Pizza: Is it healthy?

pepperoni_pizza

Pizza is an American staple. After all, we spent $33.8 billion in quick service pizza restaurants in 2015. About 1 in 8 Americans consume pizza on any given day. We start eating pizza as soon as we’re old enough to chew! USDA reported that pizza consumption percentage is the highest among kids (ages 6-19).

Americans love pizza. No doubt about it. It’s quick, easy, and delicious! But is it good for our health?

The dark side of pizza.

Pizza is often categorized as junk food, especially if you eat at quick service restaurants like Pizza Hut. Here are few reasons:

#1 It’s calorically DENSE.
The amount of calories in your pizza will depend on what it’s made of and how big your pizza is, but one slice of pizza can definitely pack in those calories. At Pizza Hut, one slice of pizza can range from 90 calories to 680 calories! Plus, who stops after eating just one slice?

Typically your calories will come from:
Crust (aka “Carbs”): Do you like deep dish pizza with a chewy thick crust? Or do you like the crispness of a thin crust pizza? Thicker the crust, higher the calories.
Meat & Cheese: The meat and cheese on the pizza are great sources of fat and protein. The high fat content is often a health concern to a lot of people because of the associated health risks. The more you have on your pizza, the higher the calories and fat.

#2 It’s nutritionally SPARSE.
Pizza isn’t considered a junk food just because it has a lot of calories. There are lots of “healthy” foods that are high in calories. Typical store-bought pizzas are often missing an important food group we eat from…vegetables. As a result, they are low in nutritional value, meaning it doesn’t provide much of the micro-nutrients (a.k.a. vitamins and minerals) and fiber compared to the amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. How many vegetables do you have on your pizza? How does it compare to the amount of sauce, cheese, and meat on your pizza?

#3 It’s HIGH in sodium.
Another concern about pizza is the amount of sodium (a.k.a. salt). Most of the sodium Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks pizza as one of the top 10 sources of sodium.

Don’t worry. You can still have pizza.
True, pizza can be a junk food. BUT, it can also be a nutritionally dense power food! Remember, we need calories for energy. We just need to make sure we’re not taking in more than what we need and we’re getting nutrients with every bite, not just calories. Depending on how you make your pizza and/or what you eat with it, pizza can be a delicious and nutritious meal. Here are some tips on how to power up your pizza:

#1 Make it yourself.
It’s not as easy and quick as buying it at a store, but it can be as delicious, if not more. You can control what goes on your pizza and how much. Here are some recipe ideas.

#2 Choose nutritious toppings.
There’s more to pizza toppings than just pepperoni and cheese. Whether you’re making it at home or at a restaurant, add some vegetables (bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, garlic, broccoli, etc.) to increase the amount of micro-nutrients and fiber in your pizza. Who knows, you might like it more with the added flavor! Get creative!

#3 Add a nutritious side salad.
If adding vegetables to your pizza seems like an absurd idea, no worries. Just throw all the vegetables in a bowl and make a salad. Or order a side salad to go with your pizza! If you usually eat one (or two) too many slices of pizza, adding a salad to your meal may help you stay away from that extra slice because it will help you fill up your stomach!

It’s all about balance.

Pizza can be a junk food, but it can also be a great power food. Next time you eat pizza, be mindful of what you put on it, what you eat with it, and how many you eat. If you love the greasy and salty pizza or eat too many slices, go ahead and eat it. But make sure to balance it out with a great workout session to use the energy for good!

Join us for our Dine & Donate event at Spin! Neapolitan Pizza on Monday, April 25th 5:30-8PM. 

Check out our Facebook event for more details.

Sources:

  • http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400530/pdf/DBrief/11_consumption_of_pizza_0710.pdf
  • http://www.pizzahut.com/assets/w/nutrition/BrandStandardNutritionalInformationFINAL111314.pdf
  • http://www.statista.com/topics/1610/pizza-delivery-market/
  • http://www.cdc.gov/salt/sources.htm
  • http://www.cdc.gov/salt/food.htm
  • http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_pizza_recipes

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