Here’s my pizza philosophy. If you’re going to eat pizza as a splurge, order it any way you like and enjoy it! But if you want to include pizza as a frequent part of a healthful diet, it pays to consider your options more carefully.
Frozen pizza is certainly one of the easiest, but I’ve reviewed a ton of brands, and I haven’t found any that I feel comfortable recommending. Frozen pizzas are often made with refined flour crusts (even when mixed with whole grain flour), conventional cheese (not grass-fed), and ingredients like soybean oil and corn oil, which are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. When you look at the box, you’re likely to spot ingredients you don’t recognize, like modified cellulose, mono and diglycerides, and carrageenan (which has also been linked to inflammation).
My advice for a really good-for-you pie is to start with a clean crust, and add your own high-quality toppings. My favorite crust option is Cali’flour Foods plant-based crust. Unlike other cauliflower crusts that combine the cruciferous vegetable with rice or corn flour, this brand’s ingredients are fresh cauliflower, almond flour, flax meal, olive oil, tapioca starch, garlic powder, dried basil, Himalayan pink salt, and nutritional yeast. The entire crust provides 18 grams of carb, with 9 grams from fiber. (Compare that to 74 grams of carb, with 6 from fiber, in another popular cauliflower crust brand.)
RELATED: How to Make Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Now for the toppings …
For a healthy balance, I recommend choosing a good fat, a lean protein, lots of veggies, and whenever it makes sense, a generous amount of natural seasonings. Here are four DIY combos I love:
Chicken & Vegetable Pizza
Rub or brush the crust with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with minced garlic, Italian herb seasoning, and fresh basil. Top with chopped pre-cooked organic chicken breast, oven roasted veggies, like tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, and a light coating of shredded grass-fed organic cheese.
Top crust with dairy-free sauce and dollops of nut cheese, like vegan ricotta made from almonds. Then add a generous layer of your favorite veggies, like spinach, artichokes, mushrooms, and onions, along with white beans and fresh oregano.
Spread crust with pesto, top with finely chopped kale and other veggies of your choice, and finish with two sunny side up eggs and a parsley garnish.
Sprinkle on black beans or a spread of vegetarian refried beans. Keep it veggie or add browned extra-lean organic ground turkey. Top with bell peppers and chopped spinach. After baking add a layer of pico de gallo, and either chopped avocado or dollops of guacamole, along with fresh cilantro.
RELATED: 15 Easy Pizza Recipes Under 400 Calories
Change up the combinations mix-and-match style. For example, instead of chicken use smoked salmon. In place of pesto try olive tapenade. Switch up your veggies, and experiment with fresh or dried herbs, and various nut-based or grass-fed cheeses. If you prefer raw veggies, make pizzalad by topping your cooked pizza with fresh, crisp greens, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The possibilities are endless, and by making your own you can avoid unwanted additives and craft nutrient-rich, balanced masterpieces, or if you will masterpizzas!
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.