 g of total fat
- 2.87 g of saturated fat
- 222 mg of calcium, which is 17% of the DV
The same serving of whole-milk mozzarella contains 85 calories, 6 g of total fat, 4 g of saturated fat, and 143 mg of calcium (11 percent of the DV).
Partially skimmed ricotta cheese
According to the USDA, 1 ounce contains:
- 39.1 calories
- 2.24 g total fat
- 1.4 g of saturated fat
- 77.1 mg of calcium, which is about 6% of the DV
Comparatively, 1 ounce of whole-milk ricotta has about 43 calories, 2 g of total fat, 2 g of saturated fat, and 58 mg of calcium (5% of the DV).
Like Kimberlain, Lemond is a fan of ricotta in pie. My favorite way to make pizza these days is to layer these vegetables on top of a layer of ricotta cheese and then bake or grill them on a pizza stone, she explains.
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4. Opt for a whole wheat crust for extra nutrition or a veggie crust for fewer carbs
Whether you’re making pizza at home or ordering it in, it’s important to think not only about thin versus thick crust, but also the type of dough. If you can make a whole grain crust, it will help increase the fiber, says Kimberlain.
Consider this comparison slice by slice. A small whole-wheat thin-crust pizza with cheese, according to the USDA, has more than 3 g of fiber. Meanwhile, a small regular thin-crust pizza with cheese has less than 1 g of fiber, according to the USDA. That’s almost 11% of your DV for fiber in whole wheat, versus about 3% for a regular crust. While you still need to pay attention to the total portion consumed, starting with a healthier crust can make a difference, she adds.
Veggie crusts are also a solid option. I like alternative pizza crusts from the market or that can be homemade, like cauliflower, broccoli and beetroot, as ways to help round out a pizza night, which you can eat in addition to traditional crusts to help boost the veggies, he says. Kimberlain . This means you can, for example, have a slice of traditional pastry pie and also a slice of vegetarian pastry pie to mix things up.
You’ll also get fiber from the vegetable crust, and it’ll be low in carbs, too. A frozen cauliflower crust, for example, contains about 3 g of carbohydrates per slice, according to the USDA, and just under 1 g of fiber.
You’ll also get other nutrients from the cauliflower crust, like 9 g of protein (due in part to the egg and cheese that are also in the recipe), according to the USDA.
5. Choose lean proteins like chicken over high-sodium, high-fat pepperoni
Thanks to the cheese, your pizza will already contain protein, but many pizza lovers also add another source of protein, so be mindful of what else you put on your pie.
Avoid fatty meats. Go vegetarian or opt for leaner meats like chicken breast, seafood or extra lean meats, says Lemond.
Adds Kimberlain: Current recommendations are to limit your intake of processed meats like bacon, sausage and pepperoni, which are not only high in sodium but also in saturated fat. The AHA recommends minimizing processed red meats, such as bacon, salami and sausages.
A large slice of thin-crust pizza with extra vegetables, for example, has 5.5 g of saturated fat and 704 g of sodium, according to the USDA, while a large slice of thin-crust pizza with extra meat has more than 8 g of saturated fat and 874 g. mg of sodium, according to the USDA.
RELATED: 6 Ways Carnivores Can Add More Plants to Their Plate
6. Spread red sauce, loaded with essential nutrients
Red sauce makes pizza delicious and also provides important nutrients. Traditional red sauce provides vitamins A and C along with the antioxidant lycopene, says Kimberlain. For example, one cup of tomato-based sauce provides more than 7 mg of vitamin C, which is about 7.8% of your DV, as well as 21 micrograms of RAE of vitamin A, for about 2% of the DV. , according to the USDA. Vitamin A, meanwhile, is important for everything from vision to keeping your immune system functioning at its best, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, lycopene is an antioxidant that gives red fruits and vegetables their color, and has even been linked to reducing the chances of certain types of cancer, as well as reducing the risk of stroke, according to Harvard Health Publishing .
Red sauce is a better option than creamier sauces, like white pizza options, says Kimberlain. The Cleveland Clinic adds that you should also avoid barbecue sauce because it’s high in sugar and sodium.
If you’re not a fan of red sauce, there are other options. You can use pesto, made with nuts and heart-healthy oils, says Kimberlain. Pesto is made with pine nuts (although you can also substitute almonds or walnuts), and nuts can do everything from help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol to improve the health of the lining of your arteries, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pesto is also made with olive oil, which the AHA says may lower your risk of heart disease. The pesto adds a basil and nutty flavor. Just note that the amount you’re using a little actually goes a long way with the flavor, says Kimberlain.
7. Pair your pie with a healthy side to complete your meal
Pizza night isn’t just about the pie, it’s also about what you pair with your slices. Side dishes can play a big role in creating an overall balanced meal, says Kimberlain.
Try a vegetarian appetizer. I love munching on cut vegetables before pizza, so celery, cucumber, and carrots go well with a yogurt-based ranch dressing, says Kimberlain.
Then, at dinner time, she suggests enjoying two slices of thin-crust pizza with a salad. Vegetables help provide fiber, which helps you feel fuller, says Kimberlain.
For example, 1 cup of raw kale provides 1 g of fiber, according to the USDA. Throw some other veggies on top (like sliced carrots and cucumbers), then toss with a dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil, and a little salt, and you’ve got a satisfying, fiber-filled meal.
RELATED: 14 Healthy Green Salads Ranked From Best to Worst
8.Eat slowly to enjoy your food and savor the company
Yes, you’ll want to consider what’s on your plate during pizza night, but also think about the pace at which you eat. Really savor the flavor of the food. Instead of eating your food in a matter of minutes, slow down and enjoy the pizza, suggests Kimberlain. This can also help with your portions. If you eat slowly, you’ll notice when you’re full without overdoing it. Lemond adds: Your proteins, grains, and veggies are all in the pizza, so you can eat slowly until you’re satisfied.
Also, don’t forget to enjoy the people you’re dining with. Maybe in your house, Friday night is now pizza night, think about all the memories that can and will be created, says Kimberlain. Why might this be important? Research continues to show the health benefits of friendship, social connections, and creating a family bond, she explains.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, strong relationships and social bonds can improve health and increase longevity in a win-win way. Another study suggested that social connections helped improve the well-being of people living with long-term health problems.
Sometimes, more important than the food is the tradition created itself, says Kimberlain.
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