Pizza is commonly considered junk food or fast food, something you should avoid generally. However, when we look at the popular and original pizzas from Italy what we see is basically dough (with no added fat ) with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese sometimes extra tomatoes and basil.
The pizza we often order otherwise is really some sort of westernized version of the real thing. For example in Chicago where I grew up we have this deep dish version which is literally a pie like crust filled with melted cheese and tomato sauce (and sometimes topped with sausage). It is delicious, but Mediterranean diet it is not.
I find that pizza is a great vehicle to load it up with vegetables, in the same way a Greek pita (pie made with phyllo) is a great to get in vegetables as well.
Of course you have to be careful with your ingredients, particularly the crust. But when you think about it, pizza can be an antioxidant-rich, moderate calorie meal. Here’s how to do it:
5 Ways to Instantly Make Your Pizza Healthier
1. You can either make your own crust or buy ready made or use other “crusts”. I often use whole wheat pita bread, or tortillas. I recently discovered a Cretan company that makes frozen pizza crusts with only flour a bit of olive oil and yeast. And that is what you should be looking for if you buy ready made crusts: they should only contain flour, yeast and salt and optionally olive oil. It should not contain no-name vegetable oil, preservatives or anything else for that matter. You can also make crust, I’ve been using this recipe and it has been working out for me.
2. Be careful with the cheese. A little shredded mozzarella goes a long way, you really do not need tons of cheese, since it melts well, even a bit of cheese can cover a whole pizza crust. For the pizza in the photo I actually had only 1 slice of mozzarella left so I also used another slice of cheddar cheese, so in total I only used 2 slices of cheese for a whole pizza.
3. Load with vegetables. Once you add vegetables on pizza you automatically make it a bit healthier. Vegetables such as mushrooms, onions, peppers, artichokes, spinach, broccoli are good choices. Also kids love making pizzas so have them spread the vegetables as the topping. Tomato sauce (rich in lycopene) also counts as a vegetable and don’t forget to add the antioxidant rich oregano and garlic to your tomato sauce.
4. Choose your protein toppings wisely. Usually pizza meat toppings are the unhealthy processed smoked meats such as salami and pepperoni which add extra salt and fat, plus processed meats are associated with increased risk of cancer and heart disease. But really there is no need to add any meat. Save it for a separate meal, it really is not necessary for a pizza. If you insist on adding some protein try something like omega-3 rich anchovies, shrimp or tiny mussels.
5. Don’t eat the pizza alone. Add a salad. In the summer a Greek style salad with tomato, cucumber, oregano and olive oil works well and in the winter a cabbage-carrot salad or a romaine salad with olive oil and vinegar are good choices.