We all know that the food we eat has an enormous impact on our health. And if you’re trying to keep your heart healthy, ditching fast food is a good place to start.
It’s often high in fat, salt and sugar, meaning it’s likely to make you put on weight. That extra weight means your heart has to do more work to keep the blood pumping around your body. And over time, that can cause serious health problems.
But none of that means you can never eat a pizza again! We’re going to share 8 tips to order pizza for heart-healthy living. Follow our guide, and learn how to enjoy the food you love and stay healthy too.
How to Order Pizza for Heart-Healthy Living
1. Treat a pizza as an occasional treat
You can eat pretty much any food you enjoy and stay healthy, as long as you eat it in moderation. So if you long for a slice of cheesy deep pan pizza, go for it. Just don’t do it every week. And when you order takeout, share with someone else instead of snaffling the whole pie.
Another easy option is to order a slightly smaller pizza. Chances are, you’ll barely notice the difference in the size of each slice as you’re eating it. But it can make a significant difference to the amount of calories and fat you’re eating.
One slice of a large BBQ chicken and bacon pizza from Papa John’s, for example, contains 340 calories and 11 grams of fat. Opt for a medium version of the same pizza, and each slice will have 100 fewer calories and 3 grams less fat.
Whichever pizza you choose, wait until you’re really in the mood before ordering it. And when it arrives, take your time to eat it. That will give you time to savor the experience, making it more enjoyable.
And it will also give you a chance to register when you’ve eaten enough and feel full. That will mean you don’t consume more fat and calories than you need to satisfy your appetite. And it will prevent the uncomfortable bloated feeling we get when we’ve eaten too much.
2. Drink plenty of water with your meal
Drinking lots of liquid will help you to feel full faster, so you’ll eat fewer calories before feeling ready to stop. Just make sure your chosen drink doesn’t provide as many calories as your pizza would have done!
Steer clear of soft drinks or beer that are laden with sugar, and drink water instead. It will keep you hydrated without any unwanted side effects.
And if water on its own is too bland, add a dash of lemon or lime juice. That will add flavor as well as vitamins.
3. Make or order a salad too
Try not to feel as if you’re depriving yourself by only having one or two slices of pizza. Filling your plate with fresh salad will help. You’ll be able to see that you’re getting plenty of food – and there’ll be less space to fit on higher calorie pizza!
Choose colorful ingredients that will look great on your plate, like bell peppers, tomatoes and beetroot. Adding some creamy avocado will give you healthy fats that will help fill you up too.
If you’re ordering your salad rather than making it yourself, ask for the dressing on the side. That will allow you to add just a dash to give some extra flavor if you want it. Salad dressings can be high in calories and fat, so don’t go overboard.
4. Choose wholewheat and a thin crust …
An easy way to reduce the number of calories in your pizza is by making careful choices about your crust. That’s where most of the carbohydrate in your pizza resides. And if you don’t use it for energy, it will make you put on weight. Diabetics, in particular, need to keep their carb levels low.
Wholewheat pizza dough has more nutrients than the standard stuff. But most wholewheat crusts still contain some refined flour.
If your local pizza parlor offers a wholewheat crust, go for it. But you’ll get even more benefit by choosing the depth of your crust with care.
Choosing a thin crust pizza will mean you’re eating far less dough. That means fewer carbs and calories. And you’ll still get that delicious pizza flavor.
5. … Or choose a crust that isn’t made from dough
You can go one better and choose a crust that isn’t made from dough at all. For that, though, you’ll probably need to make your own pizza at home. Most big name pizzerias, for now at least, are all about the dough base.
But if you’re making your own pizza, there are some excellent alternatives to conventional crusts out there. Why not lightly fry a wholemeal tortilla, then bake it in the oven? That will give you a delightfully thin and crispy base. And it will have far fewer calories than a dough crust.
Wholemeal pitta breads are another great option.
But even better, consider a cauliflower, broccoli, beet or other plant-based crust. There are plenty of recipes online, and they’re surprisingly easy to make. And they’re a great way of adding vegetables into your diet without even noticing!
You can also buy some great cauliflower, kale and other plant-based crusts ready-made. Take a look online or check our your local grocery store. Then just load up the crust with your favorite toppings and put it in the oven.
It’s ultra-simple, and a really healthy alternative to dough crusts. Just check the sodium levels if you’re using a ready-made crust, as some can be rather high.
6. Choose your toppings with care
Picking healthier toppings will make a huge difference to the nutritional value of your pizza. Go for lean meats like chicken or turkey instead of processed meats like salami or pepperoni, which are high in fat and salt.
Seafood toppings are low in fat too, whilst giving you plenty of flavor. Tuna and prawns are great choices for a delicious but heart-healthy pizza.
And your pizza can also be a brilliant way to load up on vegetables, packing in healthy nutrients. Tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and artichokes are all pizza favorites that taste delicious as well as being healthy.
So take the opportunity to use your pizza to give your whole system a healthy nutrient boost!
7. Go easy on the cheese
Dairy does have some health benefits – it will give you protein and calcium, for example. But cheese can also be high in fat, so think carefully about the type of cheese on your pizza. Choosing a topping of lower fat mozzarella or ricotta made with skim milk will be much better for your heart.
But if that doesn’t float your boat, don’t worry. Remember – the golden rule is that you can eat anything in moderation. So if pizza isn’t pizza for you without full fat mozzarella, that’s fine. Just stick to one small slice, and fill the rest of your plate with salad.
That will give you the flavor you crave, without putting a strain on your heart.
8. Opt for tomato sauce
Last but not least, don’t forget to think about the kind of sauce you have on your crust. It might be buried underneath your toppings – but it can still make a big difference to the calories and fat in your pizza.
Because red sauce is tomato-based, it has many of the health advantages of that fruit. It’s full of the antioxidant lycopene, which studies suggest protects against some cancers as well as cardiovascular disease. And it will also give you plenty of vitamins A and C.
Just note that some pizzerias add sugars to their tomato sauce, upping the calorie content.
Pesto, made with healthy olive oil, is another good option. The oil and parmesan means that it’s higher in calories, though. If this is what you choose, ask the pizza parlor to go easy on how much they use.
But steer clear of Alfredo sauce if you can bear to. It’s high in saturated fats and sodium. As ever, small quantities are fine – but most pizzerias tend to slather it on.
Ready to enjoy a healthier pizza?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips to order pizza for heart-healthy living! Making your own pizza gives you maximum control over ingredients and nutritional value. But we hope we’ve demonstrated that there are lots of ways to make takeout pizza a healthier option too.
Choosing a smaller pizza and eating only a couple of slices will make a big difference. Go for thin crust. And choose your toppings with care. Yes to lean meat, seafood and tons of vegetables. No to high-fat processed meats.
But remember – there’s nothing you can’t eat as long as you don’t eat too much of it! If you want higher fat, higher calorie options, just stick to one small slice. Fill up the rest of your plate with a delicious salad, and you’ll get the flavor you want. And you won’t put a strain on your heart.
Enjoy your pizza – and stay healthy!