It’s Friday night and you’re finally ready to give in and order that pizza you’ve been craving all week, but you also don’t want to go overboard and ruin your diet. The good news is that plain pizza—regular crust, tomato sauce, and cheese—is perfectly fine to consume in moderation, but once you start adding, salty, saucey, or carb-heavy toppings the once acceptable meal can take on a life of its own.
Thankfully, we’re here to guide you around the pizza pitfalls and have provided healthier alternatives to four popular pizza toppings. Move over pepperoni, because there’s a new cured meat in town! And when you’re done learning how to eat pizza without packing on the pounds, get in shape with help from the 40 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods.
Pepperoni may not look that menacing when it’s adding some color to your pizza, but the sodium content of the cured meat is definitely something to be wary of, especially since salty foods make you bloat and encourage you to keep reaching for that soda. A six-slice serving of pepperoni contains a whopping 210 mg of sodium—a lofty number when you consider experts recommend you not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Skip the traditional pepperoni, and opt for something that’s uncured instead, like Applegate Naturals Soppressata. Though the sodium content is only slightly better, Applegate products contain no antibiotics or added nitrates, which can damage cells and morph into molecules that cause cancer. For more pizza topping inspiration, check out 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen!
While we’re on the topic of meat, it also pays to steer clear of any protein that’s slathered in an additional sauce on top of your already packed pizza. Sure, BBQ chicken (or shrimp) may add a Southern feel to your Italian meal, but considering BBQ sauce is loaded with empty calories and contains 6 grams of belly-bloating sugar per tablespoon, it’s best to leave it to the Texans.
If you’re craving protein on your pie the chicken or shrimp can stay, but to prevent a sugar rush and cut down on empty calories, season any meat or fish with spices (such as metabolism-boosting cayenne) instead of sugary sauces.
While, yes, this isn’t necessarily a “topping” and moreso a “style,” but the deep dish pizza allows for more toppings and more body to your pie. So, unforunately, for all you carb lovers out there, deep dish takes things a bit too far. Though the thick crust has a devoted following, we can guarantee your waistline is not a fan of the extra doughy pie, which can pack around 430 calories per plain slice.
Luckily you can still get your carb fix by ordering thin-crust pizza, and you’ll be doing your waistline a favor in the process. At around 230 calories, a slice of thin crust cheese pizza is nearly half as calorically dense as its Chicago-bred counterpart. Don’t miss out on these 6 More Easy Ways to Cut Pizza Calories!
While there is some debate over whether pineapple is an acceptable pizza topping, there’s no arguing that the tropical fruit packs a sugary sweet wallop that makes it all the more difficult to stay fit. Sure, the whole fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, and other nutrients, but one cup of sugar-sweetened, canned pineapple has less than 3 grams of fiber and nearly 26 grams of sugar—more sweet stuff than a person should consume over the course of an entire day.
If you’re looking for something slightly sweet to compliment your pizza, try topping it with red or yellow bell peppers instead. The colorful veggies are great sources of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, and red bell peppers in particular contain beta-carotene—the nutrient that lavishes your body with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that can improve your overall health. And if you’re still on a quest to fight inflammation, brush up on the 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods!