Pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world – but it can also be one of the unhealthiest.
Shop-bought or takeaway pizzas are often packed with saturated fats, carbohydrates and salt, not to mention calories. A single slice of thin crust cheese pizza can contain around 250 calories – and with toppings and a thick crust, you're up in the 300-plus calorie bracket.
And that’s just a single slice – meaning that a standard eight-slice pizza can rack up a massive 2,400 calories: roughly a man's entire recommended daily calorie intake, and well over the recommended 2,000 calories a day for a woman.
But don't despair, pizza-lovers! There are plenty of ways to make your favourite junk food healthier.
"Unhealthy, fatty pizzas tend to be the shop-bought and takeaway varieties – not their potentially much healthier cousin, the home-made pizza,” explains Nigel Denby, head of nutrition at Grub4life.
"Home-made pizzas can be as healthy or unhealthy as you like. Cutting down on the saturated fats and processed meats – and adding lots of vegetables, or even fruit – will ensure it's full of goodness.
"With just a bit of creativity, you can have all the taste with much less of the unhealthy aspects."
Here are 14 healthy home-made pizza suggestions:
1. Instead of traditional refined white flour in the base, use wholewheat flour.
2. Use a wholewheat pitta bread to make a healthier individual pizza.
3. Using tinned tomatoes, olive oil, seasoning, basil, and garlic – which are full of antioxidants and calcium – make your own tomato sauce, brimming with the tomato's excellent antioxidant lycopene. Avoid shop-bought tomato sauce, as that can be packed with sugar.
4. Spread pesto on the crust. Made with basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, it adds some healthy vitamins and minerals, plus omega-3.
5. Substitute regular cheese for low-fat mozzarella to lower the pizza's saturated fat and cholesterol levels. Low-fat ricotta is another option.
6. Pile on the veggies to give extra fibre and nutrients – it should be easy to get two or three of your five-a-day on one pizza.
7. For an extra crunchy pizza, add broccoli for vitamin C, folate, and fibre. Asparagus, courgette, aubergines, and spinach work well, too.
8. We're always being told the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest, so copy the Med folk and pile on the olives. They're full of antioxidants – including vitamin E, minerals like selenium and zinc, and phytonutrients that can help fight inflammation and disease.
9. Try roasting some beetroot, which contains essential nutrients including fibre, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C. Add sundried tomatoes and goat’s cheese (which has less fat and more protein than many other cheeses) for a similarly healthy and unusual pizza.
10. Instead of processed meats like ham, pepperoni and salami – which have been linked to increased risk of diseases, including cancer, if eaten in excess – use grilled chicken, which is full of protein but contains less fat.
11. Believe it or not, fruit can make a great pizza topping, too. As well as the standard ham and pineapple, try throwing on some pears, grapes and apples, or grilled peaches and figs, which go well with goat’s cheese.
12. Try throwing on some pine nuts for extra goodness – they're packed with protein and plenty of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E and magnesium.
13. Adding pulses like black beans will give a great protein boost to your pizza.
14. Why not add an egg? Scrambled, poached, or boiled, eggs are full of goodness and make a tasty and underused addition to a pizza. As well as being low fat and containing plenty of protein, eggs contain almost every essential vitamin and mineral we need. So adding an egg has to add up to a healthy, guilt-free pizza!
Have you got any pizza tips or tricks? What’s your favourite topping? Tell us in the Comments below.