Whether in a pinch, on a night out, during the big game, or just because, pizza is undeniably one of America’s favorite dinners, lunches—even breakfasts (for all you cold pizza lovers out there). But as much as the toasty crust and gooey, melty cheese make hearts swoon, pizza is not one of the healthiest things we can eat. While not inherently the worst thing you can consume, pizza run up your calories, fat, and sodium quickly.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, you can make pizza part of a balanced, healthy diet as long as it’s not on the menu too often. Check out these tips for making your next pie a healthy one.
Add a Ton of Veggies
Instead of packing on as many different types of meat as possible, opt for a fresher take on your toppings. Switch out pepperoni and sausage for spinach, peppers, and tomatoes. Or get creative and throw on some okra, shishito peppers, or eggplant. Whatever your favorite vegetables, they’ll make for a tastier and significantly healthier pizza. (Except cucumbers. That’s just odd.)
Go Whole Grain
Refined carbs are a nasty culprit in making foods unhealthy—pizza dough being one of them. These so-called “simple carbs” are low in fiber, are digested quickly, and can contribute to diabetes, making them horrible for your diet. To make pizza a healthier option, switch to whole-grain doughs and crusts, or try cauliflower crust.
Not So Much Cheese
While cheese is one of the best parts of a pizza, it’s also one of the most fattening. Instead of loading up on cheddars, blues, Gorgonzolas, and feta, try skim mozzarella, sharp provolone, or parmesan, which is already a low-fat cheese.
Make Meat Matter
If you’re a die-hard meat lover who just can’t imagine eating a pizza without protein, think lean instead of savory. Instead of heavy meats, try chicken, turkey bacon, or ground turkey. This way, you’re not adding red meat to an already decadent meal, and your protein intake is on the healthy side.
Swap Your Sauce
It may be difficult to trade in pizza’s famous red sauce for something like olive oil or pesto, but this simple switch makes a huge difference. Pizza sauce usually contains a high amount of sodium, sugar, and preservatives, which provide its classic taste while doing you no favors. Instead of slathering on the red, try making or ordering a pizza with an olive oil base. Or you can sauté tomatoes to cook them down to a sauce-like mix, using spices like garlic, pepper, and cumin instead of sugars and salts.
The next time you and your family get the urge for a pizza, try these easy tips to make it a healthier experience. And, of course, even healthier pizzas are still pizzas, so be sure to eat them in moderation.