Improving on the pizza - for health

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 31 August 2012.
Tagged: fast food, guides, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, take-away, weight loss

Improving on the pizza - for health

Pizza has come a long way since it was first baked in Naples, Italy where it was simply made with tomato, mozzarella cheese, oregano and a little anchovy on a yeast dough cooked in a wood burning oven. This was Pizza alla Napoletana and was a staple dish for poor families.

The pizza has never been the same since it emigrated to New York at the end of last century. Now it is one of the most popular fast foods in almost every country of the world made with a vast variety of toppings. Today pizza crosses national boundaries so you can munch on tandoori pizza or satay pizza and even Mexican-style pizza. Its versatility and the wonderful aroma of its freshly baked crust have ensured its popularity over the years.

Pizza nutrition

Most home-delivered pizzas are bad news for nutrition. They're oozing fat from the huge amounts of cheese or cheese crust and salami or bacon. What's more, they're sky-high in salt and they come in super-large portion sizes that only encourage you to overdo the wedges. Hardly the sort of fare for an overweight sedentary person to chow down on after work.

Best bet is a thin-thin Italian pizza base with a light scattering of pizza topping so you can still see the base through it. You don't need to have pizza topping piled that thickly.

The pizza reinvented for health

Pizzas with less saturated fat and more fibre are easy to make at home. You can buy ready made pizza bases or use Lebanese flatbread or pocket bread as the base. If you like working with yeast, you can mix up a yeasted bread dough for the base.

Start with the usual toppings such as tomato paste or puree and sprinkle over herbs such as oregano or basil. Alternatively a base of pesto makes a good change.

Then add your choice of as much vegetables or lean toppings as you can:

  • sliced mushrooms
  • artichokes
  • capsicum
  • canned tuna or salmon
  • goats cheese, ricotta or bocconcini slices
  • spinach, capers (rinse first to remove some salt)  or rocket
  • ham, lean bacon (trim off fat), minced lamb or beef or chicken
  • fresh or sun-dried tomatoes

Top with a thin layer of grated mozzarella (less fat and less salt than cheddar) or a mixture of mozzarella plus a little grated Parmesan.

Pizza trivia

Did you know that the margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoie. The toppings are the three colours of the Italian flag: tomato for red, basil for green and mozzarella cheese for white.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.