Everyone loves pizza. In fact, it’s said that up to 93% of Americans eat pizza at least one time in a month. (But to be fair, a lot of us probably eat pizza way more than once a month – myself included!)
Unfortunately, though, pizza gets a bad rep. It’s understandable, considering pizza requires dough, typically high-carb, and a pile of ooey-gooey cheese is usually on top. Not exactly the healthiest combination and that’s not even counting the other “unhealthy” toppings, like pepperoni and barbecue chicken!
Is it all that bad, though? I decided to find out.
My name’s Michelle, and I’m an at-home baker that makes homemade pizzas regularly. It’s one of my favorite things to make. I went on an intense search to discover whether or not pizza is truly unhealthy or “bad” for you. Here’s what I found.
- 3 Reasons Why Pizza Can Be Unhealthy
- How to Make a Pizza Healthier
- Pizza May Be Deemed Unhealthy, But It Doesn’t Have to Be!
3 Reasons Why Pizza Can Be Unhealthy
It’s true that everybody loves pizza, but pizza is always thought of as a “guilty pleasure.” It’s one of those dinners you save for game night or when you’ve had a super busy week and just don’t feel like busting out the pots, pans, and endless ingredients.
Is it really that bad?
The truth is, it can be. But in all actuality, not all pizzas are deemed “unhealthy” or “bad.”
Here are the top things that make pizzas unhealthy:
1. May Contain Preservatives
There’s nothing quite as convenient as a frozen pizza. And honestly, if you cook them right and make them nice and crispy, they can taste almost as good as your favorite pizzeria.
The major downside of frozen pizzas, though, are the added ingredients – such as preservatives – that are extremely unhealthy.
While these ingredients are necessary to keep the pizza’s shelf life and OK to consume down the road, they’re not the best components for our diets.
And that’s not even including the other added ingredients, such as colorings and fats.
2. Made with Refined Wheat Flour
A lot of the “unhealthiness” of pizza comes from the dough.
That’s because many pizzas – especially frozen and those purchased from fast food restaurants – are made with refined wheat flour.
Refined wheat flour is less healthy than its unrefined wheat flour cousin. It contains far less fiber and is less filling. It’s also been linked to weight gain. Not good.
3. High in Carbs, Fats, Sodium, and (Sometimes) Sugar
Let’s take a close look at the breakdown of pizza.
It starts with the dough. The dough can be made healthy or unhealthy, depending on the flour used. The health factor is also determined by how thick the crust is. A thicker crust, like those found on pan and deep-dish pizzas, will have higher calories and carbs. Some pizza doughs also contain sugar!
Next up on the list? Cheese. Cheese is an essential piece of the pizza puzzle. Unfortunately, it’s quite high in fat. If you tack on extra cheese (like I do), you’re only upping the fat and calorie content.
Finally, we look at the rest of the toppings on a pizza. Some are good, such as pineapple, spinach, mushrooms, and onions. But many of them are not healthy. For example, pepperoni is loaded with fat and sodium, while barbecue chicken has tons of sugar.
How to Make a Pizza Healthier
As you can see, many things make a pizza “unhealthy” and “bad” for you. It’s not all bad news, though. Did you know that you can take steps to make a pizza healthier? Here are a few of my top tips for creating a “healthy” pizza you won’t have to feel too guilty about:
1. Choose Healthier Flour for the Crust
If you’re making homemade pizza, you’re in complete control of the pie – from start to finish.
To begin making your “healthy” pizza, choose a healthier flour for the crust.
Whole wheat flour and almond flour are excellent options to increase healthiness.
However, you can also nix traditional pizza crusts altogether and opt for a cauliflower crust. Yes, it’s a bit more time-consuming and intensive, but it’s well worth the hassle. I’ve made this many times, and it always turns out incredible!
2. Opt for a Thinner Crust, Too
As much as I love a deep-dish pizza, there’s no denying that thicker crusts are unhealthier. They’re packed with calories, carbohydrates, and fats, which can wreak havoc on your diet with a single slice!
That said, it’s best to opt for thin-crust pizzas – the thinner the crust, the better.
3. Make Your Own Sauce
Store-bought pizza sauces can contain a lot of unhealthy ingredients, such as too much sugar and preservatives (amongst other additives you don’t want to consume!).
The best way to avoid this – and make your pizza healthier – is to make your own sauce from scratch.
Don’t worry; it’s easier than you think – try out this recipe.
Don’t forget that you can also use other yummy and “healthier” sauces, such as pesto, to top your pizza crust. This is a fun way to experience new flavors and put a unique twist on the next pizza night!
4. Cut Back on the Cheese
I know I know – cheese is the best part of pizza.
But too much cheese will riddle your yummy pizza with calories and fat, making it unhealthy.
If you’re really trying to make a healthier pizza, cut back on how much cheese you add.
Also, ensure you’re using the best cheese for pizza. It’ll make it taste better while also improving the health content.
5. Choose Your Toppings Wisely
Personally, I’m a big fan of pepperoni and bacon on my pizza. But these ingredients definitely aren’t the healthiest.
When making a healthy pizza, you have to be extra careful with the toppings. Ensure you’re not opting for high-calorie and high-fat options, such as the beloved pepperoni. Skip sugary options, such as canned pineapple in fruit juice and barbecue chicken.
Instead, reach for fresh vegetables that add a hefty nutrient dose to every bite. For example, bell peppers, broccoli, arugula, mushrooms, and spinach are all excellent additions to a healthy pizza.
6. Eat Smaller Portions
If I’m being completely honest, I can eat an entire large pizza by myself – seriously. But that also means downing well over 2,000 calories in a single sitting – and that’s not even considering the fat, carbohydrates, etc.!
When it comes to being “healthier” while eating pizza, one easy way to do it is to cut back on your portions. Opt for one or two pizzas rather than three or four. This is especially essential if you buy a frozen pizza or one from a local pizzeria.
7. Pair Pizza Slices With the Right Sides
When it comes to pizza night, it’s easy to pair pizza with the wrong – yet very delicious – side dishes. For instance, many people think pizza and hot wings are a match made in heaven. And they’d be correct!
However, if you want to try and be healthy, you need to pair your pizza with healthy side dishes. Some of the favorites include:
- Salad (Any Kind)
- Cooked Parmesan-Coated Vegetables
- Raw Veggies
- Cauliflower Breadsticks
- Sweet Potato Fries
See? Pizza doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure you reserve for special occasions. With a little bit of creativity and effort, you can make a healthy pizza that’s actually good for you. If you want to learn more about this topic, here are some frequently asked questions to check out!
Is it OK to have pizza once a week?
Even if you’re buying “unhealthy” pizza from the store or pizza joint, pizza can be a part of a healthy diet – and yes, it can be OK to eat it once a week. However, you should still practice portion control and pair your slice (or two) with healthier side dishes. Or, make a healthy pizza from scratch.
Is pizza healthy in any way?
Pizza can be healthy, especially if made at home with the right ingredients. The best way to make a pizza “healthy” is to use more nutritious flour, like almond flour, and keep the crust thin. Top with homemade (sugar-free) sauce, cut back on the cheese and add plenty of vegetables.
Is pizza worse for you than pasta?
That depends mainly on the type of pizza and pasta you’re eating. Eating a thin-crust pizza loaded with vegetables will be healthier than pasta made with a creamy base, such as Alfredo sauce.
Pizza May Be Deemed Unhealthy, But It Doesn’t Have to Be!
There are many reasons why pizza can be “bad” for you. However, you can easily make pizza “good” with a few simple swaps. The best thing to do is to make your pizza from scratch at home. That way, you’re in charge of the entire pie and can ensure you use the healthiest ingredients.
Do you think pizza is unhealthy? How do you make your pizzas healthier? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comment section below!About Michelle