Tips for a Heart-Healthy Pizza: Sneak Better Nutrition into Your Favorite Dish

Sometimes, you just crave a delicious pizza that hits the spot. We get it. Pizza is easy, tasty, affordable, and incredibly versatile. But if your favorite pie is loaded with thick layers of cheese, pepperoni, and sausage, it might be time to consider adding some healthier options to your deep-dish delight.

They say that the devil is in the details. When you pile a high-carb crust with high-sodium toppings, it’s not doing your heart any favors. However, if you choose whole-grains, healthy fats, and vitamin-rich toppings, you can transform your pizza into a heart-healthy meal.

Preventive cardiology dietitians Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, and Fawziah Saleh, RDN, LD, share five strategies to help you make a tasty, heart-healthy pizza at home. They also offer tips for ordering a better-for-you takeout if you’re not in the mood to cook.

Starting with a Healthy Crust

To boost your intake of healthy fiber, give your pizza a whole-grain foundation. Keep your carbs in check by opting for a thin crust. When buying store-bought crusts, be sure to read the ingredients and steer clear of those with hydrogenated oils.

Here are some healthy crust options to consider:

  • Thin whole-grain crust
  • Spelt flour crust
  • Whole-wheat pita
  • Whole-grain tortilla
  • Cauliflower crust

Being Smart about Sauce

Choosing the right sauce is crucial for a heart-healthy pizza. Cream-based sauces like Alfredo or white sauce should be avoided, as well as barbecue sauce, which tends to be high in added sugar and sodium.

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Consider these heart-healthy sauce alternatives:

Tomato sauce

If you’re a traditionalist, you can opt for a fresh tomato sauce or choose a no-salt-added canned tomato sauce. These options are high in fiber, vitamins C and K, potassium, and manganese.

Olive oil

A light layer of olive oil is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Adding some crushed garlic can enhance the flavor and provide antioxidant-like properties that help maintain flexible blood vessels, manage blood pressure, and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Pesto

Bring some green goodness to your pizza with pesto, a blend of basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, pepper, and olive oil. Pesto is also packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Sofrito sauce

For a delicious sofrito sauce, lightly sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, then add fresh chopped tomatoes or pesto. This mix of heart-healthy ingredients will add a tasty twist to your pizza.

Getting Cheesy (in Moderation)

When it comes to cheese, it’s important to tread lightly since all cheese contains saturated fat and sodium. Whenever possible, opt for natural cheeses like feta, fresh mozzarella, or ricotta. You can also choose low-fat and low-sodium cheese options.

Here are some cheeses that will provide you with calcium and vitamin D:

  • Low-fat shredded cheese
  • Thin slices of part-skim mozzarella
  • Fresh mozzarella

Alternatively, you can try a cheese-less pizza. Consider using dairy-free cheese or going fully cheese-free and topping it off with nutritional yeast.

Piling on the Veggies

Now it’s time to have some fun! Vegetables and fruits will bring more nutrients to your pizza than any other ingredients. They will add flavor, color, and liveliness to your pie.

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Here are some favorite veggie toppings:

  • Bell peppers (packed with vitamins C, B1, B2, B6, and folate)
  • Onions (rich in fiber and vitamin C)
  • Mushrooms (a source of B vitamins and vitamin D)
  • Tomatoes (provide fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and manganese)
  • Olives (offer vitamin E and healthy fats)
  • Leafy greens like spinach, arugula, or kale (boost your intake of vitamins A, K, and C, potassium, fiber, and calcium)
  • Pineapple (a controversial topping for some, but it adds a sweet note and provides vitamin C and manganese)

Choosing Lean Proteins

A pizza loaded with veggies can provide you with many essential vitamins. However, if you’re looking to add some protein, choose wisely. Processed meats such as pepperoni, sausage, and ham are high in sodium, saturated fats, and nitrates.

“The best way to boost the nutritional value of your pizza is by cutting out processed meats, which are high in calories and unhealthy fats,” advises Zumpano.

Try these protein alternatives instead:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey breast
  • Shrimp
  • Tofu

Tips for Healthy Takeout Pizza

If you’re ordering pizza for delivery, you can still make healthier choices. Zumpano and Saleh share these tips to boost the nutritional value of your takeout pizza:

  • Opt for thin crust or whole-grain crust options.
  • Load up on veggies to add more nutrients and flavor.
  • Ask for light cheese. You can request half the normal amount.
  • Consider trying a vegan pizza, without cheese or meat. You can sprinkle nutritional yeast on top for added flavor.

“Most pizza shops offer a variety of crusts and toppings that can help you enjoy a healthy and delicious pizza,” says Saleh. “Don’t hesitate to ask!”

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So, next time you’re craving a pizza, remember these heart-healthy tips. By making simple ingredient swaps and loading up on nutritious toppings, you can enjoy a delicious pizza while taking care of your heart.

For more information and delicious pizza recipes, you can visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill. They know how to create a heart-healthy and mouthwatering pizza that will satisfy all your cravings!