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Healthy Pizza

Guilt-Free Pizza

By Joe Wilkes
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

PizzaWhen the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
That's amore!

When you eat that whole pie
It goes straight to your thighs
That's obesity!

Pizza. Delicious, hot, and cheesy. It tastes good hot. It tastes good cold. It can be used effectively to treat both depression AND hangovers! It feeds a family of four in 30 minutes or less with no dishes! Now that's a miracle food. But there's a catch. It has tons of calories and is chock-full of bad carbs and fats. Oh, why must the nutrition gods be so cruel?

Even if you possess the incredible self-control required to stop after eating one slice of pepperoni, you're still getting about 300 calories, half of which are from fat; and half the fat calories are saturated fat—the bad kind. After all, when there's enough grease in your meal to soak through a cardboard box, it's a good sign you might not have made the healthiest choice. Also, most of your carbs are coming from the white-flour crust, which will give you plenty of empty calories but very little fiber. And these nutritional facts apply to almost every commercially available pizza out there. You pretty much have a better chance of seeing Mel Gibson at synagogue than having a healthy pizza delivered to your house.

But, don't give up, pizza lovers. By making your own pizza, you can make smarter choices for almost all of the ingredients, and you can have your pie and eat it, too.

The Crust

Pizza crustOne of the things that really jacks up the calories in pizza is the crust. It's typically made from refined white flour, a simple carbohydrate your body metabolizes quickly into sugar and then into stored fat, while providing very little fiber. Basically, it just provides a porous matrix for all the greasy drippings from the toppings. But if you make your own dough, you can substitute fiber-rich whole wheat flour for white in your favorite dough recipe, or you can check your local health-food supermarket for a mix or frozen whole wheat dough. As with all bread products, remember to look for WHOLE wheat flour. If the ingredient list only says "wheat flour," it's no different than white flour; they've just usually added a little molasses to give it that healthy brown look. The other advantage of making your own dough is you can roll the crust much thinner. Just thick enough to hold the toppingsit doesn't have to be the inch-thick oil sponge that Pizza Hut calls a pan pizza.

If you don't feel the need to knead, you could look to other whole wheat bread products that are already cooked. Check out Turbo Jam® creator Chalene Johnson's Pita Pizza recipe, for example. English muffins, tortillas, lavash bread, even plain old whole wheat toast can make a great base for your creation. Just watch your cooking time. Premade bread products will obviously require much less time to cook than raw dough and much less time to burn.

The Sauce

Pizza sauceSauce is just tomatoes, right? How bad could that be? They've got lycopene, a great antioxidant. The problem with most delivery pizzas is that the sauces are likely to contain a fair amount of tremendously unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup (as will the crust and any toppings the fast-food conglomerates can manage to inject HFCS into). So make your own sauce. Just dump a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes into a saucepan, add some oregano, basil, garlic, onions, or any other spices you like, and cook it down to a thick consistency. Or, use a store-bought marinara or pizza sauce. Just check the ingredient label to make sure you're getting tomatoes, not corn syrup.

The Cheese

Pizza cheeseWhen I was a teenager, I visited Italy, and was gravely disappointed when I had my first slice of real Italian pizza. The bread was great, but there was just a smear of tomato sauce and only a light sprinkling of cheese. Nothing like the greasy delights of New York and Chicago. Since then, my palate has matured to appreciate the flavors of the noncheese ingredients. America, in its never-ending pursuit of obesity, has found very few foreign dishes that couldn't be improved by melting a pound of cheese on them. (It's even stuffed in the crust now.) It may be time to rethink the model of pizza as cheese delivery system. A little cheese is OK for flavor, but there's no need to smother it. If you can't see the tomato sauce, you're using too much cheese.

There are plenty of nonfat and low-fat cheeses on the market, as well as some cheese substitutes. You'll have to experiment to see which ones melt well and don't taste like plastic. Or, you could have some of the real thing if you can train yourself to enjoy the taste of a little cheese, instead of a pound. Just sprinkle enough on for flavor. A good guideline should be a shred of cheese per bite. Also, try some alternatives to mozzarella and provolone, like a little blue cheese or goat cheese. A little bit of a strong-tasting cheese can give your pizza more flavor than a lot of a milder one.

The Toppings

Pizza toppingsThis is where the rubber meets the road nutritionally. No surprise, the best toppings are vegetables. Onions, peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, fresh garlic, eggplant, zucchini, spinachthis is a great way to load up on all the healthy fiber-and-vitamin-rich veggies you should be eating every day. For carnivores, try some chopped chicken breast, lean ham, or low-fat turkey, chicken, or soy sausage. Anchovies are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and taste great. Watch the sodium levels, though. Some gourmet stores offer meatier anchovies that aren't as salty.

Be creative and think outside of the pizza box for topping combinations. Seafood lovers, try a pizza with salmon, goat cheese, and fresh dill. The popular Hawaiian pizza with lean ham and pineapple is a good choice, if you stay light on the cheese. A vegetarian friend of mine made me a pizza with veggie sausage and chopped fennel bulb that was so good, I forgot there wasn't meat in it. Instead of ordering Domino's Buffalo-style calorie bomb, try substituting hot sauce for marinara sauce, with some chopped chicken breast. Make a Mexican pizza, substituting nonfat refried beans for the sauce, and using ground turkey, salsa, and avocado for toppings. Use your imagination, and you'll be serving gourmet pizza instead of diet pizza.

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RICHARD DAFTER

I am a full time Beachbody Coach. I motivate and guide close to 2,500 Club members and head a team of 11 Beachbody Coaches who are all committed to helping you reach your goals. Before joining BeachBody, I was a certified personal trainer for more than a dozen years and have been a running coach for over 20 years. Continued...

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