Is Pizza Bad for You?

Hmmm. . . “is pizza bad for you?” is a good question. This one’s tough to answer since I don’t subscribe to the notion that there are any “good” or “bad” foods. Food is just food. It doesn’t have inherent good or evil properties. I guess part of the confusion about pizza lies in the fact that food is often tampered with. That is, the ingredients in pizza are generally highly processed. Typically, bleached wheat flour is used in the crust. Gobs and gobs of pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is put on top of tomato sauce loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Then, if that wasn’t enough, we add anywhere from one to 9 more toppings ranging the gamut from sausage and pepperoni to mushrooms and artichoke hearts.

I told you before, I don’t have it out for pizza. The pizza I just described is gooey and delicious. The main challenge with making pizza that I  width=wholeheartedly approve to eat on occasion lies entirely in the ingredients. Let’s start with the crust. Many people are gluten intolerant, have Celiac Disease, or wheat allergy and could therefore benefit enormously from swapping out the wheat crust for a gluten free crust like Chebe Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix. If that does not describe you, trading the highly processed, bleached wheat flour out for whole wheat flour would be a great start to upping the pizza’s nutritional value.

Next, upgrade the sauce with a tomato based sauce that does not have high fructose corn syrup or sugar in it. Read the ingredients or make it yourself. I’m a big fan of using basil pesto on pizza. It turns out to be delicious and adds some green leafy herbs to your pizza without the sugar often found in tomato sauce. For the cheese, you have a ton of options. If you’re okay with cow’s milk, use some cheese but use it sparingly. Many of us are lactose intolerant and can’t digest cow’s milk cheese very well. If this is you, give goat’s milk cheese a try. It is often much easier on your digestive system and tolerable even by many who are lactose intolerant. You can also forgo the cheese and load up on toppings instead.

For toppings, go for lots of fresh vegetables or high quality produce. Peppers, spinach, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and lots of other fresh vegetables make for great toppings and give your pizza a big nutrient boost.

Next time you’re craving pizza, give it an upgrade! Check out my recipe for gluten free pizza here: Mediterranean Gluten Free Pizza Recipe


Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

2 thoughts on “Is Pizza Bad for You?”

  1. They can be made with ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and mozzarella di bufala Campana, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state (this mozzarella is protected with its own European protected designation of origin).

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