Pizza is a favorite meal of many children (and many parents, too!), but due to its often high saturated fat content and refined carbohydrates, it tends to be less than a wholesome meal. You can make some simple changes to your pizza to make it a more nutrient dense choice.
- Switch to a whole-wheat crust. This will provide more nutrients and fiber than the traditional white crust and leave you and your kids fuller and more satisfied. Many pizzerias are now offering the whole-wheat option so be sure to ask when ordering. If whole-wheat is not available, flatbread crusts are also a good option. At home, you can make pizza dough by subbing whole-wheat flour for white. For a frozen pizza, Amy’s, DiGiorno, and other lines are beginning to carry whole-wheat pizzas. Another fun option is using whole wheat English muffins (I love Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat)—that way everyone can have their own mini personal pizza!
- Make your sauce smart. Tomato sauce is an integral part of any good pizza and it provides many vitamins and minerals as well the phytochemical lycopene which promotes heart health. However, many sauces are high in sodium. When making pizza at home, select a sauce with no salt added. When ordering out, try a Pizza Margherita to limit the sodium.
- Pack on the veggie toppings. Spinach, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms—the options are endless. These veggies turn your simple slice of pizza into a delicious nutritional powerhouse. This is also a good opportunity to introduce a new vegetable to your family. By serving it with a familiar food such as pizza, kids will be more open-minded to trying the new food.
- Pick a protein. While the pizza’s cheese proves as a source of protein in the dish, pizza becomes a more balanced meal when one additional ounce of protein is added to it. This protein will help keep your family fuller longer. Select a lean protein such as grilled chicken, low-sodium ham, or grilled tofu. Limit the pepperoni and sausage slices. These meats are high in sodium and saturated fats.
- Serve a side salad. It is easy to consume too many slices of pizza. To help you get in better touch with your hunger signals, pair your slice with a side salad, a handful of raw carrots, or a fruit salad.
- Enjoy it with family and friends. Pizza is a food that is often served in celebration. It is a common choice at birthday parties, soccer championships, and family get-togethers. Make these events about enjoying the company of those around you rather than solely focusing on the food.