Build a ‘Better for You’ Pie this National Pizza Month

October has been named National Pizza Month. Brought to the United States in the early 1900s as a Neapolitan “flatbread” garnished with tomatoes, cheese, oil and garlic, pizza has transformed into a fast, fun food reflecting local flavors and topped with everything from smoked salmon to squash.

As pizza continues to increase in diversity it’s only become easier to create a flavorful pie that meets dietary needs and preferences. In addition to the variety of crusts, sauces and protein toppings (e.g., poultry, beef, etc.), restaurants also offer great variety in cheeses, veggies and fruit.

Top Restaurant Menu Incidences/Mentions of Pizza Ingredients

All of these choices mean more opportunity to customize a premium-tasting pizza that’s more nutritious. Below are some tips you can share with your clients to help them create a “better for you” pie.

Choose the Right Crust. Thin crusts and crusts made with “whole” grains are your best bet. Less dough cuts calories and puts the focus on your flavorful toppings. Not only do whole grains provide essential nutrients and fiber, increased consumption has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes and may contribute to body weight maintenance and gastrointestinal health. Remember that “multigrain” crusts can be made with several whole grains, refined grains or a mix of both. Ask to see an ingredient list if you’re unsure.

Get Saucy with Your Spread. Traditional tomato-based pizza sauces contain the phytochemical lycopene and contribute a small number of calories per slice. But if you’re looking to spice up your pie, ask for a drizzle of BBQ, buffalo or balsamic on your crust. While alternative sauces can have more sugar and sodium than tomato sauce, a small amount can contribute big flavor, allowing you to reduce other less nutrient-rich ingredients without sacrificing taste.

Be Creative with Your Cheese. Try a handful of flavorful cheese on your pizza or crust edge, like sharp, pungent or spiced cheeses like provolone, Asiago, Cheddar or blue cheese.

Top It Off With Color. Branch out and try different toppings your pizzeria offers. Instead of the usual pepperoni and sausage, top your pizza with lean proteins like chicken, ham and shrimp. Make a point to add at least three colorful fruits and veggies to your pizza. Ingredients like crisp bell peppers, fresh baby spinach and sweet and spicy cherry peppers add unique textures and tastes with fewer calories than some other toppings.

Pizza can be both nutritious and delicious! Take charge and advantage of the billions of ingredient combinations available to you this National Pizza Month.