6 healthy ways to enjoy a pizza
Did you know Britons spend a whopping £2.9 billion on pizza annually1 and 49% of people in the UK eat pizza at least once a week2 with Saturday being the most popular night to reach for the circular crust3? While it’s a popular dish to tuck into, a 12-inch pizza can often contain more calories than the total recommended daily amount4. While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a pizza every now and then, it's not the best thing to have when you have fitness goals you want to achieve
To celebrate National Pizza Day which falls on February 9th this year, we've pulled together our top 6 tips for creating a healthier version of the ever-popular dish so you can still enjoy one without jeopardising your fitness goals.
First up, let's start at the bottom and look at some healthy alternatives for your pizza base.
Sure, we understand that a pizza isn't the first dish that comes to mind when you look at a cauliflower but the vegetable makes a fantastic, low-calorie pizza base. Simply break the white heads into pieces and blend in a food processor. Then mix in ingredients such as eggs, seasoning and mozzarella before spreading onto a baking tray in the shape of a pizza base.
The lower fat content is just one of the benefits of this tasty dish which is also very low in fat, salt and sugar. It's no wonder a 2015 study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that eating cauliflower could help people lose weight.5 Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, which boosts skin and brain health, potassium, which helps regulate the heart and body hydration system, and glucosinolates which studies suggest may help prevent some cancers.
Pitta bread crust
If you're too wedded to the taste of dough to give it up altogether, swapping a traditional base for pitta bread could be the way forward. As well as coming in a pre-made shape that's easy to spread toppings onto, the whole wheat version is packed full of fibre which can help lower your risk of high cholesterol and high blood sugar. Keep a pack of pittas in the freezer so you've always got one to hand whenever you fancy a healthy pizza.
Thin crust pizza
When you haven't got the time (or ingredients) to make your own pizza and find yourself ordering a takeaway, always opt for the thin crust option. Takeaway pizzas can be high in fat and salt. Choosing the thin crust version can save you 55 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates per slice, and have less salt.6 Alternatively, you can make your own thin crust pizza using flour, yeast and season to taste.
So, now you've chosen a new favourite pizza base, let's take a look at some healthy toppings. As you're about to discover, there are alternatives to adding cheese to your pizza, but if you just can't say no opt for less cheese or use the lower fat option.
High protein toppings
62% of the pizzas we consume have a meat topping7 and we get through around 251,770,000 pounds of pepperoni every single year8. While pepperoni is a good source of protein, 79.3% of its calories come from fat9. So instead of pepperoni, opt for chicken, turkey or tuna, which are all lower in fat, calories and salt whilst still providing a healthy dose of protein. Plus, they each have their own distinct taste.
Fresh vegetable toppings
What do you think is the nation's favourite pizza topping? Did you say pepperoni? Well, according to a 2017 survey by YouGov the perhaps surprising answer is...mushrooms!10 That's great news from a health perspective as mushrooms are a great source of protein, fibre, B vitamins that help prevent cell damage and protect the immune system, and vitamin D, which promotes bone health.
So as well as adding mushrooms to your vegetable pizza topping list, take your pick from the wide range of fresh crops on offer each season including tomatoes, aubergine, sweetcorn, peppers, leek, onions, olives and spinach. It's a quick and easy way to sneak five-a-day into your daily diet.
Fresh fruit toppings
Believe it or not, the first pizzas ever created were sweet not savoury.11 So why not make like our ancestors and treat yourself to a fruity pizza. Simply spread low-fat cream cheese or cheese spread onto your healthy pizza base, then add your favourite fruits, before glazing with natural fruit juices to taste.
Of course, the first pizza-related fruit that comes to mind is pineapple - incidentally, only 53% of Brits said they liked pineapple on pizza in a YouGov poll12 - but go to town adding the likes of grapes, pears, strawberries, kiwis and blueberries, which are something of a super fruit thanks to the healthy levels of antioxidants and vitamins.