Unfortunately American food manufacturers have turned this Mediterranean masterpiece into a caloric monstrosity with enough sodium and fat per slice to make an artery cry. Welp. But pizza is delicious, and we want you to enjoy it. And you can! With these 6 simple pizza rules you can make a regular pizza night support your weight loss goals—and even improve your health! Mangia, mangia!
Don’t Be Plain
You can lower a pizza’s Glycemic Index (GI)—a measure of how quickly blood glucose levels rise in response to a certain food—by adding fiber- and protein-rich toppings. For example, while a simple cheese pizza scores an 80 (out of 100), a veggie supreme pie clocks in at 49. Raw veggies and lean meats (chicken breast, ham) make for the best toppers. Dodge sodium and fat by avoiding processed meats like bacon and sausage, and veggies that are fried, roasted or grilled (onions and eggplant are often first cooked in oil!).
The biggest health benefits from pizza come from lycopene-rich tomato sauce, which recent studies have found may help protect against the development of prostate cancer. White pizzas sacrifice the biggest health benefit of a traditional pie, so think like Quentin Tarantino: the more red the better.
Most of the evils of pizza lie in the empty-calorie, yet highly caloric crust. Typically made from refined white flour, pizza dough offers little nutrition to your body and will spike your insulin levels, causing you to crave more. The less crust you indulge in, the better. That means thin-crust pizzas are almost always the better option.
Turn Up the Heat
You can trick yourself into eating less and boost your metabolism by adding a little spice to your pie. In fact, a study by Canadian researchers found that men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories than those that skipped the hot sauce. Top your pie with a few grinds of fresh black pepper, red chili flakes, or if you’re really brave—stingers!
Cut the Cheese
Ordering your pizza with “half cheese” is an easy way to cut the saturated fat on a plain- or veggie-topped pie by 50%! Even if you decide to boost the cheese factor on your slimmed-down pie with an additional tablespoon of pungent parmesan (only 22 calories), you’ll still save mega calories.
A series of well-cited Yale University studies suggest eating a salad appetizer can reduce total calorie intake over the course of the meal by up to 20%. For a 600-calorie pizza-fest, that would mean a savings of about 120 calories—more than a mile on the treadmill! Top your greens with a scant tablespoon of vinaigrette, as there’s developing research to suggest vinegar can aid weight loss by keeping our blood sugar steady. One study among pre-diabetics found the addition vinegar to a high-carb meal (like pizza!) reduced the subsequent rise in blood sugar by 34%.