Ask most any child or adult what their favorite food is and odds are pizza tops the list. In fact, pizza weighs in as one the largest calorie contributors in children’s diets, second only to dessert. It’s a staple in diets across the globe and in many forms; from squares, rolls, and Lunchables, to pizza flavored chips and crackers. Not surprisingly, the average American eats healthy family pizza nightpizza thirty times a year, that means we only go twelve days before we unhinge another box of cheesy pie. With the average slice of meat topped pizza packing in four hundred calories and eight hundred milligrams of sodium, it is easy to exceed our energy needs in one meal. What was once an indulgence at parties and special occasions, pizza is now on the regular dinner rotation for most families.

Pizza does not have to be a diet disaster. I remember when I was young, the rare pizza night was the only time we ate on paper plates and could have a soda with dinner. My mother always made us eat a salad or raw carrots along with our treasured pizza slice. Pairing a low-calorie vegetable with pizza is a great way to fill up without having to top off with more pizza. Making your own pizza at home can be a fun way to get the kids involved in meal times and results in a healthier more economical pizza night. Most ingredients can be used for other meals throughout the week. Leftover pasta sauce from spaghetti? It can easily be used as a sauce on pizza, and baking or grilling extra chicken makes a great leaner meat topping. Consider the tips below when ordering out or baking in to curb the salt, fat and calories.

At the Pizzeria

  • Order a side salad and eat it first
  • Crust: thin or hand tossed, whole wheat is a bonus
  • Sauce: tomato based like marinara
  • Cheese: skim mozzarella, or sharp cheeses (go light, less is more!)
  • Toppings: ham, chicken, vegetables, herbs, pineapple, apples, and nuts
  • Avoid: sausage, pepperoni, bacon, creamy or oil based sauces, pan or thick crust, extra cheese
  • Dips: avoid buttery or creamy sauces and choose extra marinara if dips are a necessity

At Home

When making individual pizzas consider lining a baking sheet with foil and allow the kids to top their own pizzas. They can get a little messy and the foil saves you from scraping burnt cheese off the pan later!

Base

  • Whole grain English muffin halves
  • Whole grain pita rounds
  • Whole grain French bread cut in half long ways or in slices for individual pizzas
  • Whole grain dough, refrigerated crusts or pre-made pizza crust, rolled thin
  • Naan

Sauce

  • Pizza sauce or tomato-based sauce
  • Purred butternut squash
  • Skim ricotta cheese

Cheese

  • Part skim or 2% cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar or Colby
  • Sharp cheese like parmesan, feta, blue and goat cheese (remember, less is more!)
  • Soy or vegan cheese blends

Toppings

  • Veggies: onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, arugula, tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Grilled, baked, or rotisserie chicken
  • Turkey pepperonis
  • Banana peppers
  • Jalapeno
  • Ham or prosciutto
  • Artichokes
  • Pineapple
  • Apples
  • Fresh herbs: basil, parsley or cilantro (add after baking)
  • Balsamic vinegar