Healthy Recipe Makeover: Pizza

Pizza is a lot of fun, but we all know it's a food to avoid if you're looking to shape up, drop some pounds and improve your cardiovascular health.

Ordering pizza from the local Italian restaurant is always tempting. But now you're dealing with really a huge amount of cheese and a big serving of white flour in the dough. Plus, there's just something about having that huge box with the big pizza pie in it that makes it really hard to stop at just one slice. None of this is good for weight loss minded eaters.

Let's see if we can healthy up a pizza night with a homemade version.

First, revisit the crust. You have a few healthy options for this. One, you can make a whole wheat pizza crust from scratch using a few simple ingredients. It's even a fun project to do with your kids: kneading the dough and waiting it for it to rise, then punching it down and even tossing it in the air a few times.

Another option if you don't want to make dough from scratch is to pick up a frozen whole wheat dough from the grocery store. These pizza doughs come ready to make, so all you have to do is roll it out and press it into press it onto a big metal sheet.

Finally, if you're going lower in carbs, you have many options in the way of cauliflower crust pizzas from the frozen section of your grocery store. Or could make this delicious looking cauliflower pizza crust by clicking here. They're quite delicious and can help you stay on track with carbohydrate reduction so you can continue on your path to weight loss and good health.

If you normally salivate for a meat lovers pizza pie, just know that sausage and pepperoni and ham are not ideal if you're looking to do pizza but keep it healthy. Some options for not going meatless with your pizza are to find a high-quality brand of sausage. Artisan could be a better option or sausage that comes from farm-raised animals.

Try draining the fat from the sausage with paper towels.

Crumble a little bit over the top of your pizza pie but reduce the serving size. Instead, add fresh veggie toppings to balance out the saturated fats in the meat.

What kind of veggies can you enjoy on your pizza? If you're trying to lose weight, the good news is there's really no limit to how much vegetables you can eat. You have many options for topping your pizza pie including fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted veggies like zucchini and eggplant and peppers, diced mushrooms, onions, peppers, black olives. The possibilities abound and you really don't have to worry about your diet when it comes to the veggie portion of your meal.

Choose the sugar-free sauce.

If you're doing a jarred sauce for your homemade pizza pie, choose a brand that does not contain added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Somewhere along the way someone decided that sweet stuff should be added to jarred tomato sauces. You'll find these sugary offenders in common brands that live on your grocery store shelves.

Despite this, tomato sauce is quite delicious without any sugar at all. So, if you can find a better-quality brand that contains simple ingredients like tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, and spices, you can stick to your healthy eating plan and not ingest extra sugar unnecessarily.

What about the cheese?

Did you know that in Italy, pizza doesn't always come with cheese on it, never mind copious amounts? Minimizing your cheese serving is the way to go if you're looking to enjoy pizza night but keep it healthy and on the weight loss plan.

We mentioned this before, but mozzarella can be difficult to digest. This is due to the lactose. Between the yeast in the dough and the lactose in the pizza cheese, you are likely to experience some belly distension after eating pizza. The good news about this: it could actually be a fake out in terms of thinking that you gain 10 lb. overnight after eating a slice or two.

To avoid this, take a Lactaid supplement which will help you digest the milk sugar that's present in mozzarella. Another option is to top your pizza with provolone which is really just aged mozzarella. Aged cheeses have less or no lactose which is simply milk sugar.

Reduced fat mozzarella, also known as partial skim, can be a healthier alternative to whole milk mozzarella when it comes to Italian American favorites like pizza.

Wanting to get your veggie on? Opt for a white veggie pizza instead of the traditional red sauce pie. For this, you'll need some reduced fat ricotta and half skim mozzarella. Sauté either fresh broccoli, fresh spinach, or a combo of the two, with minced garlic and olive oil. Roll out your whole grain pizza dough and spread with a thin layer of the ricotta followed by the sauteed veggies. Sprinkle on more cheese, then bake at high heat.

If you're feeling especially adventurous, try the delicious Mini Sweet Potato Pesto Pizza below. And stay tuned for our next recipe makeover.

Healthy Recipe Makeover: Pizza
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Mini Sweet Potato Chicken Pesto Pizza

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword healthy pizza, sweet potatoes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 327kcal
Author Deborah Hanyon, MPH, RDN, ACE-CHC


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • cup 60g basil (green) pesto
  • ½ cup 55g mozzarella, grated
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 7 oz. 200g cooked chicken breast
  • salt & pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a large baking tray with baking paper or foil.
  • Slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise (¼ inch thick) and rub with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the sweet potato slices on the baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip and top each slice with pesto, chicken and mozzarella cheese.
  • Return the tray to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 327kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 379mg | Potassium: 520mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 16526IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 184mg | Iron: 1mg

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