Pizza doesn’t usually top the list of foods for weight loss, but I’m a big believer in finding that happy, healthy place and for most people, it involves having pizza sometimes. If pizza is a once in a while splurge for you and you eat well otherwise, there’s no need to think too much about it. You might consider having a side salad or another veggie to bring more nutrition to your meal. But if pizza shows up on your plate more than once in a blue moon, here are some pointers for eating it in a healthier, lighter way to help support weight loss goals.
Look for whole grain crust. Granted, whole grain pizza crusts aren’t easy to come by, but if you do happen to spot one, it’s a healthier option than ordinary crust. Studies show that whole grains prompt weight loss better than refined grains so it’s a choice worth considering!
Consider a cauliflower crust. Frozen versions are now readily available at national retailers, including private label versions from Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Though these still have some grains in them, they tend to be lower in carbs and calories and the serving sizes are a little larger than traditional pizza. You may even spot this trendy crust at a local eatery, as I have in New York City.
Look for thin crusts. Obviously, thin crusts are lighter than the deep dish variety.
Limit the meaty toppings. If you can’t fathom life without pepperoni pizza, ask for half the usual amount when you’re eating out.
Right size your portions. Individual pizzas aren’t meant for most individuals! For most people one or two slices ought to do it. Balance out the meal with a big salad or helping of sautéed or roasted veggies. These provide extra nutrition but also create a bigger portion to keep you fuller, longer.
Inspect food labels. If you’re buying a frozen pizza, check out the food labels and pay close attention to the portion size, which varies from brand to brand. I think it helps to be aware of the portion sizes so you can make a mindful choice about how much you serve yourself.
Look at menu boards. If you’re ordering from or eating at a national pizza retailer (such as Pizza Hut or Dominos), check the menu in advance to find a slice that supports your goals. National retailers with more than 20 locations in one state must provide this info, so if pizza is on your weekly lineup, you might want to look into this.
Here are some nationally-available frozen pizzas that meet one or more of my criteria:
This thin crust pie has 10 grams of protein and 350 calories for half a pie. You could add a fistful of arugula and some toasted pine nuts to boost the satisfaction factor.
Here’s a dairy- free pie made with organic ingredients. Because it lacks cheese, it doesn’t have as much protein, but it would make a great base for scrambled or fried eggs or leftover rotisserie chicken. You could also add your own cheese or other toppings if you like.
Newman’s Own Thin & Crispy line has a multigrain crust, meaning that it’s a blend (though a peek at the ingredient shows it’s more white flour than anything else). Still, a blend is better than nothing! This would be good served with black or Kalamata olive slices. You could also try adding some leftover rotisserie or grilled chicken to give the protein a boost. And while it’s a veggie-based pizza, I’d still suggest getting more on the side.
While these pies are fine in a pinch, you can also make pizza an even better choice for weight loss if you make your own. Homemade cauliflower crustskips the grain ingredients you’ll find in most frozen versions, so it has more veggies and fewer carbs and calories per serving. This is a simple version from Erin Palinski Wade, another dietitian. She suggests a whole head of cauliflower, which is then pulsed in a food processor, but you could always start with pre-riced cauliflower. If you do, be sure to use a fresh, packaged variety; a frozen one won’t work here.
Or you could make socca, as I often do. It’s a chickpea flour flatbread that’s gluten-free and packed with protein and fiber. Here’s how to make it:
1 cup water
1 cup chickpea flour
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. salt
Whisk all of the ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes, whisking occasionally. Coat a cast iron skillet with oil and place in an oven set to 450 as the oven preheats. When the oven is ready, remove the skillet and pour in the batter. Return to the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the edges have peeled away from the side of the pan. At this point, you can top with grated cheese and broil it for a few minutes until the cheese melts, or you could top with olives and herbs, or any pizza topping you choose.
This socca is a staple in my home because both my son and I love it and it doesn’t require any advanced prep—especially helpful when I’ve forgotten to defrost chicken! If you try it, let me know what you think!