• It’s a $30 billion/year industry
• There are more than 70,000 specialized pizza parlors in the united states
• The average American consumes about 24 lbs. of pizza per year (around 46 slices)
• As a country, the United States consumes approx. 251.7 million lbs. of pepperonis a year
• 94% of the population of the United States eats pizza.
There are a lot of people that swear by their pizza and will never give it up, but there’s another statistic that’s interesting; studies have shown that pizza is in the top 3 foods people try to give up when they change their diet.
That begs the question: Is pizza bad for you, or can it actually be healthy?
We can assume that just about anyone we come across has consumed pizza in some form or another. Some eat with reckless abandon; others enjoy only an occasional slice as an indulgence. A fair number of nutritionists will tell you that if you’re watching your waistline, you should avoid it. According to nutritionist Keren Gilbert, certified nutritionist and president of Decision Nutrition, “The average amount of calories in pizza is around 350 and 10 grams of fat, not to mention it’s loaded with sodium. If you decide to go for seconds and thirds as most of us do, you can have an entire day’s worth of calories in one sitting.”
But here’s where you have to take a step back and think: Not all pizzas are created equal. We’ve likely all experienced bad pies, good pies, strange toppings, different types of crust and methods of cooking, etc. It all boils down to what goes into your pizza.
Even pizza from a local restaurant can be a healthy treat if your order in a smart way. For those who consume dairy, even the (supremely delicious…) cheese on a pizza can be a great source of calcium.
An Unfortunate Caveat with Pizza
Traditional store bought pizza or the pizza you get from the local chain or mom and pop is most likely laden with saturated fat. They’re designed to be as tasty as possible, and fats add flavor. Many brands add additional oils to their dough recipes, and use fatty cheeses to enhance flavor. Depending on the cheese you get, about two-thirds of the fat in a slice is prepared to clog some arteries.
Bad news for pizza lovers… or is it?
How to Enjoy Your Pizza and Reap the Health Benefits
There are plenty of ways to get your pizza fix without destroying your nutritional plan for the day. For starters, if you’re ordering out, then order thin crust. Hand-tossed pizzas and deep-dish might taste amazing, but it’s just extra bread made from processed white flour. That’s empty calories with very little nutritional content.
Sorry to say that also means no stuffed crust.
What goes on your pizza is the most important, because you need to make smart topping decisions. If you do consume meat, adding just pepperoni to a pizza can add as much as 120 calories per slice not to mention all the nitrates, fats and sodium.
Stick to veggie and fruit toppings and work with different combinations. Some people absolutely love the Hawaiian pizza (ham & pineapple). Of course, ham is not a healthy choice. A great substitute is mushroom and pineapple, which has a lot of the same consistency and surprisingly similar tastes.
Oh.. and about the cheese. Just like you can add it, you can always take it away. Order your pizza with light cheese – or none at all! You may be surprised at how delicious a pizza can taste without the cheese.
Making Healthier Pizza at Home
Want to enjoy a delicious pizza and really make it a healthy treat? Then make it at home. Here’s a healthy dough recipe that’s tried and true!
• 2 Cups whole wheat flour
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp honey
• 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
• 1 1/3 cup of warm water (110-120 degrees F.)
(depending on the humidity of your home, you may need to adjust your flour/water amount slightly as you mix the dough)
1. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients together, place yeast in last.
2. Add olive oil to water and warm in microwave to temperature (10-15 second increments), stir in honey
3. Pour water, honey and oil mix into dry ingredients and begin mixing with a heavy spoon or kitchen-aid style mixer until dough comes together.
4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes, folding it back into itself repeatedly. After about 10 minutes the dough should become supple and smooth. If the dough is sticky, add small amount of flour during the kneading process.
5. Fill microwave-safe bowl with hot water and microwave water in bowl for approximately 1-2 minutes depending on your power settings.
6. Spray or coat a plate or flat dish with olive oil lightly, place dough on the dish and lightly cover the surface of the dough with oil. This prevents drying while it rises. Place the dough on the plate on top of the heated bowl of water in the microwave. DO NOT MICROWAVE YOUR DOUGH. Close the door on the microwave to trap the heat and moisture. This helps the dough rise more quickly and keeps the surface of the dough moist.
7. Let the dough stand until it doubles in size. Remove and cut the dough in half. Form the two halves into tight balls and let them rise for around 45 minutes either covered in the open or back in the microwave.
8. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out your dough with a rolling pin to desired size (larger makes for thinner crust). Drape the dough over your first and gently tug in opposite directions to pull the edges outward as you rotate the crust. Place the dough on a pizza pan, add sauce, your favorite topings, and a low-fat/skim milk mozzarella cheese. Bake for 12-18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown with the cheese melted evenly. Bake longer for a crispier crust. (bake time may vary depending on your oven).
If you do make a thin crust pizza, reduce the bake time by several minutes, as some pizza pan designs and cookie sheets will burn your crust on the bottom. You can minimize burnt crust risk by cross-stacking one or two cookie sheets under your pizza pan while you bake.