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How to make a healthy pizza with a handful of ingredients

Updated on June 6, 2013
Pizza by Haseo on Flickr
Pizza by Haseo on Flickr

Is pizza healthy? It can be.

Pizza is a food that’s easy to love. It’s got fats and oils and an abundance of toppings. The bread is starchy and good, you can top it with as much cheese as you like, and the vegetables and meats broil and cook until they’re soft and delicious. But no one ever thinks of pizza as healthy.

If you’re making the pizza yourself, here are some healthy pizza ideas that still fulfill your pizza cravings.

1. Use fresh tomato sauce

It all starts with healthy pizza sauce. Ragu may be a classic, but forgo the store-bought sauces and make your own. It doesn’t have to be difficult: if you can find a can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes, the thick, saucy tomatoes taste amazing straight from the can with a little bit of sprinkled oregano and fresh basil leaves. Stir in a little vodka, and your healthy pizza sauce will rival even the gourmet brands.

Freshly made sauces have much less sugar than most jarred or canned sauces. This will keep your blood sugar from spiking, and you won’t feel as sluggish later. If you put sliced tomatoes on your pizza, it’ll impart a deep sweetness that will make you forget all about the Ragu.

2. Drizzle on a bit of good olive oil

A good extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over hot pizza not only tastes great, it’s healthy in moderation. Olive oil is full of what’s known as monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs. The Mayo Clinic suggests that MUFAs may lower cholesterol and help lower risk factors for heart disease. In addition, MUFAs may help insulin level out, which is helpful to those with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Anchovy pizza by Blue moon in her eyes on Flickr
Anchovy pizza by Blue moon in her eyes on Flickr

3. Add fish to your pizza

I’m not talking anchovies, although the salty little fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and iron. (On second thought, feel free to add a few anchovies to your pie.) In Germany, it’s a totally normal topping to put tuna fish on pizza. It sounds strange at first, topping your pizza with tuna turns it into a big, cheesy tuna melt.

The tuna isn’t fishy at all, just meaty, and it’s very satisfying as a topping. Tuna has similar health benefits as anchovies, especially the omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s not as bone- and heart-healthy as the tiny, bony fish.

4. Opt for gluten-free or whole-wheat dough

Why whole-wheat dough? Well, if you’re going to eat a ton of starchy carbohydrates, at least make sure they’re not bleached white carbs. With crust made of whole-wheat flour, you’ll get additional protein and fiber, both of which have the pleasant side effect of making your pizza more satisfying and filling.

Because people are becoming more aware of what they eat, many companies offer premade whole-wheat dough. If you want to make it yourself, baking blogs can show you the way. Here is an excellent recipe for whole-wheat dough from Eating Well, a magazine that knows about--wait for it--eating well. King Arthur Flour offers a recipe for gluten-free pizza crust on their excellent blog.

5. Sprinkle on pine nuts

Pine nuts, although high in fat like any other nut, are nonetheless healthy in moderation. Not only do they impart a rich, nutty flavor--reminiscent of pesto sauce, but not as fattening--they’re also excellent sources of manganese and vitamin E. Pine nuts help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce risk of heart attack and stroke due to their cholesterol-reducing properties.

In addition to all that, pine nuts have an essential fatty acid known as pinolenic acid, and studies have shown this fatty acid to curb the appetite. If you’re a voracious pizza eater who always regrets that fifth slice, try sprinkling on some pine nuts so that you can check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Pizza ingredients by swanksalot on Flickr
Pizza ingredients by swanksalot on Flickr

6. Replace pork and beef for chicken

Pork and beef are lovely and meaty, and they taste great on pizza. Unfortunately, they’re both fatty. Even lean cuts of beef have marbling. For a less fattening pizza, replace pork and beef for chicken. It’s easy to find precooked chicken sausage at the grocery store, so you won’t have to go through additional trouble cooking the chicken beforehand.

7. Top your pizza with leafy greens

Leafy greens such as kale, arugula, and spinach are excellent for you, and they marry well with melted cheese and other pizza toppings. Although spinach isn’t any uncommon pizza topping--especially on goat-cheese pizzas--kale isn’t a usual topping at the local pizzeria. It’s a shame because kale is one of the healthiest of the green vegetables. It’s low-calorie and fibrous. It has high levels of antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and K. There are a lot of good minerals in kale, and kale can even improve eye health.

The levels of vitamin K in kale are particularly high, and because of that, a kale-rich diet can help prevent cancer. Other greens with high levels of vitamin K are spinach and collard greens.

Kale by krossbow on Flickr
Kale by krossbow on Flickr

8. Top with broccoli, a surprisingly tasty topping

Broccoli can be found on certain vegetarian pizzas, but it has just as much right to top meaty pizzas as well. Broccoli is fibrous and full of vitamin C and is an excellent source of folic acid. Not only that, but when broiled in the oven, the broccoli becomes tender and imparts a sweet, vegetal flavor.

Broccoli acts as an anti-inflammatory due to high levels of kaempferol, a flavonoid. It also is great for detox due to a mixture of phytonutrients. Other benefits include improvements to eye and skin health and high levels of vitamin A and K, important vitamins in the regulation of vitamin D.

9. Go for the goat (cheese)

Goat cheese is not only flavorful, it’s high in protein when compared to other cheeses. With its tangy, almost tart flavor, goat cheese is creamy and will keep you satiated. It’s less fatty than cheeses made with cow’s milk. Goat cheese is high in calcium, which helps your metabolism and of course is good for bone health. Goat cheese can even be helpful for women’s health issues.

Unlike cheeses made from cow’s milk, goat cheese is easier to digest. It’s good for those with lactose issues, and may even have anti-inflammatory effects on the colon and digestive system due to its probiotic values.

Pizza, pizza by surekat on Flickr
Pizza, pizza by surekat on Flickr

10. Moderate your intake

Of course, all the healthy pizza toppings in the world won’t help if you gobble down an entire family-size pizza by yourself. Even an unhealthy pizza slice can be okay in moderation. Eat slowly and savor your food. Listen to your body, and stop when you’re full. That’s the key to not feeling awful later.

If you want way more ideas for health-ifying your pizza, check out this list of 74(!) ways to make a healthier pizza from Greatist, a health and fitness blog. The recipe for cauliflower crust pizza is brilliant.

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    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      5 years ago from Iowa

      My husband and I make homemade pizza all the time. He makes an awesome whole wheat crust and we top it with lots of veggies and only a little law fat cheese so I never feel too guilty, even when we down the entire pizza in one sitting!

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