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Chef Tim Says....

The Perfect Food

margherita pizza

I believe that pizza is the perfect food. I say this all the time to patients. Most are shocked by the statement, but it's true.

Here's the deal. A couple of slices of pizza have about 60 grams of carbohydrates in the crust. That's in the range of a dinner portion for most people. (For those working on their weight, one slice will do.) There's a lot of fiber in that crust too -- 4 grams if the dough is made with white flour, and by using whole wheat flour there's twice as much.

The key to great pizza is what you put on top of it. In the pizza joint you're going to be OK with the tomato sauce, and the mozzarella cheese that most use is actually lower in fat than regular cheese. It's when you begin to load on other stuff that most people get into trouble. Sausage, pepperoni and ground beef are all chock full of saturated fat, calories and salt. The key to eating pizza out is to top it with healthier choices.

Fresh or grilled veggies is always a great place to start. Choose onions, mushrooms, peppers or olives in the typical pizza place. There are so many exotic pizza places now that you can get everything from eggplant and broccoli to roasted chicken and shrimp. Most every place will let you build your own and it would be hard these days to not be able to create a healthy pie.

That said, there are a couple of tips that will help:

  • Thick crust will have more calories. Choose traditional crust pizza.
  • Pan pizza are often much higher in fat because butter or another oil is used to grease the pan. Again, choose regular thin crust pizza.
  • Exotic sauces like barbecue or Thai peanut can have a lot of hidden calories, usually as fat, but sometimes as sugar (important for diabetics).
  • Don't order the kind that has cheese inside the crust.
  • Leftover pizza is great. Ask for a to go box first and take the slices that you are going to eat for dinner and put the rest away before you start eating.

Pizza at home is really simple. Making the dough is a snap especially if you have a bread maker. I know so many people who have bread makers and never use them, but they are perfect for making pizza dough. Put all the ingredients inside and 90 minutes later, there's your fresh dough!

Here's the link for Whole Wheat Pizza Dough. The great thing about this recipe is that you can divide the ingredients and easily make a single serving or pizza for two. I do occasionally freeze leftover dough and it makes fairly good pizza.

You can follow the links below to other pizza recipes on the Dr. Gourmet site, but as you are making them, consider them a guide to creating your own terrific pizza. The amounts of each type of ingredient can be used easily with each other to make endless combinations. As a rule of thumb for each individual pizza:

  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • Use 1/2 ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Use all the veggies that you want
  • It's OK to use about 2 ounces of meat like roasted chicken but you don't have to
  • If you use a second cheese, use it instead of another protein like chicken, shrimp or pepperoni
  • Look for exotic sauces but use ones that are thicker and use them sparingly -- sometimes a couple of tablespoons is all you need
  • Lastly, a pizza stone can make your pizza truly professional. Here's why.

So you can see -- the perfect food. Carbs, fiber, protein, good fats, lean meats, lots and lots of veggies. Make pizza a part of your healthy meal plan.

Pizza - Tomato, Basil, and Roasted Garlic
Pizza - Dill Pesto and Potato
Pizza - Pepperoni
Pizza - Mushrooms and Prosciutto
Pizza - Scallops with Thai Peanut Sauce
Pizza - Roasted Eggplant and Feta Cheese

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet

First Posted: October 2, 2006