Is pizza fattening?

I am willing to bet that there are very few people on this planet that do not like pizza. I mean what’s not to like? The aroma and that warm chewy cheesy texture when you take your first bite is what does it for me!

Pizza is enjoyed worldwide thanks to its versatility – there are so many different versions such as Neapolitan, deep dish, gourmet and New York style. And because of this, from a nutrition standpoint not all pizzas are the same. So the question is, is pizza healthy and can you eat it whilst on a diet?

A quick explanation of calories in vs calories out…

A calorie is a unit of energy and all foods that you eat contain calories. However different foods contain different amounts of calories. For example mushrooms, pineapples and olives, all of which are common pizza toppings contain 34, 50 and 115 calories respectively, per 100 g serving. In general nuts & seeds (which contain a lot of fat) tend to have the most calories whilst fruits and vegetables (which contain a lot of water) have the lowest.

When you are trying to lose or maintain weight, you need to keep an eye on calorie consumption. In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you use up (e.g. via exercise). Doing so will cause your body to use its fat stores as a source of energy, to make up for the calorie deficit. If you want to maintain your current weight, you need to eat the same amount of calories as you use up. And to gain weight you need to eat more calories than you are using.

You can use the calorie calculator on this page to estimate the number of calories you should be eating. For example, a 40 year old lady who weighs 80 kg, is 155 cm tall and exercises 1 – 3 days a week would need to consume approximately 1936 calories to maintain her weight, 1549 calories to start losing weight and 1162 calories to lose weight fast.

So how many calories are there in a slice of pizza?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, not all pizza is created the same. There are so many different varieties all with different toppings that the number of calories varies greatly.

However on average, a 1 slice serving (103 g) of a 14 inch pizza with a regular crust and cheese topping contains approximately 272 calories. It also contains 12 g of protein, 10 g of fat (4 g saturated) and 34 g carbohydrate (4 g sugar).

A whole 14 inch pizza on the other hand contains a whopping 2389 calories! So this means that if the lady in the example above were to eat a whole pizza for lunch 2 or 3 times a week, she would most likely exceed the number of calories she needs to maintain her current weight. She would therefore put on weight, most of which would be stored in the form of fat.

So does this mean she can’t enjoy pizza at all? Absolutely not! The key here, as with most things in life, is moderation. So long as she doesn’t overindulge and monitors her calorie consumption, she could perhaps enjoy 1 or 2 slices of pizza on a special day of the week.

How to make pizza healthier

Pizza doesn’t have to be a super fatty & calorie dense food, there are a number of different ways to make it much healthier.

  • Choose your toppings wisely – the first thing you want to do is load up on vegetables and get rid of toppings such as pepperoni. 100 g of pepperoni has 494 calories, compared to just 17 calories in 100 g of zucchini. That’s a huge difference! Additionally, a recent study showed that the consumption of processed meat causes cancer. If you enjoy meat on your pizza use grilled chicken or seafood such as shrimp instead.
  • Use whole-wheat flour for the crust – instead of using traditional white flour (364 calories / 100 g), opt for whole wheat flour instead (340 calories / 100 g). The difference in calories is not huge but whole wheat flour contains 4 times as much dietary fiber and slightly more protein than white flour. Both dietary fiber and protein help to fill you up faster which will lower your chances of overindulging. Whole wheat flour is also much richer in nutrients such as iron and magnesium.
  • Make a thin crust pizza – I personally prefer thin crust pizzas over thick crusts by default, I enjoy the crisp texture. Since flour is quite calorie dense, you should aim to minimise the amount that you use and the easiest way to do this is to make a thin crust. Additionally, make the dough and pizza base at home rather than buying it. This way you get full control of the ingredients used.
  • Make your own tomato sauce – a classic pizza tomato sauce is super easy to make. Store bought varieties tend to have a lot of added sugar and salt, making them less healthier options. So make your own at home with fresh tomatoes instead, they are super healthy and are a great source of lycopene, vitamin C and vitamin A.
  • Use less cheese – cheese is a great source of protein and calcium but it is also high in fat and that means it is high in calories. Mozzarella is one of the best options as it is both tasty and relatively low in fat. If cheese is not a deal breaker, you might even want to leave it out completely.
  • Be wary of side dips – a lot of people tend to dunk their pizza in dips, however doing so can quickly increase the number of calories whilst providing little nutritional value. If you must enjoy a dip that is not homemade, do so sparingly.

Conclusion

Pizza, if eaten in moderation can be perfectly healthy. However when eaten in abundance, it will most likely cause you to gain weight in the long run.

The best option would be to make your own pizza at home. Not only is it a fun activity, it also gives you full control over what goes in your belly!

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