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Pizza Pointers


Updated February 15, 2014


A cut here, a slice there! By making a few simple changes, you can cut 50 to 100 calories per serving of pizza.

Pizza is a favorite food for many of us thanks to its convenience and well ... it just plain tastes good! But if you're not careful, you can blow an entire day's calories in one sitting at the pizzeria. A few simple changes can help you keep your calorie count in check. Here's how to cut calories from pizza:

Say Cheese!

A typical slice of pizza chain hand-tossed cheese pizza provides around 220 calories. Simply asking for "half cheese" will save you around 50 calories per slice and reduce saturated fat by about a third. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at how much cheese is still left on your pizza after cutting it by half.

If you just can't cut your cheese-fix by half, request part-skim cheese instead of whole-fat cheese. Or, some pizzerias may substitute a sprinkling of Feta instead of regular cheese which is lower in calories.

If you would like to go virtually cheese-free, order "no cheese" and then dust each slice lightly with grated Parmesan.

Bonus Tip: Going topping-free? Sprinkle on red pepper flakes to add extra "zip" to plain pizza.

Meaty Matters

For counting calories, assume that each type of meat topping adds around 40 calories per slice. Of course, that can vary if your pizza chef is heavy handed, and by the size of your serving. But if nutrition info isn't readily available, it's a good estimate. (Be sure to check About.com's Calorie Count to see if your favorite pizza variety's caloric content is listed.)

What is undoubtedly the top pizza topper, pepperoni, provides 130 calories per ounce. A typical slice of pepperoni pizza contains between 200 and 250 calories. As an alternative, try chorizo -- a spicy Mexican smoked sausage variety -- which will save about 20 calories per serving while still providing that smoky hot flavor you crave. Or try Canadian bacon instead for about 80 calories per ounce.

Is sausage your favorite pizza variety? Swap it with lean ham and you'll cut a third of the calories. Plus, ham provides more protein per ounce than sausage, so you will feel fuller after eating. (Which may help you stop at two slices instead of progressing to three!)

Extra lean ground beef or ground turkey breast are also good alternatives to higher-cal meat toppings, if they're available. It may cost a little more, but grilled or roasted chicken is a delicious and diet-friendly topping, so it's worth the splurge.

Bonus Tip: Use an absorbent paper towel or several paper napkins to soak up some of the grease from your pizza and you could save around 15 to 25 calories per slice. This is really important with pepperoni or sausage because these toppings result in a "layer" of grease during cooking.

Veg Out

Try eating a bowl of vegetable soup, minestrone or another broth-based soup as an appetizer before your pizza. Or, eat your salad first instead of with your pizza to curb your appetite.

Consider eating a cooked vegetable as a side dish with your pizza as you would any other type of entree. Green vegetables seem to go well with pizza. Try different sides until you find what you like.

Choosing veggie toppings like green peppers, tomatoes and onions in lieu of meats will add filling fiber and antioxidants while cutting calories. While peppers and onions may not be the most highly nutritious, they're certainly healthier than meat, so try adding them first and then remove meat. Then, try spinach or even broccoli for a change. You may find in time you prefer these to meat toppings.

If you are eating at home and your veggie toppings are skimpy, add your own from the fridge and simply re-heat the pizza for a few minutes under the broiler or in your toaster oven.

More Tips to Remember...

The size of your slice (and thereby, its calorie count) can vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant. A 14-inch pie at one location may be sliced into 12 pieces, while at another it is reduced to eight slices.

Order thin crust when available to save calories. For instance, deep dish crust contains about 100 calories more per slice than thin crust.

Replace regular crust with whole-wheat crust where available and you'll get in nearly 20% of your fiber needs for the day.

Dipping sauce like garlic butter or ranch can add hundreds of calories to your pizza, especially if you double (or triple...) dip your slices. Simply avoid them altogether because they're just not worth the extra calories.

Skip the bread sticks too -- they also tack on some serious calories. Indulging in just one bread stick will add about 200 calories to your meal.

White sauce pizza is popular these days, but it is actually higher in calories than traditional tomato-based sauce pizzas. With just one vegetable topping, a typical slice of white pizza provides close to 300 calories. Asking for "half sauce" on a white pizza will save about 30 calories per slice.

Pay a visit to a locally owned pizzeria -- they may offer a greater variety of healthy toppings than chain restaurants. Options could include grilled shrimp, green peas, asparagus spears, artichoke hearts, black beans, corn, spicy fajita chicken, lemon grilled chicken or fresh minced garlic. Yum!

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