Did you know October is National Pizza Month? As a registered dietitian on a college campus and a mommy to two toddlers, pizza is no stranger to me. My clients often look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that pizza is one of the most nutritious and complete meal options they can choose. When we break pizza down to its fundamentals, pizza provides an opportunity to get grains, dairy, vegetables, and meat/protein in every bite.
In my family, we love all things cheese! We keep bags of shredded mozzarella and cheddar on hand, as well as containers of ricotta and cottage cheese to add to dishes. When we make a pizza on the fly with leftovers in the fridge, I don’t worry when we don’t have a meat option because our cheese toppings provide a fantastic source of protein in addition to just making the pizza more delicious. Thankfully, my oldest son loves all the veggies, so we load up on as many as we can!
If you’re feeling inspired to make your own pizza creation, try my top tips for building a flavorful and nutrient-packed slice of deliciousness:
Think outside the box when it comes to the crust. French bread, tortillas, naan, and English muffins are all great options if you don’t have a traditional pizza crust on hand or time to make one from scratch. Aim for whole grains, when possible, for the benefit of added fiber to make your pizza even more filling.
Cheese it up. Some of the best pizzas I’ve ever had included more than one type of cheese. In addition to mozzarella, cheeses like provolone and even cheddar melt nicely. For even more decadence and added protein, creamier cheeses such as ricotta can quickly jazz up your normal pizza night.
Load up on produce. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what fruit or vegetable can be on pizza. Whether it’s pineapple, peaches, broccoli, or something more traditional like mushrooms, fruits and vegetables can easily up the nutrient content of your pizza as well as add new and exciting flavors.
Get saucy. No tomato sauce? No problem! Alfredo sauce, olive oil, and garlic, barbecue sauce, or even a taco sauce can add a new dimension to your pizza and inspire you to make a unique pizza at home worthy of being served to the masses.
Whether you go the traditional route with your pizza or invent a new dish with a unique twist, pizza provides nutrients beneficial to the entire family. For more inspiration, try my favorite recipe, Three-Cheese Tomato Basil Pizza.
Celebrated by Unilever USA as one of its Agents of Change in the nutrition industry, Sheena Quizon Gregg, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and Assistant Director of the Department of Health Promotion & Wellness at The University of Alabama. In addition to her work at UA, she manages a part-time private practice focused on helping her clients gain intuitive eating skills. She has served as president of the Alabama Dietetic Association spokesperson for the statewide Scale Back Alabama program. She has been quoted in USA Today College, Shape Magazine, and Women’s Health Magazine on the topics of fad diets, weight management, sports nutrition, and eating disorders. She currently serves on the expert panel for BestFoodFacts.org.