Is Pizza Healthy?Posted on Dec 28th 2010 1:00PM by Liz Neporent
Is pizza a healthy food? – Dina via Twitter
Since Americans consume around 350 pizza slices per second, I think it's safe to assume that many That's Fit readers have scarfed down a wedge or two in the past couple of days. Some of you ate with abandon, believing you've made a good nutritional choice, while others experienced the guilt that comes with crashing a diet. The question is: Who's right?
In nutritionist Keren Gilbert's opinion, pizza is a taboo food. "If you're watching your waistline, my advice is to stay away," Gilbert said. "The average amount of calories in pizza is around 350 and 10 grams of fat, not to mention it's loaded with sodium. If you decide to go for seconds and thirds as most of us do, you can have an entire day's worth of calories in one sitting," said the president and founder of Decision Nutrition.
Another nutrition expert, Jennifer Neily, has a somewhat different point of view. "When ordered 'smartly,' pizza can be a very good choice," she said. "The cheese can be a good source of dairy and calcium."
Neily does agree that pizza is laden with too much saturated fat. Depending on the cheese used, about two-thirds of the fat in a slice is of the artery-clogging variety. And both nutritionists warn that the oil and crust can be serious nutritional culprits if you aren't careful. But despite that, Neily believes there are worse fast-food selections.
Case in point: A Domino's Pacific Veggie slice with veggies, black olives, feta and provolone cheese on a thin Asiago crust is about 230 calories. Compare this to Nathan's Fish 'n' Chips at 1,537 calories, a Del Taco Mucho Beef Burrito at 1,170 calories, Burger King's Whopper with cheese at 760 calories, McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder with cheese at 740 calories and KFC's Double Down at 540 calories. (All figures are equivalent to what you're delivered versus per serving.) Put in that context, pizza looks almost like a health food.
With just a little thought, you can reduce pizza's fat and calorie content while upping its nutritional value.
For starters, stick with thin crust. Thick crust and hand-tossed crust are just extra bread and white flour, which means needless calories and very little vitamins and minerals. And don't even think about biting into the new cheese-stuffed crust options!
If you're really serious about lightening the caloric load, you've gotta ease up on the greasy fat. Neily points out that just as you can order your pie with extra cheese, you can order it with less cheese. Who knew?
You can also perform the "paper blot" method, where you take some napkins and pat the obvious oil from the top of the slice. One estimate found that blotting oil cuts about 30 calories. If you're really counting calories, it's better than nothing.
The main advice both Neily and Gilbert gave is to hold yourself to a two-slice limit. Better yet, order just one slice with a side salad or veggie. If you don't go overboard, pizza can stay in your life without sabotaging your weight. Keep this in mind as we approach two of the biggest pizza days of the year: The greatest number of pizzas are delivered (and presumably eaten) on New Year's Day and New Year's Eve.
OK, pizza lovers, your turn to deep dish. What's the largest number of slices you've eaten in one sitting? What's your favorite topping? Who makes the best pie? Tell us how you fit pizza into your diet and make it work. Post your thoughts here or tweet me. Happy holidays!