Pizza doesn’t usually top the list of healthy foods, but it can be good for you. It all depends on what’s in the crust and the toppings.
Some pizza chains, such as Naked Pizza
and Pizza Fusion
offer healthier versions of the pie with organic or natural ingredients, and without chemical additives. More recently, New York City gained its first healthy pizzeria, Revd Up Pi
Since the pizza business is highly competitive in the Big Apple, Revd Up Pi has to go the extra mile to make its pies both healthy and delicious. Options include “Revvers,” concentrated nutrients that are sprinkled on pizza to add antioxidants, boost energy, or suppress appetite.
Even without added Revvers, Revd Up pizza is healthy by design. These are some of the company’s secrets: using only natural, high-quality ingredients packed with flavor; adding fiber to crusts and tomato sauce; using low-fat cheeses to deliver taste with fewer calories; offering plenty of vegetables and lean proteins as optional toppings; and using sea salt sparingly, rather than masking lack of flavor with a lot of salt.Making Your Own Healthy Pizza
Regardless of where you live, it’s not that difficult to transform your pizza into a healthier food. “Choose the right ingredients to help make this cheesy treat a fortified and nutritious meal,” says Revd Up Pi founder Alex Melamedov. More specifically, he offers these tips:
1. Try making your own dough with whole-grain flour that’s higher in fiber. If whole-grain crust isn't your cup of tea, use organic unbleached flour; it’s far less processed than your average all-purpose flour. (Keep reading for a healthier ready-made option.)
2. Cheese is the key to making a delicious pie. Look for an all natural, part-skim mozzarella cheese. (Organic Valley is a good brand.) Mozzarella melts beautifully and a little goes a long way, so there's no need to saturate the pie with too much, cutting down the calories significantly.
3. To make your own simple sauce, just pop open a can of organic whole or crushed tomatoes. Look for products with the most fiber. (An average Revd Up Pi slice provides six grams of fiber, more than the total in an entire large pizza crust of some fast-food chains.)
4. To turn every slice into a power food, try grilling an assortment of fresh veggies, such as zucchini, eggplant, and artichokes, and spread these out on a pie with some fresh extra virgin olive oil (cheese optional). A bundle of fresh spinach, chopped up and sprinkled on the pie, adds iron (great for vegetarians), or an assortment of fresh mushrooms will give you an antioxidant boost. Or, snip a handful of basil or oregano and toss on top of the hot pie for added aroma and taste without extra calories.
5. Pepperoni is one of the most fattening and cholesterol-ridden toppings. Try turkey pepperoni, a much leaner alternative that adds that salty flavor with a fraction of the calories and fat.
Choosing a Healthy Ready-Made Crust
Thick pizza crusts add a lot of starch calories — something few people need. But thin, whole-grain crusts are higher in fiber and protein.
If you’re looking for convenience, try a natural or organic ready-made one such as Rustic Crust, available in natural and gourmet markets and online.
For fiber and protein, two versions in particular fit the bill: Per slice, Ultimate Whole Grain contains four grams of fiber and four grams of protein, and Great Grains (Organic) contains five grams of each. In comparison, the thin crust of a fast-food slice may contain well under one gram of fiber and perhaps two grams of protein.
Buying a healthy ready-made crust and adding your own toppings doesn’t just eliminate unhealthy calories. It gives you an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen with very little muss or fuss.