Build a better pizza

pizza

Love your pizzas but not thrilled about the kilojoule count? You can easily make your own healthier version at home with a little planning, says dietitian Emma Stirling

Pizza may seem like a dial-out dream, but even the better-for-you options don't always deliver on health. Let us show you how easy it is to sidestep the delivery guy and make your own healthy pizza at home.

​SPREAD AROUND RED

Spread on a rich tomato paste, homemade sugo (Italian sauce) or finely diced, fresh tomatoes for a lighter base sauce. The absorption of the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes is actually enhanced when they're cooked into a sauce with a little olive oil.

​INVEST IN YOUR DOUGH

When you're having a slow weekend meal, it's worth the extra effort to make your dough from scratch. Pick up a pack of pizza or baker's flour, plus sachets of fresh yeast, and roll up your sleeves. Kneading the dough is an important step. To increase fibre, switch to a high-fibre or wholemeal flour mix. Try wholemeal pitas or pre-prepared bases when you're in a hurry. And cut kilojoules by replacing the cheese-filled thick crust with a thin and crispy base, kneaded with fresh rosemary leaves.

​CHOOSE YOUR CHEESE

Typically, pizzas are loaded with cheese in a thick, melted layer and although a source of calcium, this can pile on the kilojoules and saturated fat. If you want full cover, switch to reduced-fat, grated pizza cheese which is a combination of hard mozzarella (or stretch), cheddar (for bold flavour) and parmesan (for bite). Or try a smaller portion of full-fat and full-flavoured mozzarella and parmesan, or for something different try herb, marinated goat's or feta cheese to dollop around.

​Shake the salt

A review of takeaway pizza by the Australian division of World Action on Salt & Health has revealed many contain 4g of salt -- well over the RDI of 2.5g. Slash salt counts at home by going easy on the cheese, anchovies and ham.

​Toppings we love!

When it cornes to traditional Italian pizza toppings, less is more. Aim for three to four flavour-paired ingredients. Add thinly sliced vegetables, otherwise serve a salad for the table.

​MAD ABOUT MUSHROOMS

Mushrooms give a rich, savoury flavour often called umami by chefs, due to the natural glutamate compounds they contain. Despite being low in kilojoules, they are very filling and make a favourite meat replacement for vegetarians.

​A serve of mushrooms provides more than a quarter of your -daily needs of the essential vitamins riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin.

​GREEN COVER

​Be sure to pile on dark green salad leaves and herbs like rocket or baby spinach, or fresh torn basil leaves or coriander when your pizza is hot out of the oven. Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in lutein, an antioxidant which has been shown to protect eyesight from oxidative damage and absorb harmful light as you age.

​GO LEAN & CLEAN

​Ham can be high in sodium and saturated fat, along with nitrites and nitrates.These compounds are used as preservatives and to add colour and flavour to processed meats, but they've also been linked to an increased risk of bowel and stomach cancer. So it pays to go easy on the meat lover's toppings -- try lean lamb or chicken instead. fresh catch Instead of salami and prosciutto, both high in salt and saturated fat, try peeled, raw tiger prawns. A rich source of essential iodine -- necessary for the proper functioning of thyroid hormones and metabolism -- prawns are also an excellent source of omega-3s (one 100g serve provides over 200mg of omega-3s).

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Good Health (Australia Edition)