In its melty, crusty glory, pizza is a total crowd-pleaser. So it’s no surprise that one in eight of us eats it on any given day, according to USDA data. But few people stop at just one slice: The average pizza meal consists of 744 calories (about two to three pieces)—eating up about 37 percent of the average woman’s daily energy need in one sitting.
This doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to cheesy slices forever. We asked nutrition experts exactly what’s the deal with pizza and whether it can be part of an overall healthy pattern of eating. Their response? An overwhelming, yes! According to the pros, it’s all about how you enjoy it. Whether you opt for a cauliflower crust, colorful veggie toppings, or just a plain old pizzeria slice, there’s a way to make it work no matter your wellness goals—or SmartPoints budget. Plus, it even packs some sneaky health benefits. Consider pizza nights a win-win for everyone!
Here are registered dietitians’ top tips for ordering and turning your slice into a nutritious meal, along with 15 delicious recipes to try:
Different types of pizza
Going out for a specialty pie? Not all pizza is created equal. Use this guide to learn more about the different styles and how to hack the menu wherever you are:
New York-style pizza
New Yorkers do everything big and pizza is no exception: Typical NYC-style slices are cut from an extra-large 18-inch pie, making a slice the equivalent of two-plus regular ones.
- Nicer slice: Ask for a double (or triple!) cut. This provides your brain with a visual cue more satisfying than a single slice. Then eat slowly and savor, or split a slice and a salad with a pal.
A deep-dish pie can tower up to 3-inches high, and the crust may be stuffed with cheese. It’s traditionally topped heavily with cheese and meat.
- Nicer slice: Order Chicago’s other signature pie, the thin crust. If you go deep dish, consider asking for half the meat and choosing a lean protein (like grilled chicken) over pepperoni.
The same toppings that make gourmet pizza unique (bacon, potatoes, fried eggs, 17 different cheeses…) can also drive up the calorie and saturated fat content.
- Nicer slice: Order a veggie-centric specialty pie (like wild mushroom or squash), then boost flavor with herbs. Want to boost the protein? Put an egg on it! One large egg packs 6 grams of protein. When it comes to sauce, opt for a slice with marinara over cheese, cream, or pesto options, which can often pack extra saturated fat.
How to order a better-for-you pizza
Cheesy, delicious pizza doesn’t have to be off-limits when you’re trying to eat healthier. In fact, everything can be part of an overall healthy pattern of eating. The trick is in knowing what and how to order. Here are registered dietitians’ top tips:
- Max out on toppings. Add colorful toppings of fresh vegetables like broccoli, tomato slices, or green, red, and yellow peppers—even if you're already putting pepperoni or sausage on the pie. "They'll improve the nutritional profile of the pizza and add volume and fiber to fill you up," says Andrea Giancoli, RD, a dietician in Los Angeles. Good to know: Some pizza restaurants sauté their vegetable toppings in oil, so make sure to double-check.
- Make it a meal. Most pizzerias offer delicious veggie-based sides that can help round out your pie. Garlicky sautéed spinach, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, or eggplant in marinara are all flavor-packed picks that add tons of volume to your order. “Eat that first, then order what you like,” says Angela Goscilo, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition manager at WW. These nutrient-dense foods will help you stay satisfied and energized.
- Try antipasto. Pizza joints almost always have a salad option, but switch it up by ordering the antipasto, recommends Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, head of nutrition and wellness at WW. (Just double-check that there are loads of veggies involved on that plate!) While the appetizer is best known for its high-in-fat processed meats and various types of heavenly cheese, adding grilled, marinated veggies can bring both flavor and fiber to the ho-hum salad you’d order otherwise.
- Reconsider the white pizza. Despite what you may think, white all-cheese pizza slices aren't necessarily better for you. To start, you're giving up tomato sauce. Tomatoes pack the antioxidant lycopene, which may lower risk of certain types of cancers. Plus, many white pizzas boast four (or more!) types of cheese, which increase calories and saturated fat content.
- Experiment with unexpected crusts. From cauliflower to whole-grain, there are more options for the foundation of your pizza than ever before. What’s the draw? "Most regular pizza crusts are made of enriched white flour," says Bethany Thayer, RD, a dietician in Detroit and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That's just basic white bread. If your local pizzeria offers a whole-grain crust, it's a better choice thanks to the extra fiber. When it comes to the more out-of-the-box veggie-based options (think cauliflower, chickpea, or butternut squash), these are great for people who are gluten intolerant or want to add more veggies to their meal.
- Order based on hunger, not coupons. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Flashy specials or promotions can be tempting, but you’re only saving money if you don’t order more than you would without the coupon. Skip it if you’ll end up with a free soda, dessert pizza, larger pie, or an order of breadsticks that you wouldn’t normally request.
- Create a toppings bar. Next time you have pizza night at home, create a toppings bar that allows everyone to make their own custom pie. Stock it with fresh veggies and lean protein sources like peppers, eggplant, lean ground turkey meatballs, and more. “This is a great way to encourage your family to add more plants to their diet and experiment with new foods,” says London. “Because let’s face it, everything tastes better on a pizza!”
Popular pizza SmartPoints® guide
Here’s how different cheese slices stack up:
|One slice of restaurant-style…||SmartPoints value (across Green, Blue, and Purple myWW plans)|
|Regular crust cheese pizza: Medium crust—your typical pizza-parlor slice||9|
|Thin crust cheese pizza: Crisper and thinner than regular slices||8|
|Thick crust cheese pizza: Doughy and chewier than regular slices, but not as thick as deep-dish pizza||10|
|Stuffed crust cheese pizza: Thicker crust that's filled with various types of cheese, most often mozzerella||11|
|Sicilian cheese pizza: Thick-crust cheese pizza cut into squares||9-13|
|Deep dish pizza: Served in hot pans, with the thickest crust of all (with one meat topping)||10|
Have a favorite pizza place? Keep these slices in mind.*
|Domino’s Pizza Hand Tossed Crust with Cheese||7|
Papa John’s Original Crust Cheese Pizza
|Pizza Hut Hand Tossed Pizza Cheese||6|
|California Pizza Kitchen Margherita Crispy Thin Crust Pizza||7|
|CiCi's Pizza Buffet Cheese Pizza||6|
|Little Caesars Classic Cheese Pizza||7|
|Marco's Pizza Medium Cheese Pizza||7|
|Godfather's Pizza Cheese, Original Crust||7|
*All nutrition information based on one slice or ⅛ of a medium (10–13") pizza.