74 Smart Ways to Make Pizza More Healthy
And don’t stop before you get to the bottom: We’re hiding five super-special Greatist favorite pizza recipes down there. But first, some pizza-prepping tips:
- Keep the oven HOT. Like, at least 450 degrees, hot — 500 is even better. That way you get the crispy crust without the soggy middle.
- Don’t overload on the toppings. That’s a thin little base you got there — treat it well. Add only a thin layer of each goodie and keep heavy items to a minimum.
- Bake or toast the crust before adding the good stuff. Nothing’s worse than a soggy middle! Make sure it can support the toppings before loading them on.
- Be careful with moist toppings and cheeses. If the tomatoes are juicy when they get layered on, they’ll transfer that moisture to the crust. Keep these toppings to a minimum, and try to remove any excess liquid.
- Try cooking it on the grill! This method adds a great smoky flavor and delicious grill marks.
- Buy premade crust (if you want!). No need to go gourmet chef on us. In fact, many small pizza parlors will sell their handmade dough fresh for you to bake at home. Give it a try.
It All Starts with Crust
- Whole-wheat flour. Forgo the traditional white-flour crust and make your own whole-wheat dough for some extra protein and fiber and a yummy, nutty flavor.
- Thin sandwich bread. Take your favorite deli flat and swap the cold-cults for your sauce and toppings of choice. (Just give the bread a little toast before topping to avoid any sogginess.)
- Tortillas. Rice and beans aren’t the only ingredients that can top a tortilla. Make your own whole-wheat tortilla for a perfect thin-crust alternative.
- Pita bread. Pita pockets are the perfect size for a personal pizza, and the whole-wheat variety adds an extra nutritional kick.
- English muffins. With all the nooks and crannies, an English muffin pizza crust can do no wrong. They toast up perfectly in the oven and are great for making mini-pizzas for a light lunch. (Or as a late night snack!)
- Matzo. Think of this as the ultimate thin-crust pizza. Super simple, super crispy, and super delicious.
- Cauliflower. For a lighter option, forgo the extra carbs and turn cauliflower into a healthful, delicious pizza crust. Talk about sneaking in some veggies!
- Zucchini. Similar to cauliflower, zucchini is easy to make into a lean, green, pizza crust machine.
- Summer squash. Enjoy yellow more than green? Than swap out zucchini for summer squash for another veggie-filled crust.
- Portobello. These shrooms are a perfect bed for any pizza sauce and toppings, no carbs required.
- Quinoa. This super-seed isn’t only great on top of salads or in soups. Cook up your own quinoa crust for a nutty, protein-packed alternative to classic pizza dough.
- Leftover rice. Yep, another use for that leftover rice from dinner last night. Add just a little flax seed meal and Italian seasoning, and you’ve got an easy, inventive crust.
And Then There's the Sauce
Photo by Caitlin Covington
- Tomato. Clearly, the classic. Make your own pizza sauce to avoid store-bought versions that can be packed with sugar. We guarantee it’ll taste loads better, too!
- Sliced tomatoes. Go minimalist and slice up some tomatoes as your pizza sauce. Less fuss and just as much flavor.
- Garlic coconut cream. For a healthified white pizza, try this roasted garlic coconut sauce — simply garlic cloves, coconut milk, and a pinch of salt. This adds a touch of sweetness to a classically savory dish.
- Salsa. Kick the tomato base up a notch and use salsa as the spread! This’ll add a spicy kick to the pizza pie, and is a great start to the perfect Mexican pizza.
- Pesto. Go green with a basil pesto sauce on top of the crust. Made with nuts and fresh basil, this sneaky sauce adds some healthy greens and omega-3’s to bump up nutritional value.
- Pumpkin. They’re not just for carving! Pumpkin puree is a creative addition to traditional pizza sauce to add some sweetness and fun fall flavor.
- Garlic paste. Going super simple? Make your own garlic paste (with only some quick chopping!) and spread evenly over the crust. Warning: Garlic breath will follow (but it’s so worth it).
- Mushroom tapenade. Think outside the box! Try whipping up a mushroom tapenade as the base to a perfect rich, savory pizza. A nice thin layer will leave plenty of room for other toppings and cheese.
- Olive tapenade. Not a huge fan of mushrooms? Go classic with an olive tapenade for a similar, salty spread on any pizza crust. (This works especially well with Mediterranean-inspired toppings like fresh tomato, feta, and oregano.)
- Hummus. For a Middle-Eastern flare on this favorite Italian dish, swap the sauce for creamy hummus. The chickpeas will add extra fiber and protein and satisfy any taste bud. Try topping this creative sauce with freshly shredded veggies!
- Carrot puree. Stay with us here: Pureed carrots create a sweet sauce-like spread that’s sure to impress anyone digging in.
- Refried bean dip. Transform a can of beans into a tasty spread for any pizza crust. Go with traditional re-friend beans or mash up plain old black beans — the possibilities are endless. This is another great base for Mexican pizza.
- Onion and garlic jam. This recipe caught our eye and we couldn’t resist. This unique, sweet and savory jam could be the pizza “sauce” you’ve always been looking for! Plus, it’s clearly super chic. We suggest topping with a few dollops of goat cheese and some fresh arugula.
- White bean spread. Take this spin on traditional hummus for something super smooth and packed with antioxidants. Add some sliced tomatoes and Parmesan cheese for the perfect late-night snack.
- BBQ sauce. To create your own barbeque-based pizza without the extra sugar, start with a homemade sauce. It’ll add a spicy tang any pizza lover will enjoy.
- Peanut sauce. To really switch things up, whip up a healthy peanut sauce. Try topping with some grilled chicken, cilantro, and bean sprouts for an Asian-inspired pizza dish.
- Ricotta cheese with honey and cinnamon. This one goes great on sweet or savory pizza. Simply spread over the crust and top with whatever you like.
- Dark chocolate spread (or Nutella). Okay, this one’s purely for a decadent dessert pizza. But even healthy eaters need some sweets once in a while!
Don't Forget the Toppings!
- Chicken Sausage. Swap classic pork sausage for something a bit leaner (but still full of flavor). Many brands come pre-cooked so you can just slice and stick ‘em on top before sliding into that burning hot oven.
- Tofu. Not only for stir-fries and salads, tofu can top any pizza for some added protein. Try this Thai tofu pizza guaranteed to please any pizza party guest!
- Grilled Chicken. For a ton of protein without the fat, grilled chicken is the way to go. Pair with BBQ sauce for a healthy barbeque chicken pizza.
- Beans. Sorry, rice — beans are headed to the pizza dough without you! Throw black beans on a variety of pizzas (like this BBQ black bean option) for extra protein, fiber, and flavor.
- Eggs. Scramble them, poach them, or cook ‘em over-easy. Whatever you decide, an egg on a pizza is never a bad idea.
- Lox. Take it off the bagel and put it on the pizza! This is a great brunch idea that goes well with eggs and herbs.
- Nuts. Feelin’ fancy? Sprinkle walnuts (or any nut!) for some extra crunch.
- Turkey pepperoni. Choose turkey pepperoni for a leaner option that still tastes great. (Just look out for preservative and sodium-packed brands.)
- Chard. This leafy green is an awesome source of calcium and potassium, and goes great between some crust and cheese. Try this Swiss chard pizza with pesto and dough of your choice! (Our choice is whole wheat.)
- Kale. This super salad green doesn’t only go with a side of vinaigrette. Throw it on any pizza for an extra dose of calcium and antioxidants. Our favorite? This kale and sweet potato pizza.
- Arugula. Sprinkle a ready-to-eat pizza with this salad green for a slice of pizza and salad all in one bite. (And hey, it may help you have better sex too?!)
- Spinach. Spinach on top of pizza? Popeye would be proud. This bakes perfectly in the oven and goes great with feta cheese.
- Broccoli. Vitamin C, folate, and fiber are just a few of the broccoli’s benefits. So top your pie with this cruciferous veggie for crunch, flavor, and health!
- Asparagus. Do not fear the spear — asparagus is a great green topping filled with vitamin K, folate, and antioxidants. (Yup, pizza just got real healthy.)
- Zucchini. If zucchini crust isn’t your thing, maybe some roasted zucchini on top will do. Shred and sprinkle all over the crust before baking to perfection.
- Butternut squash. For a touch of sweetness with dinner, add some butternut squash to the topping list. It’ll guarantee to fill you up the right way (hello fiber!).
- Eggplant. Swap the eggplant parm for sliced eggplant on a pizza. Add some low-fat mozzarella cheese and sliced tomatoes and you’re good to go.
- Onions. Whether caramelized, baked, or sautéed, onions add a sweet and savory bite to any pizza slice.
- Sun-dried tomatoes. For something with a little more bite, try sun-dried tomatoes. Use the jarred versions (which are packed with oil) in moderation, or make your own instead.
- Olives. For a Mediterranean-style pizza, just add olives! (Or go all-out and add eggplant, spinach, tomato, and feta too.)
- Capers. To guarantee a salty bite every time, toss some capers on top. (Pssst: This goes great with smoked-salmon.)
- Mushrooms. Looks like this veggie can be used for the perfect crust, sauce, or topping. We recommend using a variety of shrooms for a different (and tasty!) bite each time.
- Artichokes. These pointy prickly guys are the perfect topping to any pizza — whether you use the fresh or canned versions. Pair it with spinach and a healthified crust options, and you have yourself a meal.
- Beets. That slice just got healthier. Roast some sweet beets for a unique dinner dish. This veggie goes great with a little goat cheese and arugula.
- Peppers. This popular pizza topping can get even more exciting! Color up your slice and use the green, red, yellow, and orange varieties for a pizza that’s all shades of the rainbow.
- Sweet potatoes. No meat is needed when there’s roasted sweet potatoes on the pie. If this doesn’t become the next comfort food, we don’t know what will.
- Polenta. Polenta on pizza? Why not? Grill up some thick slices of polenta (made from ground cornmeal) and throw it on the dough. It goes great with a hearty tomato sauce!
- Grilled peaches. This naturally sweet treat doesn’t have to be eaten alone. Grilled peaches make a great pizza topping, especially when paired with caramelized onions and fresh basil. Or, throw on a crust with a sweeter sauce for a fruit-filled dessert pizza.
- Figs. They’re not only for Newtons. Take fresh figs with a handful of arugula and a thin layer of ricotta cheese for a pie that’s as classy as it is delicious.
- Pears. Thinly sliced pears take any pizza pie to the next level. Top with goat or gorgonzola cheese and crushed pistachios, and get ready to sign yourself up for the next Iron Chef battle.
- Apples. This is a different kind of apple pie. Slice up apples for an added crunch and sweetness. Pair with arugula and goat cheese for a real savory crowd pleaser, or layer on top of a chocolate sauced pizza for an inventive dessert.
- Pineapple. Now we can head to the Caribbean in the kitchen! Pineapples are a fun addition to any pizza, and go great with grilled chicken and BBQ sauce. We dare you to not go back for seconds (or thirds…).
- Avocado. Our favorite superfood had to make an appearance, and for good reason! Avocado is a key ingredient to yummy breakfast pizza (and the perfect start to any morning).
- Blueberries. Stay with us: This tiny, antioxidant-filled berry goes perfectly on a pizza! With a little ricotta cheese and fresh herbs, this is a light and delicious dish for anytime of the day. Or go dessert mode with a chocolate or sweetened ricotta base and some other berry friends, too!
- Strawberries. No surprise here. Strawberries can add a touch of sweetness to a basil, balsamic, arugula, and mozzarella pizza for dinner, or pair perfectly with blueberries for a dessert pizza, too!
- Grapes. A sprinkling of grapes throughout a pie can promise a sweet and juicy mouthful. No fast food joint can top that! (Try pairing with gorgonzola for a seriously chic wine and cheese-themed pizza!)
- Fresh mozzarella. Skip the gobs of shredded stuff and add some fresh mozzarella instead. One ounce (about the size of 4 dice, or about 1 thick slice) clocks in only 70 calories, so tear it up go top off your perfect pie.
- Goat. This tangy cheese comes from goats’ milk (surprise!) and has less fat and more protein than other cheeses. Sounds like a winner to us.
- Cottage. For something a little more unique, cottage cheese is a great (low-fat) option for all the cheese-lovers among us.
- Gorganzola. Though rich cheeses like gorganzola and other blues are made from full-fat dairy, their pungent flavors allow you to use way less and get the same flavor and texture. Plus, they’re perfect to pair with fruit toppings.
- Ricotta. This cheese works as both a sauce and cheese topping. It’s creamy, low in fat, and damn delicious.
- Parmesan. Shredded parm is another healthier cheese option, since a little bit can go a long way. Sprinkle some on top of a cooked pie for the perfect ending to your creation!
- Feta. Choose the low-fat version and you’ll get a bold, tangy taste. Feta goes especially well on Greek pizza.
- Tofu. If cheese isn’t your cup of tea, try this tofu “cheese” recipe for all the bold flavors of cheese with none of the dairy!
Not feeling super creative? Try one of these five Greatist-approved favorite combos today:
BAG Pizza: That’s beet, arugula, and goat cheese, my friends. Start with a whole-wheat crust, spread on a thin layer of goat cheese (yes, as the sauce, not the topping!). Layer on some roasted beets and drizzle with oil. Bake until crispy, and top with a handful of fresh arugula before serving. Drizzle with some high-quality balsamic vinegar for extra umph.
Fall Harvest Pie: Take a tortilla and toast until slightly crisp. Remove from oven and top with pumpkin puree, chicken sausage, sweet potato, and kale. Say hello to all of fall’s best!
Green Goddess: Start with a zucchini crust. Add pesto. Top with anything and everything green: broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and artichokes… and anything else you can imagine. Dollop with some pieces of fresh mozzarella, and bake until crisp.
Fruit Salad Pie: On a whole-wheat crust, spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese. Bake until the cheese starts to brown. Top with sliced figs, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. Add a drizzle of honey for some extra sweetness.
Twisted Sausage and Pepper: On a whole-wheat pita, spread a few tablespoons of fresh tomato sauce. Top with sautéed onions, multi-colored peppers, and sliced chicken sausage. Top that with some mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.
Have a go-to pizza combo? Crazy toppings we didn’t think of? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet the author @lschwech.
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