The latest research warns we may be eating too much pizza, but the food can actually be a healthy meal option

By Sara Angle
Updated: September 21, 2017
Corbis Images

Researchers are zeroing in on what they say could be a major contributor to childhood obesity: pizza. A study in the journal Pediatrics reports that the lunchroom staple makes up around 22 percent of kids' daily calories on days when they eat pizza, and another study previously cited that 22 percent of kids between the ages of six and 19 have at least one slice of pizza on any given day. (Even this Government Study Confirms We Love Pizza.) Scientists are comparing pizza consumption to soda, which numerous studies have found can play a role in obesity (it's actually one of the Worst Drinks for Your Body). But should we really be starting a war on pizza?

Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet and Shape Advisory Board member says no. "I'm actually a fan of pizza," says Gans. (Um, who isn't?) "One slice of pizza is only around 300 calories, which is totally fine for somebody on the go grabbing a quick lunch. The cheese provides calcium, the tomato sauce has lycopene and vitamin C, and you have the opportunity to throw on vegetables. Load it up with broccoli, spinach and mushrooms, and you'll get a lot of nutrients." (Try this Snap Pea and Radicchio Basil Pizza)

A slice of pizza with a side salad can be an easy meal, but people run into trouble when they have more than one slice, Gans explains. Getting a slice with extra cheese, pepperoni, or sausage can also cause an otherwise healthy slice of pizza to go downhill.

If you're making pizza at home, you have even more of an opportunity to create a healthier pie (but remember to stick to one slice!). Choose whole wheat crust, or use high fiber sandwich thins or tortillas to make individual, portion-controlled pizzas. Gans recommends low-fat mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, feta, or cottage cheese in addition to tomato sauce and as many veggies as you can pack on. Don't forget the side salad! (Need pizza inspiration? We love these 13 Never-Fail Flavor Combinations.)

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