As if you didn’t have enough to worry about, it turns out that pizza delivery boxes have long contained chemicals that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say are dangerous enough to ban.
As of January 4, 2016, three perfluoroalkyl ethyls can no longer be used in pizza and other delivery boxes or food containers. Both consumer health and environmental groups pushed for the ban. The chemicals were used to create a waxy barrier to stop the cardboard from absorbing the pizza’s grease and moisture. The phrasing of the announcement doesn’t mention specific health or environmental hazards, which indicates that more research is needed to find out exactly how these chemicals affect us.
And if our pizza woes weren’t enough, new recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have put pizza in the crosshairs of anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet. These recommendations are updated every five years and include just about everything you need to know about eating healthfully. The biggest news in this year’s report is that the rules on fats have changed.
Now, there is no upper limit on how much to eat from all fat groups. Instead, the guidelines are focusing squarely on saturated fat. The USDA says saturated fat should make up less than 10 percent of our total calories. Most of us eat more than that — a lot more — and a good bit of the saturated fat we consume comes in the form of commercially prepared foods that combine many ingredients. Like pizza, for example.
Saturated fat clogs the insides of our veins, causing increased blood pressure, heart problems, and stroke, as well as weight gain.
Saturated fat isn’t the only pizza-based health risk. Some of the processed meats usually found on pizza, like sausage, bacon, and pepperoni, are high in sodium. They also often contain nitrites, which are associated with intestinal cancers. A recent report from the World Health Organization found that for each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily, an 18 percent increase risk in colorectal cancer was found.
But before you declare pizza persona non grata in your belly, why not try making some at home? You’ll avoid the box, and be able to limit the ingredients that are bad for you. Making pizza is super easy, more than a little fun, and, with these recipes, more than a little good for you.
Learning the Dough Basics
Everyday pizza dough is just a combination of flour, water, yeast, oil, and perhaps a little salt.
Here is an easy basic recipe from Eat, Live, Run, and a whole-wheat version from Cookie and Kate. Whole wheat has more nutrients than white flour, so it’s in keeping with the new dietary recommendations to eat nutrition-dense foods. But since whole-wheat pizza dough can be a little dry, this recipe adds a little extra fat (just a little!) with Parmesan cheese.
If you are gluten-free, try this dough recipe from Gluten-Free Girl – it adds psyllium hulls for a fibrous boost.
And now, the toppings!
1. Margherita Pizza
Margherita is a light and low-fat traditional pizza. Some recipes call for processed tomato sauce (if you choose this option, go for a very light spread), but this one from Eat Yourself Skinny is all about fresh, sliced tomatoes. Basil provides bright color and flavor. Basil has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years and more recently studied for its antioxidant properties.
2. Thai Tofu Pizza
Oh, come on — yes, it sounds a little weird, but give this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats a try. The savory combination of peanut butter, mango, and rice vinegar is as mouthwatering as your favorite Thai takeout (minus the takeout box).
3. Black Bean Pizza
Like nachos? Like barbecue? Then you’ll probably enjoy this recipe from Food Doodles. Barbecue chicken keeps things leaner than pork would. Black beans are inexpensive and a nutrition powerhouse, providing nearly 10 percent of daily protein, fiber, thiamine, and folate in 1/4 cup.
4. Walnut, Pear, and Fig Pizza
Pizza doesn’t have to be oozing with greasy tomato sauce to taste really yummy. This white pizza from Creative Culinary pairs sweet pears and figs with dense walnuts and a tangy balsamic vinegar glaze. Walnuts are good for your cardiovascular system and brain health.
5. Eggplant “Pizza”
In this recipe from Closet Cooking, eggplant slices replace pizza dough, and the amount of pepperoni is very small. The vegetable’s intensity is mellowed by tomatoes and cheese, so you might even be able to convert even the most ardent eggplant hater. Use part-skim mozzarella cheese — you’ll get about 50 percent of your daily protein requirement from just 1/2 cup.
6. Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Cauliflower doesn’t have much flavor itself, so the crust takes a backseat to the traditional pizza flavors in this recipe from Eat. Drink. Smile. It isn’t in the background nutritionally, though. Half a cup of cauliflower provides nearly 15 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.
7. Bell Pepper Pita Pizza
Here’s another recipe that’s all about alternate crusts, using whole-wheat pita bread, from Eat Yourself Skinny. The bright yellow bell pepper doesn’t just look appetizing, it is a good source of vitamin C and of folate when raw. These nutrients are lowered with cooking, however. Folate is essential during pregnancy to keep babies from developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate is also important to support cell division and making DNA.
8. Portobello “Pizza”
Think of these pizza-flavored stuffed mushrooms from Life as a Strawberry as mini pizzas. Most mushroom varieties are packed with nutrients, and meaty portabellas are no exception. They are a good source of potassium and copper, and also supply close to 30 percent the daily requirement of selenium, which is essential to thyroid function.
9. Homemade Mascarpone Pizza
Imagine how impressed your guests will be when you serve them homemade pizza — topped with homemade cheese. OK, mascarpone isn’t really cheese, but it is very creamy and cheesy, and you can make it overnight. This recipe from Emiko Davies calls for 1 cup of mascarpone, but you can get plenty of creamy goodness with half that.
10. Brussels Sprouts and Kalamata Olive Pizza
You can lower the fat content of this fantastic recipe from Italian Food Forever by using skim or part-skim mozzarella. Cutting back on the fat will also make room for the flavors of Brussels sprouts and Kalamata olives, which are black morsels of nutrition. They are a source of calcium and fiber, and those healthy monounsaturated fats that the new USDA guidelines are encouraging us to eat.