Healthy Pizza 101

From store-bought to homemade, our guide to healthy, nutritious pizza
Kathy Kitchens Downie, RD

At the rate Americans eat pizza, you’d think it was an official Food Guide Pyramid category. The amount of pizza we consume in a day is best measured in acres—100, to be exact. (That’s about the size of 100 football fields.) Factor that against the ease with which pizza can turn into a nutritional nightmare, and a window into the obesity crisis opens. Two slices of a certain purveyor’s large Italian Sausage and Red Onion pizza tally up to 700 calories and 1,720 milligrams (mg) sodium. Our twist on the same pizza? A slim 420 calories and 715 mg sodium. And you can have our healthy version ready in the time it would take to have one of those weighed-down pies delivered to your door. See the recipe here.

Five Smart Topping Trade-offs

When making your own homemade pizza, choosing wisely on toppings can mean all the difference. We did the nutritional math to calculate simple switches that add up to big calorie, fat, and sodium savings. Have your pie and eat it, too, with our picks.

Tomato-based sauce
It has about half the sodium of a white sauce counterpart (made of eggs, cream, and sometimes cheese), plus going red helps you avoid 8 grams of saturated fat.

Bacon
It has all the savory, porky notes of pancetta (and a comparable amount of saturated fat) but contains half the sodium of the Italian version.

Spanish chorizo
For cured meat, super-seasoned chorizo bests pepperoni with 20 fewer calories and 80 fewer milligrams of sodium in similar serving sizes.

Kalamata olives
They deliver the same briny, salty notes of anchovies, but olives make a better choice because a comparable portion undercuts anchovies’ sodium level by half.

Chicken apple sausage
While it’s not surprising that poultry is a healthier choice than Italian pork sausage, it is shocking that the poultry version has half the calories, fat, and saturated fat, compared to the same portion of pork.

Our Dietitian’s Picks for Frozen Pizzas
Frozen pizzas put a quick dinner within even easier reach, but options that are both tasty and nutritious are very hard to come by. Our picks help you avoid freezer burn. Both pass muster for decent nutrition—sodium-, saturated fat-, and calorie-wise (and had no trans fats)—plus they satisfied a tasting panel of food editors and Test Kitchen chefs.

Made in Nature Organic Gourmet Three Cheese Pizza ($8)
The thick crust and melty cheeses made this one a winner.
1 serving: 330 calories, 5 grams saturated fat, and 490 milligrams sodium

Whole Foods 365 Chicken Caesar Pizza ($5)
We liked the crispy crust and Caesar flavor profile.
1 serving: 340 calories, 6 grams saturated fat, 580 milligrams sodium

View recipes:
Chicken Sausage, Sweet Onion, and Fennel Pizza
Pear and Prosciutto Pizza
Manchego and Chorizo Pizza