2015 UPDATE: Is Pizza Bad for You?

Thin crust pizzas let the taste
of a great sauce and
tasty toppings shine.
Pizza gets its unhealthy rap from piling fatty meats on top of thick, greasy cheese and multiple sandwiches-worth of dough, and made worse by the tendency to eat three-times how much is needed.  So how do you make pizza into a healthy meal?

Think thin: for most national chains, a slice of cheese pizza on original crust is around 240 calories, but switch to thin crust and you are down to 190 calories per slice.  Do the math and you find that as the average person eats three slices of pizza, that is a total savings of 150 calories.

Order what you need: if you order three pizzas, you will eat three pizzas (even if you are just ordering for yourself), so order enough for each person to have 2-3 slices and no leftovers.  And if you do not need that second free pizza, have the willpower to resist on the phone, as once you are standing over a warm cheesy pizza, your willpower will be out the window.

Choose healthy toppings: if you look at the nutritional info of many pizzas topped with veggies vs plain cheese, there are no additional calories.  Partially because you are not getting an overwhelming amount of vegetables, but also because the vegetables displace some cheese.  On the other hand, when you add meat, you add anywhere from 50-90 calories per slice.  Do the math and those same average three slices just added 150-270 additional calories to your day.  Another option, especially if you want to punch up your pizza, is to take it home and add anything from fresh tomato, avocado or raw pepper slices to salmon to the top.

Atlanta's best pizza:
try independent pizza joints for more
variety and, in some cases,
healthier menu options 
Have a side: no, not bread sticks (a national chain's one breadstick contains 140 calories plus 60 for 3oz of tomato-based dipping sauce) or fried cheese sticks (380 calories for a single serving of four sticks plus 60 for dipping sauce which represent 56% of the average person's recommended amount of saturated fat for a day (based on 2000 calorie diet) and 100% of recommended trans-fats), instead elect something healthy.  A huge salad will give you the serving of vegetables that you may be missing, but if you want to stick to finger foods, order in and bake asparagus, as it adds little work and only about three minutes of prep.

If you want even healthier options, then think small; independently owned pizzerias may offer options such as whole wheat crust, a wider variety of fresh toppings, and more menu offerings to prevent pizza calorie over-kill.  My family chooses this route every Friday with an order to the best pizza-makers in Atlanta, Urban Pie, who serve thin crust pies with amazing sauce and never disappoint in the creation of this favorite comfort food.

Leftover Pizza Salad: The only exception to the "do-not-order-more-than-you-can-eat" rule is if you turn your leftovers into a healthy, filling, veggie-loaded treat the next day.  Start by warming your pizza in the oven.  Add a bed of your favorite raw greens, then top them with avocado, raw onion, bell pepper, and tomato slices.  Quickly and easily, and with only one slice of pizza, you have made an eye-poppingly colorful meal packed with good-for-you raw veggies and enough fat to keep you full and carbs to satisfy even your toughest cravings.

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