Locations:
Search IconSearch

Tips To Make Your Pizza Heart-Healthy

For starters, try whole-grain crust, load up on colorful veggies and avoid high-sodium meats

Two vegetarian pizza with a variety of healthy toppings on a granite table seen from above.

Sometimes, nothing hits the spot quite like a pizza. And we’re with you. When it comes to an easy, tasty, affordable and versatile meal, pizza gets high marks.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But if the pie you love most is topped with cheese an inch thick and covered crust-to-crust with pepperoni and sausage, you might think about ways to sneak some better nutrition into your favorite deep dish.

They say the devil’s in the details. Pile a high-carb crust with high-sodium toppings, and you’re not doing your heart any favors. Choose whole-grains, healthy fats and vitamin-rich toppings, and now we’re talking.

Preventive cardiology dietitians Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, and Fawziah Saleh, RDN, LD, share five helpful strategies for making tasty heart-healthy pizza at home, along with their tips for ordering better-for-you takeout.

“Pizza is a staple in a lot of households,” Zumpano notes. “It can get a bad reputation as an ‘unhealthy’ food, but the great thing is that pizza can be modified easily to be better for your heart and still very satisfying.”

1. Start with a healthy crust

Give your pizza a whole-grain foundation to up your intake of healthy fiber. Keep carbs low by choosing (or making) a thin crust. Read the ingredients on store-bought crusts, and avoid any with hydrogenated oils.

Try these healthy crust options:

  • Thin whole-grain crust.
  • Spelt flour crust.
  • Whole-wheat pita.
  • Whole-grain tortilla.
  • Cauliflower crust.

2. Be smart about sauce

Heart-healthy sauces can be a good source of monounsaturated fats and vitamins. Avoid cream-based sauces like Alfredo or white sauce, and opt out of barbecue sauce, which is high in added sugar and sodium.

Advertisement

Tomato sauce

If you’re a traditionalist, opt for a fresh tomato sauce or choose a no-salt-added canned tomato sauce. These choices are high in fiber, vitamins C and K, potassium and manganese.

Olive oil

A light layer of olive oil is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Adding some crushed garlic can bring the flavor up a notch and give you a boost with its antioxidant-like properties that help keep your blood vessels flexible to manage blood pressure and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Pesto

Green up your pizza with pesto, which is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, too. Pesto is a blend of basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, pepper and olive oil. Try it and you may find yourself saying that pesto is the besto!

Sofrito sauce

Mix up the heart-healthy ingredients for a yummy sofrito sauce. Lightly sauté onions and garlic in olive oil and add fresh chopped tomatoes or pesto.

3. Get cheesy (in moderation)

All cheese contains saturated fat and sodium, so tread lightly. Whenever possible, select natural cheeses (such as feta, fresh mozzarella or ricotta) or cheeses low in fat and sodium.

Try these cheeses to amp up the calcium and vitamin D:

  • Low-fat shredded cheese.
  • Thin slices of part-skim mozzarella.
  • Fresh mozzarella.

Alternatively, consider trying cheese-less pizza. You could try dairy-free cheese, or no cheese at all, and top it with nutritional yeast.

4. Pile on the veggies

This is where it gets really fun! Veggies and fruits will contribute more nutrients than any other ingredients for your pizza, and they’ll liven up the flavors and add some color to your pie.

Some favorites:

  • Bell peppers (chock full of vitamins C, B1, B2, B6 and folate).
  • Onions (good for fiber and vitamin C).
  • Mushrooms (adds B vitamins and vitamin D).
  • Tomatoes (get a dose of fiber, vitamins A, C and K, potassium and manganese).
  • Olives (for vitamin E and a helping of healthy fat).
  • Leafy greens like spinach, arugula or kale (boost your intake of vitamins A, K and C, potassium, fiber and calcium).
  • Pineapple (perhaps one of the more controversial toppings out there, and not for pizza purists, but a good source of vitamin C and manganese for those who are up for adding a sweet note to their pizza).

5. Pick lean proteins

Of course, a veggie-packed pizza can fill up your belly with vitamin-rich foods. But if you’re looking for some protein, choose wisely. Processed meats like pepperoni, sausage and ham are high in sodium, saturated fats and nitrates.

“The No. 1 best way to boost the nutritional value of your pizza is by cutting out processed meats, which are high in calories and unhealthy fats,” Zumpano says.

Try these proteins instead:

  • Chicken.
  • Turkey breast.
  • Shrimp.
  • Tofu.

Advertisement

Tips for healthy take-out pizza

If delivery is on the menu tonight, Zumpano and Saleh suggest these tips to boost the nutritional value of your take-out pizza:

  • Order thin crust or whole-grain crust.
  • Go heavy on the veggies.
  • Ask for light cheese. A good rule of thumb is to ask for half the normal amount.
  • Consider vegan pizza (no cheese, no meat) and a side of nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top, if you’d like.

“Most pizza shops offer a variety of choices for crusts and toppings that can help keep your pizza healthy and still delicious,” Saleh says. “Don’t be afraid to ask!”

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Plate with beef, eggs, avocado, leafy greens and apricots, with multi-grain bread, walnuts, sweet potato and yogurt
July 11, 2024/Women's Health
What To Eat and Foods To Avoid While Breastfeeding

A well-balanced diet of whole grains, salmon, leafy greens and more can help maintain energy and increase milk supply

Sliced grilled chicken over salad
How To Follow a Healthy MS Diet

A variety of healthy foods can help reduce inflammation and keep other conditions at bay

Person standing in front of oversized nutrition label, reading it
June 19, 2024/Nutrition
What Can You Learn From a Nutrition Label?

Information on serving size, calories and nutrients can help you make healthy choices

Smiling pregnant person speaking with healthcare provider in medical office
June 14, 2024/Heart Health
Why Your Heart Needs Special Attention When You’re Pregnant

Obesity, age and preexisting heart conditions can all raise your risk of cardiovascular disease during pregnancy

Bowl of artificial sweetener with a spoonful
June 7, 2024/Heart Health
Eating Foods With Xylitol Can Be a Risk to Your Heart

Xylitol in processed food can increase risk of heart attack and stroke — but there’s no danger in xylitol in oral care products

Person contemplating healthy food choices with protein
June 7, 2024/Nutrition
How Much Protein Do You Need? And How To Get It

The general rule is 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight — but that may not be right for you

Wooden spoon with pink Himalayan salt over glass of water, with container of pink Himalayan salt
June 6, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Sole Water? And Why Are People Drinking It?

Adding salt to your water isn’t going to have measurable benefits — but there may be plenty of downsides

Person standing in kitchen holding glass of water in one hand and medication in the other
May 31, 2024/Heart Health
How To Get Rid of Chest Pain at Home

If your provider has ruled out a serious cause, you can treat chest pain at home with antacids, inhalers or anti-inflammatory medications

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad