What's not to love about this Italian export? Other foods, you eat. Pizza, you experience. Devouring a slice is a process that involves all the senses: the aroma coming from the oven, the sight of the molten cheese, the feel of the cornmeal-dusted crust in your hands, the sound of the crunch as you bite into it. And, of course, the taste-that unparalleled combo of dough, sauce, herbs, and cheese.
But can it be good for you?
Pizza may often be classified as junk food, but it doesn't have to be. The basic ingredients of pizza all have healthy potential. It's only when you go overboard on toppings or the amount you eat that pizza earns its bad rap. To keep a pizza lean, all you've got to do is keep it simple—here's how.
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Order whole-grain crust
Whole grains are high in fiber, which helps you feel fuller-and thereby limits or prevents overeating. It also keeps your digestive system running smoothly and may reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes. Opt for a thin crust, as well-even if it's made with whole grains, a thicker crust boosts your slice's total calorie count.
Load up on sauce
Known for its ability to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, tomato sauce is also an excellent source of vitamin C. Ask for extra sauce on your pizza, or even some on the side to dip your crust into.
Don't OD on cheese
Yes, cheese is all kinds of creamy goodness, and we'd never tell you to eat your pizza without it. However, that doesn't mean it's OK to order a pizza with cheese stuffed into every possible nook and cranny. Stick with a single layer of cheese on top of the pizza, though, and it can actually be good for you. That's because getting a bit of extra calcium every day may actually help keep you lean. According to a study in the journal Obesity Research, men and women who cut calories but added dairy foods high in calcium to their diet lost 70% more weight over 24 months than people who only dieted.
Order smarter toppings
Pepperoni may be the most popular pick, but it's certainly not the healthiest. If you're craving meat, try turkey pepperoni or Canadian bacon. Or, for an even better option, have your meat of choice added to the top of a veggie pizza. Realistically, you won't be getting a ton of vegetables on top of two slices, but every little bit helps, and it's certainly a wiser alternative to sausage and extra cheese.
Always get a side
Before you dig into any pizza, dive into a side salad full of as many colors as you can cram into the bowl: dark, leafy greens such as spinach; red, yellow, or orange peppers; yellow chickpeas. Top it with a lean dressing, and you've got a dish that will not only boost the nutritional value of any meal but also help you feel fuller-meaning you may just be able to resist that extra slice.
Throw on an apron
Whether you're just bored with Pizza Hut or Domino's or are looking for a leaner, more guilt-free option, you may want to consider making your own pie. It's easier than it sounds (check out out D.I.Y Pizza Recipe).
Make the dough the day before you need it. Or buy a ball of premade dough from a local shop.