Ahh pizza, what was once meant for Italy’s poorest is now arguably the most beloved dish in the world. The combination of savory melt-in-your-mouth cheese, tomato sauce, and a fluffy yet perfectly crispy base is a mix of flavors that very few can say no to.
In fact, every day, 40 million people across America sit down to enjoy a slice, and while there are many reasons why the nation has such a high obesity rate, you can’t help but wonder how large a part pepperoni and cheese-stuffed crusts play.
Enter Chef Pasquale Cozzolino, author of the forthcoming book “The Pizza Diet.” His book aims to look into the nutritional information of pizza to discover the best and easiest ways to cut calories, fat and carbs without sacrificing that addictive flavor. So here are the 14 ways to eating pizza without packing on the pounds.
1. Order thin crust
Most of the evils of pizza lie in the crust. Aside from being stacked with calories, they’re basically void of any nutrients. The majority of pies are made from refined white flour which is only good for spiking your insulin levels and causing you to crave more and more of the stuff.
The take home? The less crust you indulge in the better. Opt for thin crusts when you can.
2. Request a “double cut” pie
While most pizzas are sliced into eight pieces, a double cut pie comes with 16. Start with one slice and only take another if you are genuinely hungry. Pairing your pizza with something fibrous and filling like a house salad or some side veggies will ensure you won’t go back for more slices than necessary. (This tip will also help you stretch your dollar further.)
3. Say “no” to individual pies
Serving sizes for individual pizzas have reached new levels of calorific callousness. Chuck E. Cheese’s Cali Alfredo Individual Pizza, for example, is a whopping 702 calories. Though not all pies are this bad, you’re almost always better off having a single slice, loaded with toppings or not.
4. Blot oil
When you see a pool of oil floating on top of your cheese, take a napkin and mop up the excess. You’ll save about 50 calories – and maybe keep the grease off your shirt too (I mean, pizza grease on a white shirt never makes for good tinder date attire). It’s a win-win.
5. Avoid salty meats and add lean proteins
Adding protein to your pie will help fill you up, which means you’ll be less likely to go back for another slice. This doesn’t mean load your pizza with pepperoni, bacon, and sausage, though, as these meats are packed with an unhealthy amount of saturated fats and tons of salt. Go for grilled chicken, sliced ham or anchovies instead.
6. Have a “mediterranean night” instead of a pizza night
You can still refer to it as pizza night when you’re talking to the kids, but from time to time, opt for a mediterranean night. Order various veggie and protein dishes, like a salad topped with grilled chicken or shrimp and an appetizer-sized order of meatballs. This way everyone gets a more balanced meal with fewer empty calories.
7. Don’t eat out of the box
Research shows that people consume more when food is served on a larger plate. Not only does eating off a smaller plate trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten more but keeping the other slices out of reach, rather than on your lap, will make you think twice before going back for seconds.
8. Make your own from time to time
Homemade pizzas always taste good but canned sauces can be a major sugar-mine. But don’t worry, it’s very easy to make your own. Likewise, replacing white flour pizza dough with coconut flour means you’ll be consuming far fewer carbs and having a pie that has 11 times more fiber.
9. Skip cheese-filled or deep-dish crusts
There’s already plenty of cheese on top of the pie, so there’s really no need to have more stuffed in the crust or as a double topping. Another unnecessary pizza twist? Deep dish. Having more surface area always means that there will be more calories. And if not from the pizza itself, it will be from all the extra dipping sauce you need for the leftover bread.
10. Add veggies
You can lower a pizza’s glycemic index, (a measure of how quickly blood glucose levels rise in response to a certain food) by adding fiber and other protein-rich toppings. For example, while a simple cheese pizza scores 80 out of 100 on the index, a veggie supreme comes in at only 49. Opt for raw veggies and lean meats and you’ll also feel fuller for longer.
11. Get slices, not pies
If portion control is your main issue, order slices and not a whole pie. If you have to ask someone for it, you’ll be less likely to nibble on something you’re not actually hungry for. Try and watch the size of the slice you’re ordering too. If it’s the size of your entire upper body, it’s not exactly healthy is it?
12. Turn up the heat
Want to boost your metabolism and trick yourself into eating less? The answer is chili, chili, chili.
Add some spice to your pie, such as chili flakes, crushed black pepper and habaneros to reap these benefits. A study by Canadian researchers found that men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories than those that skipped out on a little spice.
13. Get rid of your flour base
Despite what Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars would have you believe, you don’t need blood-sugar-spiking refined flour (or any flour at all for that matter) to make a pizza delicious. Everything from portobello caps to sweet potatoes can be turned into a crust.
14. Cut the cheese
Ordering your pizza with “half cheese” is an easy way to cut the saturated fat in a plain or veggie-topped pie by up to 50 percent. Even if you decide to boost the cheese factor on your slimmed down pie with an additional tablespoon of pungent parmesan (with 22 calories) you’ll still save lots of calories.
As revolutionary as this list may be, you shouldn’t (really) have pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But with a balanced diet and these pizza hacks, you can ensure that you are living your best life.