Ways to Make a Healthier Pizza

Who Doesn't Love Pizza?

Healthy Veggie Pizza
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Pizza is delicious, right? It's no wonder it's wildly popular. And there's so much variety -- thick crust, double crust, thin crust, stuffed pizzas, expensive gourmet pizzas, and cheap frozen pizzas you can buy for a couple of bucks.

You also can choose from a variety of toppings and cheeses, some that are healthy and some that aren't. The thing is, a pizza loaded down with extra cheese, and greasy pepperoni can add a ton of calories to your daily intake, especially if you wolf down the whole pie.

But, if you're careful about how you order -- or make -- your pizza, you can enjoy these family favorites without wrecking your healthy diet. Tune into my simple tips and recommendations for a healthier pizza.

Start With a Healthier Crust

Whole wheat pizza crust is better than white crust.
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The first choice you have to make is what kind of crust. Most pizza crusts are made with refined white flour, which is okay I suppose, but really, a whole wheat crust is better for you. Whole grains retain the fiber and some of the nutritional content that's lost through the refining process. 

Whole grain crusts have a heavier flavor and texture, but once you get used to them, you might actually like them better. These days, whole wheat crusts can be found at many pizza joints. 

For homemade pizza, you can purchase a pre-made whole wheat pizza crust, or simply substitute whole wheat flour for the white flour in your pizza crust recipe. Alternatively, you can experiment with whole wheat tortillas or whole grain pitas as pizza crusts. 

What about gluten free crusts? If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance, then gluten-free is a must, but pizza crust made with refined rice flour really isn't any healthier for you than any other refined grain. Another option is to go for grainless crusts.

Add Plenty of Pizza Sauce

Pizza sauce is nutritious and low in calories.
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Tomato sauce is the main ingredient in pizza sauce. It's an excellent source of lycopene, low in calories and high in vitamins C, A, and potassium. 

I know -- pizza sauce is usually high in sodium. There's not much you can do about that when you're dining out or ordering in, but if you make your own pizza at home, you can choose a low-sodium sauce or make your own sauce from scratch. 

Use Less Cheese

Pizza with less cheese is healthier.
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I love cheese, I really do. Cheese is an excellent source of calcium and protein. But, since most cheese is high in fat, the calories can add up pretty quickly, especially if you order a pizza with extra cheese.

If you're ordering a pizza, you can ask for less cheese, or perhaps look for a pizza made with lower-fat cheese, such as Parmesan.

At home, it's easy to control the amount of cheese you add to your pizza. You might try using a small quantity of a flavorful feta or goat cheese, or try reduced fat cheese.

Or Use No Cheese At All

Vegetarian pizza with no cheese is good for you.
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You don't really need cheese on your pizza. Plenty of sauce and healthy topping is all that's required. Need more flavor and texture? Add some roasted garlic cloves, hummus, or toasted walnuts. Or add fresh arugula to your pizza, right after taking it out of the oven.

So, you really don't need the cheese, but if you're not quite ready to take the cheese-free leap, try an alternative cheese substitute that's delicious and lower in fat and calories compared to regular cheese.

Choose Chicken or Shrimp Instead of Processed Meats

Pizza with chicken is better than sausage.
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Hold the pepperoni, bacon, meatballs, and greasy sausage the next time you order a pizza. Sausages tend to be in fat and calories, and you can easily gulp down a full day's worth of calories if you eat a meat lover's pizza. Choose leaner options, such as clams, chicken, ham or shrimp, or skip the flesh foods altogether and opt for a veggie pizza.

Or, if you like them, anchovies will add a little protein and omega-3 fatty acids to your pizza, without many calories.

Pile On the Plants

Vegetable pizza can be good for you.
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You can make your pizza instantly better by loading up with plant-based toppings. Vegetables, white beans, mushrooms and even fruits are nutritious and low in calories. And most people aren't getting enough vegetables on a daily basis.

Some of my favorites include fresh or sundried tomatoes, artichokes, onions, broccoli, spinach, green and red peppers, and all types of mushrooms. You might also try olives, basil, peas, eggplant or corn.

Serve a Salad On the Side

Salad is good to serve with pizza.
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So you decide you really don't want to give up your regular all time favorite pizza. That's okay, I can still help you keep your healthy diet intact. It's all about portion control. One slice of cheese and pepperoni pizza had somewhere between 250 to 400 calories, depending on the size of the slice and amounts of toppings.

Eating just half a pizza like that could put you well over 1,000 calories, but you could probably fit one slice of pizza into your daily calorie budget. Not sure if you can withstand the temptation to reach for a second slice? Here's what to do -- eat your pizza along with an excellent fresh green garden salad, without too much salad dressing or cheese. The fiber from the veggies will fill you up without adding many calories so that one slice of pizza will be just perfect.

Try Something Totally Different

Healthy pita pizza with arugula and walnuts
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Pizza doesn't need to be just a crust, red sauce, mozzarella cheese and high-calorie toppings. There's a whole world of pizzas that are high in nutrition, lower in calories and simply delicious, like this Glazed Shallot, Walnut, Sage, and Goat Cheese Pizza

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