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January 11, 2019

Registered dietitians go to bat for the healthiness of pizza

Pizza lovers, rejoice!

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The all pizza, all the time diet is a phase that most people have undoubtedly gone through at some point in their lives — like, during your early teens or college — but most adults know that this food group is best left to a rare indulgence.

It's well-known that each slice of beloved pizza carries with it a high count in sodium, calories and saturated fat, thanks to the processed meats and cheeses that commonly top off pies. For example, "a large slice of Pizza Hut's Thin 'N Crispy Veggie Lovers pizza has 240 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat and 710 milligrams of sodium. But a large slice of the chain's Meat Lovers pan pizza with pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, pork and beef has 480 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat and 1,180 milligrams of sodium," CNN reports. 

The thing is, pizza is actually made up of the same components of a "healthy" meal — carbs, protein and fat. "It provides the same things for you: energy, flavor, and satisfaction,” says Cara Harbstreet, R.D., creator of Street Smart Nutrition, to Women's Health. "Plus, tomato sauce is rich in vitamins and antioxidants."

RELATED READ: Gasp! This registered dietician is telling patients *not* to eat kale salads — here’s why

Another registered dietician with some serious clout, Ginger Hultin, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Women's Health that pizza can be healthy. "Pizza can be a wonderful vehicle for veggies of many varieties," says Hultin.

A good way to ensure the health benefits of pizza is to make it at home. For the healthiest at-home pizza, choose a thinner crust, opt for a healthier red sauce or pesto, be mindful of the amount of cheese you're using and pile it high with veggies and lean protein. 

"Portion is one thing to consider, whether you’re eating a lighter pizza or enjoying a more decadent version," says Hultin. No matter if it's a healthy homemade pizza or a more decadent version while dining out, these health experts remind everyone to keep a serving to two slices.

There you have it, there's no need to avoid one of life's greatest pleasures (pizza) as long as you're mindful about it. For your at-home pizza adventures, keep Greatist's list of 74 delicious ways to make pizza healthier in mind. 

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