Although the word “pizza” probably brings images of spicy salami, meaty mushrooms and bubbling mozzarella to mind, this authentic Italian dish has been adapted to suit countless tastes and preferences over the years.
Some of the weirder offerings even include toppings like sushi, curry and frog legs.
When it comes to healthier eating, though, is it possible to transform this notorious junk food into something wholesome and nutritious?
Most experts agree that as with any other type of food, pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy if you choose your ingredients wisely.
Fast food franchises like The Naked Pizza are already proving that it can be nutritious by simply increasing the fibre content and cutting out unnecessary calories.
So if you want to enjoy this comfort food without the guilt (or acid reflux), check out these five tips for preparing healthier pizza at home:
1. Go with a thin, wholegrain crust
By simply using wholegrain flour for your pizza crust, you can greatly increase the fibre content and nutritional value of your meal.
Wholegrains will help you feel full for longer, and thinner crusts also mean fewer carbs.
Other slightly more complicated alternatives to the traditional dough include crusts made from rice flour or quinoa, and believe it or not, even cauliflower.
Of course, it goes without saying that more recent inventions like cheese filled or hamburger crusts are off-limits if you’re aiming to create a healthier pizza.
2. Don’t skimp on veggies
If the thought of putting vegetables on a pizza doesn’t seem appealing to you it’s probably because you just haven’t tried the right ones yet.
There are plenty of veggies that were practically made for this dish, including capsicum, mushrooms, artichokes, tomatoes, rocket, red onions or grilled eggplant and zucchini.
3. Try different lower-fat varieties of cheese
Mozzarella is undoubtedly delicious, but if you’re looking to cut down on calories you may want to give it a miss.
Ricotta or cottage cheese are lower in fat and can even be used as a base instead of tomato sauce.
They go especially well with smoked salmon or grilled vegetables.
Fetta is another lower-fat cheese that can be paired nicely with spinach and fresh tomatoes, and pesto, which consists mainly of nuts and basil with a little bit of parmesan, can replace cheese altogether. You’ll find that it’s a good match for cherry tomatoes and capsicum.
If you can’t part with your beloved mozzarella, though, you can always use part-skim mozzarella to lessen your fat intake while still enjoying the texture and flavour of this popular pizza cheese.
4. Avoid processed meats
Processed meat products like salami, bacon, ham and sausage are loaded with saturated fat and sodium, and research has shown that diets high processed meats are linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths.
Skipping the meat altogether is the healthiest option, but if you don’t want to go entirely meatless, try leaner types of meat like chicken fillet, strip steak, ground beef, or thin strips of pork tenderloin, which are usually just as lean as chicken breast.
5. Swap the cheese for seafood
Seafood pizzas aren’t generally prepared with much or any cheese, so they can make excellent lower calorie alternatives to the more traditional varieties.
Fish like anchovies, tuna and salmon are full of omega 3 fatty acids, and anchovies are also a rich source of iron.
Prawns, scallops, squid or mussels are a concentrated source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and they pair well with other healthy toppings like onions, olives, and red capsicum.
Of course, the most important tip is to enjoy it in moderation – resist the urge to scarf down that family sized pizza on your own.
If you’re worried that a smaller pizza won’t fill you up, have a side of fresh Mediterranean salad with black olives, crunchy red onions and a simple olive oil and balsamic dressing.
Do you make your own pizza? Share what healthy toppings you use in the comments below.