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Healthy Menu Navigator: Pizza


Thin crust pizza (Photo: Thekitchn.com)
When ordering pizza, go for thin crust! (Photo: thekitchn.com)

 

Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinalEnter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

Last week, it was French food. This week, pizza! Happy eating, everyone.

Heather Bauer’s pizza joint navigational nugget

First thing’s first, don’t deny your pizza cravings: “It’s best to succumb to pizza and accept it,” says Bauer. “Don’t try and just get salad.” But be sure to plan your day accordingly (so keep breakfast, lunch, and any snacks relatively light and healthy), and cap it at two slices and a side salad.

Bauer personally goes for gluten-free pizza if it’s available, but warns that it tends to have a higher calorie count. (More on that below…)

WHAT TO ORDER

1. Two slices of thin (never thick!) crust pizza. The carbo-caloric index of the latter is higher than your rent.

2. Vegetable toppings. But Bauer warns that not all veggie pizzas are created equal—some have fried toppings. Instead, look for plain mushrooms, peppers, spinach, or other vegetables that haven’t been messed with too much.

3. A side salad, without the cheese.

WHAT TO SKIP

1. Extra cheese! Pizza’s flavor should come from the combo of crust, sauce, and healthy toppings—not from gobs of formaggio.

2. Meat toppings. There’s no need to cover your slice in sausage or pepperoni, Bauer says. The sodium, the fat, and calories aren’t worth it.

3. Ordering your own. At many top pizza places with artisanal ingredients and imported ovens, they’ll serve you a whole pizza the size of a giant dinner plate. Keep with tradition and share your pizza.

Keep in mind: The type of flour used to make pizza dough can increase the calorie count in a major way, Bauer says. And gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier: Almond flour is gluten-free, for example, but it’s relatively high in calories. A better gluten-free flour would be quinoa, which has fewer calories, she says.

Hungry for more? Next week, Bauer’s spilling her secrets to ordering Greek. Or check out last week’s guide to ordering healthy French food.