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Building a Better Pizza

I don't know anyone who doesn't love pizza.  It's cheesy, savory, and makes a nice canvas for all sorts of tasty toppings.  Pizza has gotten a bad rap over the years because when we get it delivered, it has a tendency to be greasy, loaded with fat and cholesterol.  But when done right, pizza can be a healthy part of your regular diet.

Slim it Down!  Every once in a while, it's okay to indulge in a deep dish, thick crust or stuffed crust pizza.  But if you're like me and you love pizza, that isn't the way to go.  Thick crusts add more carbs and calories than you actually need in a pizza, and they leave less room for the toppings, sauce and cheese.  Go for a thin crust pizza instead and if you're feeling really ambitious, give whole grain a try!  They're delicious, crispy and nutty.

Go for Color  One thing my mother taught me about healthy eating was to "eat a rainbow", and she didn't mean Skittles.  The more bright colors you see on your plate, the more vitamins and nutrients you're getting.  Mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, roasted garlic, pineapple, and spinach are delicious and healthy toppings to try in combination or alone.  Who said getting your daily servings of veggies couldn't be delicious?

Keep the Red Stuff  Tomatoes are antioxidant rich and full of vitamins.  Pizza bianca (white pizza) and pesto pizzas are tasty, but lack the nutritional oomph minus the red sauce.  Make sure that you check the nutritional info or ingredients list because some pizza restaurants and frozen pies have a lot of hig fructose corn syrup in their sauce.  Save your sugar intake for dessert.

Lean Meats are Your Friend  Pepperoni and sausage are the best known toppings for pizza, and don't get me wrong, I adore pepperoni.  But eat it every time and your arteries will be crying for mercy.  There are more varieties of lean protein available than ever for pizza.  Try grilled chicken, Canadian bacon and Italian prosciutto or pancetta are tasty, slim options for your pie.  But don't overdo it.  Meat should be an accent flavor, not the star of the show.

Portion Control  Pizza is one of the those foods that does well when left overnight in the fridge and reheated the next day.  The flavors deepen and blend, and I promise little gnomes will eat it while you're not looking.  Two slices is a full, satisying portion.  I like to pair it with a small green salad for added veggies and more fiber, which helps you feel full.  Serve yourself and your family, then wrap it up and put it away.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Mind the Cheese  Full fat cheese is good for you, but the key is small doses.  Don't be tempted to order extra cheese on that pizza.  At that point you're sacrificing calcium intake for saturated fat and cholestrol.  It just isn't worth it.

Pizza is fun food and if you make even just one of these swaps next time you're craving it, pizza can be a dish your body will thank you for.


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