A Healthy Spin on Pizza

March 2016 By: Monica Griffin, MS, RDN, LD Registered Dietitian, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
veggie pizza
School Age

If you’re keeping an eye on your family’s health, you probably think of pizza as a treat. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Pizza is usually tailor-made, so take advantage and customize your meal. Just keep these tips in mind, and you can definitely have your pizza and eat it too!

Actually, my first tip isn’t about pizza. It’s about hunger. A great way to eat less pie is to take the edge off with a salad, some fruit or a side of veggies. You can serve them with the pizza or even before it arrives. Simply grab a bagged salad, some fruit or frozen veggies and your balanced meal is good to go. These are also great sides to bring to your next pizza party.

Now, back to the main dish: pizza. When you’re ordering out, the biggest things to keep in mind are the toppings. Cheese provides protein, so it’s best to back off the meat. If meat is a must, go for grilled chicken instead of sausage or pepperoni.

Veggies make great pizza toppings, and kids can pick what they like best, whether it’s tomatoes, mushrooms or peppers. Some restaurants even offer artichokes, spinach, broccoli and more. Sauce-wise, red has less saturated fat and is a better choice than white.

As for the crust, get whole wheat if you can. And think thin—the thin crust is definitely better for you than thick, stuffed or deep dish.

Don’t be afraid to order your pie your way: Ask for less cheese and request it cut in smaller pieces (ten slices instead of eight). That way, when kids go back for more, they get a bit less. Request no sides and dips. There's no need to add garlic butter, ranch or bread sticks. And leave out the sodas and other sugary drinks.

For dining out, I recommend skipping the pizza buffet restaurants altogether. You can’t customize and it’s way too easy to go back for seconds (and thirds and fourths). Plus, the desserts are just too tempting, and you feel as if you should keep eating to get your money’s worth. A better option is to choose a restaurant that lets you build your own pie. Some even assemble the pizza on a line in front of you (kind of like Subway with sandwiches), so you can say, “that’s enough cheese,” or “more peppers, please.” And don’t forget to order that side salad!

Another fun and totally tailor-made way to do pizza night is with a DIY pizza bar—and the kids can help set it up! Start with a whole-wheat crust—which could even be pita bread or an English muffin. Set out a bowl of red sauce, some mozzarella cheese, plenty of chopped veggie choices and a bowl of fruit, plus milk or water, for a fun, wholesome crowd pleaser.

And there you have it—pizza that makes you feel good!

veggie pizza
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