Melissa Meier is the dietitian who will finally tell you that yes, pizza can be a part of an overall healthy diet (if you follow these parameters).
Nothing beats a slice (or two or three or four…) of a delicious pizza.
Carbs covered in oozy gooey cheese – what more could you want on a Friday night?! Often packed with saturated fat and sodium, however, I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that takeaway pizza is definitely classed as a treat food in my books.
Nonetheless, some choices are a little healthier than others. Here’s what you need to know.
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What are the healthiest pizza toppings?
Ham, salami, prosciutto… these deli meats are toppings on the vast majority of pizzas – and I’m sorry to say that if you’re a big fan, I’ve got some bad news.
Processed meats are chock-full of sodium and saturated fat, both of which are bad news for heart health, so they shouldn’t be consumed on the reg. In fact, processed meats are linked to bowel cancer, so ideally should be avoided altogether.
On the healthier end of the spectrum are veggie and seafood pizzas (think: prawns, mushroom, capsicum), which tend to contain less sodium and saturated fat than their meaty counterparts.
Of course, cheese is part and parcel of any pizza – and while cheese can easily be a part of a healthy diet, eating too much of it can really ramp up your total kilojoule and sodium intake, so it’ll pay to take it easy on the cheese front.
Thick vs thin vs stuffed crusts: what’s the difference?
As a general rule of thumb, thin crusts are a healthier option than thick, but there is a lot of variation between outlets, so it’ll pay to read up on the nutrition information.
What is a sure thing, however, is that stuffed crusts are at the bottom of the pecking order. Usually filled with cheese, stuffed crusts ramp up the kilojoule content of an already kilojoule-packed meal, so I’d suggest skipping it, at least most of the time.
How much pizza is ok to eat in one sitting?
A whole pizza can add a whole lot of unnecessary kilojoules, sodium and saturated fat to your diet, even if you’re choosing a healthier choice (like a veggie pizza on a thin crust), so I’d advise against the whole pie.
The other thing worth considering is that pizza on its own is rarely a balanced meal, so I’d suggest balancing it out with extra veggies on the side, like a big side salad. For the average Joe, that means two or three slices of pizza along with veggies on the side is a good place to start.
If you’re out, an easy way to do it is to split a pizza between two or three dinner buddies and order some fresh sides to go with it. If you’re at home with takeaway, I’d suggest serving yourself your slices on a plate rather than eating from the box, to help avoid overdoing it.
The verdict on pizza: how much is too much?
You might be surprised to hear this from a dietitian, but if pizza is your absolute favourite meal, I think eating it once a week is perfectly fine, especially if you stick to the above parameters.
A healthy diet isn’t about perfection – but instead, eating healthy wholefoods the majority of the time and balancing it out with your favourite treat foods to fill up your happy cup every once in a while. If that means a week of whole grains and tonnes of veggies is complimented with a few slices of pizza on the weekend, then that’s fine by me.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.