August 1, 2012:
Is Pizza Healthy?
No food says PARTY quite
like pizza — at least not for the 94 percent of Americans who eat it
regularly. On average, we eat approximately 100 acres of pizza a day, or about
350 slices per second. Over 5
billion pizzas are sold worldwide each year!
It’s no surprise
that pizza’s not exactly a health food — at least not the way most of
us eat it. According to the numbers, America’s favorite topping is pepperoni. This
dangerous combo of white refined starchy crust, full-fat gooey cheese, and
salty processed meat spells danger for your waistline and arteries. So where
does that leave us health-conscious folks who want to enjoy a slice or two without
sabotaging our diets? Good news: pizza really can work if you’re
strategic with your order.
First, choose thin crust and you’ll save about 100
calories a slice. That’s because thick crust and hand-tossed crust just means extra
“refined white” bread, which equals extra (unnecessary) calories. And
definitely forget about those “special” cheese-stuffed or double crust options.
If your pizza shop offers whole wheat crust, big bonus — it won’t
save you any calories, but it will add more fiber and nutrition to your slice.
Next up, go easy on cheese.
Most pizzerias won’t have a low-fat option, but here’s a tip. You know how you
can order your pie with extra cheese? Well,
you can just as easily order it light on the cheese. And it’ll still taste delicious, especially
if you load it up with other yummy toppings. But sorry, that doesn’t include pepperoni.
If you’re like 36 percent of all pizza lovers, pepperoni is probably your preference
— but those little rounds of processed meat pack on fat, salt and
calories, plus yucky preservatives like nitrates (remember those nasty nitrates
from my hot
dog video?). And by the way, sausage, ground beef, meatballs, and
bacon are marbled with saturated fat and tend to be just as bad. Check this
out: a large slice of your standard “meat market” pizza has 120 more calories
than a slice of plain cheese.
On the other hand,
vegetable toppers are where it’s at. And not just because they’re replacing
greasy, salty meat, but because high-fiber veggies can also bulk up your pie
and make every bite more filling, not to mention donate a little nutrition to
all that cheesy goodness. So pile on the peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms,
spinach, eggplant, artichokes or any other “plants” you have the opportunity to
toss on top.
Last but not least, there’s
a highly sophisticated technique for removing some of the excess pizza grease
called TBM, which stands for The Blotting Method. Seems kind of silly, but one recent estimate
found that it cuts
about 30 calories per slice, which can definitely
add up if you’re eating multiple pieces.
Bottom Line: Is Pizza Dinner-Worthy?
Sure, just make smart choices and
control your portions. And in the perfect world, start your meal with a large
tossed salad to help take the edge off your hunger so you’ll fill up on fewer
Now that you know
what the heck you’re eating, go for thin crust, light cheese, extra vegetables and
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