Make Your Pizza Night a Healthy Meal Night!
by Sharon Palmer, RD
It’s a fact: Americans love their pizza! Across the nation, both the young and the old embrace pizza as one of their favorite meals. Whether its game day, your family’s traditional “pizza night”, or a quick frozen meal for a busy day, pizza offers the simplicity of a hearty one-dish meal that is destined to please the whole family. Yet, as much as we all love a slice of hot, zesty pizza, it often comes along with a side order of guilt. Most people consider pizza as an indulgence, rather than a healthy meal they can feel good about. But it’s time to kiss that notion good bye. Healthy pizza is not an oxymoron! It’s all about doing your pizza right, from top to bottom. .
Pizza Doughs and Don’ts.
- The first step to building a healthy pizza is the crust. Typically, pizza from chain restaurants, delivery, or the frozen food aisle start with a crust made from refined wheat flour, so you’re missing out on important nutrients and fiber found in whole grains. Your best bet is to feature a whole grain crust, which are increasingly available in frozen pizzas and as prepared pizza dough. Of course, the best pizza crust you can imagine starts from scratch at home (check out my own favorite recipe below).
- Tomato or pizza sauce is the next important ingredient for your healthy pizza. And there’s nothing to feel guilty about here! By lading on tomato, marinara, or pizza sauce, you’re adding essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your pizza—not to mention the powerful antioxidant lycopene. In fact, one cup of tomato sauce contains 41 calories, 0 grams fat, 2.4 grams fiber, 2 grams protein, 37% Daily Value (DV) vitamin C, 8% DV vitamin A, 9% DV vitamin K, 13% DV iron, 13% DV potassium, and 9% DV manganese.
- Here comes the fun part: Get creative and add lots of delicious, healthy toppings. Go easy on the cheese (or choose reduced fat shredded cheese) and meat toppings in lieu of oodles of vegetables. Here are some of my favorite veggie toppings that can add flavor, color, texture and nutrition to your healthy pizza:
Zucchini or summer squash
Green, red, or yellow peppers
Onion, leek, green onion, or chive slices
Mushrooms (try all types, such as shitake and oyster)
Spinach, kale or arugula
Nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds, pinenuts, pistachios, or peanuts)
Herbs and spices, fresh or dried (basil, sage, oregano, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme, curry, black or red pepper)
A Hand Crafted Veggie Pizza
The next time your family has pizza night, whip up this homemade classic—which allows you to create your own favorite version. It’s as healthy as it is delicious.
Makes 1 pizza (8 servings)
Whole Wheat Crust
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cornmeal
½ cup marinara sauce
1 cup shredded reduced fat cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped vegetables (in combination) of your choice (i.e. bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, or mushrooms)
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
Optional: Chopped nuts or seeds (i.e. peanuts, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds)
Season with red or black pepper as desired
Season with fresh or chopped herbs as desired (i.e. fresh basil, rosemary or cilantro)
To make the dough:
- In a medium bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and honey. Let stand for ten minutes.
- Stir in the olive oil and flour. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
- Roll out the dough to approximately 14 inches in diameter.
To top and bake the pizza:
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Place the pizza dough on a pizza stone or baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.
- Spread marinara sauce evenly over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Top with vegetables, onion, nuts, seeds, spices and herbs as desired.
- Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the vegetables are crisp-tender.
By: Sharon Palmer, RD