Pizza is definitely one of my most favorite foods. It has a reputation as something bad to eat regularly and this shouldn’t surprise you. In fact, it can be the perfect storm of too many calories and carbohydrates and too much fat and sodium. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You really don’t need to make huge sacrifices to still be able to indulge in pizza and feel good about it. You just need some good ways to do it—and some of these may surprise you!
There’s no wonder pizza seems to be such a “bad” food choice. Flour in dough has a lot of calories (about 440 per cup!) and most dough requires a fair amount of it. Frequently, oil is added to the dough as well. Of course, the cheeses used really contribute a lot of fat and calories to the bottom line, not to mention a hefty amount of cholesterol. And then as if all that wasn’t enough, we love to cover it with all kinds of tasty toppings, which aren’t always the healthiest. Even the way we cook the pizza can end up adding more fat and calories!
So how can we make pizza a healthier choice? The first thing is easy and you might already be doing it—by going vegetarian! Just switching out regular meat toppings for veggie replacements (many of which are vegan) greatly reduces your fat, calories, and cholesterol.
Pepperoni, sausage, beef, and Italian sausage toppings add an unbelievable impact to pizza. For example, according to Papa Johns’ nutritional information, one slice from a large 14″ cheese pizza contains 290 calories and 10g of fat. Add pepperoni to that and it goes to 330 calories and 14g fat. Sausage is about the same, but with an additional gram of fat. And a slice with all the meats is 370 calories and 17g fat! Two or three slices of Lightlife Smart Deli Pepperoni or half a serving of their Gimme Lean Sausage adds just a few more calories and practically no fat.
But you can do even better than that by making your own! Let’s talk about the crust. You can save even more fat and calories by choosing to have a thin and crispy crust over a deep dish pan style or medium crust hand stretched crust. Pizza Hut offers all three styles. Let’s compare.
A slice from a large 14″ cheese pan pizza contains 350 calories and 17g fat. (And just because it’s so over the top I have to note that a Meat Lover’s slice has 470 calories and 28g fat!). That same size pizza on their hand-tossed crust has 280 calories and 10g fat. But switch it to the thin crust and you end up with 260 calories and 11g fat. (Not really sure why the extra gram of fat there. They probably put a little more cheese on the thin crust than on the hand-tossed or the dough has some extra added oil.)
Then, of course, we have the cheese. It’s an expensive ingredient, so pizza places tend to be a little conservative with how much they put on. Still, it adds up. The good news for vegans and those who are watching calories is that most places will make you a pizza with no cheese at all or even just light cheese. And you can even typically specify this when you order online.
Let’s take a look at Domino’s Nutrition Guide. This conveniently breaks out every portion of your pizza so you can see the difference. If you leave the cheese off a large thin crust pizza you’ll cut out 790 calories and 59g fat, which is almost 100 calories and over 7g fat per slice!
Even vegan cheese shreds are a better alternative. Daiya is a very popular brand that is completely vegan and soy and gluten free. If you put a cup of their mozzarella style shreds on your large pizza, you’ll add 360 calories and 24g of fat. Not fantastic, but it only adds 45 calories and 3g fat per slice when cut into 8 pieces. That’s half the calories on Domino’s and a fraction of the fat! A cup is a reasonable amount to put on a pizza of that size, but of course you could go more or less to suit your taste.
If you love pizza, but want to watch the calories and fat the best thing you can do is make your own. It’s not hard to add up the information for the dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings while you’re making it. Divide it all by the number of equally-sized slices and you’ll know where you’re coming in. And I’ll bet with a little bit of effort you could come in much better than those big pizza chains!