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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines recommend filling half your plate with vegetables and splitting the remaining half evenly between a serving of lean protein and a whole grain. If you build it well, a pizza can fulfill those requirements in one slice. Make your pizza healthy by shifting the proportions of meat, cheese, toppings and crust you use.
A thin, cracker-like pizza crust contains fewer calories than a thick, doughy crust because it has less volume. Two slices of a 14-inch thin-crust pizza have between 250 and 600 calories, depending on toppings. Two pieces of a deep-dish pizza of the same diameter give you about 500 to 900 calories. Make up for the volume of crust you lose with extra vegetables atop the pizza and you'll approximate the MyPlate guidelines for a healthy meal. Look at the pizza's crust as a vehicle for tasty toppings and you'll have a more balanced pizza.
Using whole wheat flour for your pizza crust doesn't shave calories from the meal, but it supplies you with more valuable nutrition and fiber for your calorie expenditure. The additional fiber in whole wheat flour may contribute to making your pizza more satisfying, according to a Nutrition Reviews study on dietary fiber and weight regulation. You'll also get a little extra selenium and magnesium in your diet, although how much depends on the amount of pizza you eat and the flour blend in the pizza dough. Choose whole wheat dough for a healthier pizza.
Adding vegetables to a pizza transforms it into a healthy meal. The tomato sauce on your pizza counts as a vegetable serving, but piling your pizza high with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach or olives adds a host of nutrients and fiber to your slice. These relatively nutrient-dense, but low-calorie foods bring a pizza in line with MyPlate guidelines for vegetable servings while supplying you with delicious variety. If you make your own pizza, try unusual vegetable combinations that commercial pizza parlors may not have on hand such as artichokes, asparagus, eggplant or zucchini.
Part-skim mozzarella cheese melts and tastes like full-fat varieties, but has fewer calories. The cheese on your pizza supplies you with protein -- about 2 to 4 grams per slice, depending on the thickness -- but adding lean meats can incorporate even more protein into your meal. Traditional sausage and pepperoni are high in fat and sodium, but you can find turkey versions with fewer calories and less fat. Making your own pizza also lets you add toppings of your choice like shredded lean pork, diced chicken or smoked turkey. If you're ordering from a pizza parlor, choose ham over higher-fat meats.
Even the healthiest foods can overwhelm your calorie budget if you eat them to excess. A 14-inch thin-crust pizza topped with vegetables and shredded chicken has about 300 to 500 calories per two-slice serving, but that means the entire pie has as many as 2,000 calories. Round out your meal with a green salad or some marinated pepperoncini peppers to munch between bites of pizza to keep calories and fat low.
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Lauren Whitney covers science, health, fitness, fashion, food and weight loss. She has been writing professionally since 2009 and teaches hatha yoga in a home studio. Whitney holds bachelor's degrees in English and biology from the University of New Orleans.
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