Better Nutrition: 6 Healthy Pizza Recipes
Pizza is delicious, though not always kind to your waistline -- or your ticker. After all, cheese is the number-one source of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. And if you pile on pepperoni and sausage, you’re looking at 400 calories per slice. Still, pizza doesn’t have to be a diet disaster, says renal dietitian specialist and consultant Susan Weil Ernst, RD, CSR of Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s important to include comfort-type foods in your diet so you don’t feel deprived,” she says.
Homemade pies can have plenty of nutritional value if you’re willing to go beyond the usual meat-lover toppings. In fact, according to Tad Brown, pizzaiolo and owner of Fired Up Pizzeria in Durango, Co., unprocessed, whole foods and fresh ingredients are the backbone of traditional Naples-style pizza.
Here are six healthier pizza recipes that you can sink your teeth into, guilt-free. But, first, a few rules to bake by:
To cut down on fat intake, Ernst suggests using a moderate amount (roughly 1/4 cup) of low-fat or nonfat cheese, which has calcium to strengthen teeth and bones, and protein to fill you up. Go heavy on vitamin- and phytonutrient-rich vegetables. Lean meats like low-sodium turkey sausage or grilled chicken will keep carnivores happy without the salt and saturated fat.
Look for whole-wheat or gluten-free crusts in your supermarket’s freezer section. If you’re short on time, use whole-grain pita bread, tortillas, or even a portobello mushroom as the crust, Ernst says.
Lemon Rucola: Top your crust with tomato sauce (Brown makes his own using only San Marzano tomatoes, a little salt and fresh basil), and fresh mozzarella cheese. The higher quality the cheese, the more flavor it’s going to have, so you don’t have to use as much of it (and hydrogenated oils won’t pool on top). Bake at 350°F until the cheese starts to melt at the edges (about 15 minutes). Top with arugula, fresh lemon juice, cracked pepper and a touch of shaved parmesan. Serve immediately.
Bianca Prosciutto: Instead of cream sauce, this white pizza uses heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil; its monounsaturated oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Drizzle less than a tablespoon of oil over your dough, then top with fresh mozzarella and bake at 350 until the cheese starts to melt at the edges. Top with arugula, fresh chopped tomato and less than an ounce of prosciutto (about two paper-thin 8-inch strips). Because prosciutto can be high in salt, we recommend using it sparingly. Luckily, a little goes a long way, and it still has less saturated fat than other typical meat toppings.
Santa Barbara Style: Evelyn Jacob, co-author of The Schwarzbein Principle Vegetarian Cookbook, recommends this flavorful pesto and poblano pizza. First, make the pesto sauce by blending 2 cups of packed fresh sorrel leaves or spinach, ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil, 3 Tb. lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts, 1/3 cup pure-pressed extra virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves and salt and pepper in a food processor. Spread over the crust, then top with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, roasted poblano chiles and goat cheese. Bake at 350°F for about 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is browned on top and crust is crispy. Top with lightly toasted pine nuts.
To make roasted poblanos: With tongs, hold the pepper over a burning flame, such as your stovetop or grill. Turn the chiles regularly to ensure that all sides get evenly blackened. Remove from heat and put in a bowl with a lid to allow the steam to permeate the peppers. Put on rubber gloves and peel the thin almost transparent looking skin, discarding the seeds. Do not hold under water to peel since that dissipates much of the smoked flavor of the chiles. Slice as desired.
Mediterranean: A Mediterranean diet is high in plant foods and monounsaturated fats and may help prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease. For Jacob’s Mediterranean pizza, peel an eggplant (a source of heart-healthy fiber) and slice, brushing both sides with a little olive oil, and bake at 350°F about 20 minutes until soft, turning once. Cut into cubes. Top crust with tomato sauce, eggplant, chopped kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and grated Manchego and pecorino cheeses. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese browns.
Southwest Pizza: Jacob recommends this sweet and spicy pie for meat lovers.
Top crust with 1/4-cup BBQ sauce (preferably one made with agave or organic cane sugar instead of corn syrup), shredded roasted chicken, caramelized onions, and your choice of cheese. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is browned. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
Dessert pizza: Ernst says fruit is one of her favorite, and often-ignored, healthy pizza toppings. Shave about 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa so it’s packed with potent antioxidants called flavonoids, which keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels) over a crust, spread with nonfat cream cheese, then top with walnuts and fresh berries. Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes. If you’re so inclined, pair with a glass of red wine, which has antioxidants that may prevent heart disease (remember: moderation!). Buon appetito!