I have GREAT news in 2020: you can still eat pizza as part of your New Years diet plans or healthy eating resolutions! I know, I know, pizza is not typically considered a nutritionist-approved health food – in my private nutrition practice people often come in “admitting” or “confessing” that they ate pizza over the weekend.
I stop them right there. There should be no guilt when it comes to enjoying a slice or two of pizza.
Pizza is, at its core, just some carbs (crust), some veggies (tomato), and a little protein/fat (cheese). There are so many varieties right now – you can find classic pizza, paleo pizza, gluten-free pizza, cauliflower pizza, vegan/plant based pizza, Whole30-approved pizza… if you committed to healthier eating in 2020, I guarantee there’s still a pizza with your name on it.
My first suggestion to “healthify” pizza is always to add veggies – it’s what’s on top that really matters!
Can you add mushrooms (full of antioxidants), onions or garlic (immune boosters), spinach (B vitamins, great for energy), bell peppers (full of vitamin A, for vision), more tomatoes (lycopene, for blood flow)? Or maybe you’re more the broccoli or olives type – those are fantastic toppings too. You don’t have to go full on salad pizza… but bonus points if you do! By adding at least two veggies on your pizza, or having a salad on the side you’ll increase fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants when you pizza.
Beyond the toppings, let’s break down some of the healthy and healthy-ish types of pizza you can add in this month:
In the health world, cauliflower crust pizza is having a moment. And for good reason. Incorporating a veggie into crust? No surprise, I’m a fan. Look for crusts where the main ingredient is cauliflower and not rice flour. You can tell by looking at the ingredient label, and seeing if cauliflower is the first ingredient (it should be!). If it’s further down the list, it’s basically rice crust with a little cauliflower sprinkled in there. In NYC, Adoro Lei has a great cauliflower crust, made from scratch. I also like Cali’flour foods crusts, if you’re going to DIY at home.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat that can cause inflammation, digestive issues, and brain fog for those who have sensitivities or intolerances — and far worse side effects for people with Celiac disease. Often people give up gluten for elimination diets, if they’re going paleo or trying the Whole30 diet. I find it can be beneficial – but I do suggest working with a nutritionist. The thing is, some gluten-free pizzas (and gluten free products in general) can be full of other processed flours, gums, and even sugar to help with texture and taste. So look at those ingredients – no replacing gluten with other processed stuff or sugar please! Wild in NYC offers a great a gluten-free thin crust pizza, and Kesté has a chewier g-free crust.
Vegan pizza means either no cheese or a faux-cheese-replacement. Some non-dairy “cheeses” are made with nuts and are great. Others are made with processed soy, lots of gums and thickeners, so those are ones I suggest avoiding or having only occasionally. Not sure what dairy-free they use at your local pizza spot? Ask!! Baker’s has a vegan cheese pie made with Violife cheese.
Paleo or grain-free pizza
Similar to your gluten-free pizza options, the crust will be made of wheat-replacements. Often this means almond flour or cassava, which I like! But look out for other ingredient add-ins meant to improve texture or taste. Any paleo pizza will also be cheese-free. I like Cappello’s Naked Pizza Crust, found in the freezer section.
OK, I have to end with my favorite: the classic! Keep it simple when it comes to having a classic slice – add two veggies, and you’re not at all “off” your healthy eating plan. Nutritionally, it absolutely beats a burger or french fries!!
One last thing, if you’re going hardcore this January: Allowing yourself to have treat meals (the more indulgent foods that you love but don’t have every day) is a really important part of actually STICKING to a healthier eating plan. I encourage clients to look forward to these meals once or twice a week, so no food is ever totally off limits. Having some real deal classic pizza once a week or a few times a month as a treat is totally acceptable!
So, there you have it – January is still pizza eating season, regardless of any new diet plan. And if you want my number one nutritionist-approved pizza, my brother has a pizza shop in Brooklyn, Paulie Gee’s slice shop. BYO green juice and salad for that one!