But What About PIZZA?

Pizza has become an American food…we’ve taken it over as our go-to delivery item, we have made multiple versions depending on region, (are you a New York-style or Chicago-style person?) and we have limitless frozen pizza options. (Have you noticed that the frozen pizza section in the grocery store is as big, or bigger, than the frozen vegetable section!?) This means that its practically impossible to go without pizza in our current food culture, and unfortunately, its often chock-full of calories! So what do Chad and I do about this when we are trying to eat within an appropriate calorie range?

Chad and I often had a pizza night, where we would order take out. (It was usually a football night or weekend night where neither one wants to cook–or clean up!) We have other nights where we make our own pizza. We often use a pre-made crust, but rarely will try a home made crust, or a Trader Joe’s ball of pizza dough. One challenge that we have been working on for several months is getting the crust just right. We are always after a thin crispy crust, but that has proven difficult. After many pizzas, we have made some discoveries:

  • Oven temp: Directions often call for 400-425 degrees, but that just doesn’t work for us. We usually cook ours at 450 degrees.
  • Pre-cook the crust: We have found that 5 minutes in a pre-heated oven will start forming the crispy surface, which keeps the sauce and other topping liquids from making the crust soggy.

    This is what cooked dough looks like without sauce and toppings! But we just deflate, top, and finish cooking!

  • Toppings: for the crispiest crust, things like tomatoes, green peppers and mushrooms should be precooked to get some of the moisture out. Also, putting the toppings on top of the cheese can help cook off a BIT of the moisture.
  • Cheese: Although we LOVE buffalo mozzarella, even pressing the moisture out doesn’t stop the cheese from making the crust moist. We use regular shredded cheeses, and try to get some golden, toasted cheese color on the top. (Some ovens can get this by turning on the broiler for just 3 minutes.)

But does that sound like too much work? Just take a look at some store bought and delivery options:

  • Pizza Hut Meat Lovers, Pan style, is 330 calories for 1/8 of a 12″ pizza (1 slice.) But since NO ONE eats just one slice, look at it this way: If you eat half the pizza, which is surprisingly easy to do, its 1320 calories!
  • If you are eating from a 14″ Pizza Hut pizza, its 480 per piece=1920 calories for half a pizza!
  • Even Pizza Hut Veggie Lovers, Thin and Crispy crust, 12″ pizza, is 180 per piece, still 720 for half a pizza! (Want to check your favorites? http://www.pizzahut.com/nutritionpizza.html)
  • For frozen pizza options, a classic example is Jack’s 12,” thin crust Supreme. Half of this pizza will give you fewer calories (580 cal) but will also give you saturated fats (the bad fats) and1040 mg of sodium! (The recommendation is less than 2,300 mg for the whole day.)
  • For a Jack’s Naturally Rising Crust, The Works pizza, You only get 1/6 for a serving! Despite the inconsistent-looking portion sizes, the same half-pizza will contain 990 calories, plus 1770 mg sodium!

    Jack’s original crust. Notice serving size, the % of your daily saturated fat and sodium content!

    Jack’s Naturally Rising Crust. The thick crust accounts for an extra 410 calories for half of a pizza versus a thin crust.

So after all this, what’s a healthy, pizza-loving American to do?! We have decided to take the tips we’ve discovered and MAKE OUR OWN and keep it healthier, too! We can make ours before the pizza delivery person arrives, we can put EXACTLY what and how much of the toppings we choose, we have a cheaper and healthier pizza, and believe me, they can be even tastier than the alternatives!

We have found our favorite toppings, which give the pizza a lot of flavor without adding lots of calories or saturated fat!

  • Garlic
  • Red onions
  • Pizza seasoning
  • Black olives (or capers…yum!)
  • Anchovies (1/2 tin)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

    All the toppings are added; just waiting for the cheese! This is about 1/3 of a can of sauce. I would prefer more, but it then softens the crust, which I don’t like.

This is 1 cup of cheese, and its a perfect amount! If you don’t believe me, take a look at the next picture…

Done! For this pizza, we put the anchovies on top. Adding some fresh basil after cooking is a great finale!

Half of THIS pizza is 650 calories! Because we choose salty items like anchovies and olives and capers, the sodium will still be pretty high, but the fats in those items will be healthy, unsaturated fat, as opposed to the saturated fats from beef or pork.
I picked up this novelty cookbook (yes, it really IS round!) and it has all sorts of fun ideas. Some are less healthy than others, but I’m sure I’ll be trying many of them. Zucchini with Egg? Onion, Cheese and Walnuts? Tuna with Peas? Bring ’em on!

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3 thoughts on “But What About PIZZA?

  1. Hey Michelle this is Cassidy (Toms daughter). My dad just showed me your blog today and I find it so interesting that I decided to read everything from the beginning.:) I am really interested in majoring in nutrition in college, and our family loves to cook. I know this post is from a long time ago but iiiifff you haven’t tried walnuts yet their really good with something salty like kalamata olives and some feta cheese! Pizza is my favorite thing to experiment with! Sometimes we use olive oil and pesto (homemade with our basil) instead of tomato sauce, or I love to add guacamole and salsa instead of regular pizza sauce. Super good. 🙂 Good luck Chad! Enjoying the blog (especially the math part) keep it up guys!

    • Thanks, Cassidy! Its funny that you have just read the blog and have chosen to comment on this one, because we just made a pizza with pears, gorganzola and walnuts! It was very different than your classical pizza (no sauce or shredded cheese) and was more like a tart. Slightly sweet, but very flavorful! I was thinking about posting my picture of that one! I’m looking forward to trying a lot more interesting recipes. I made pesto this summer, and have some recipes that use it, so we are trying to make pizza often to get through all the recipes!
      As far as studying nutrition, I think its a great choice, but I’m a bit biased, of course. There is quite a bit of education involved depending on what you want to do, but I know you could handle it!—Thanks for reading!

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