Not all foods are created equal, especially if you're an athlete. If you eat a cream-filled donut before a workout, you won't perform as well as if you had eaten a banana [learn more about banana's benefits for athletes]. That said, healthy alternatives do exist for many junk foods—even for a dish as frowned upon as pizza.
Pizza's [and Cheese's] Bad Rep
Pizza is generally considered a poor choice when it comes to healthy eating and losing weight. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, on average, two slices contain half of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat. Fat, however, plays a major role in satiety [the feeling of being completely full]. The combination of protein and fat in full-fat cheese topping can keep your hunger at bay.
Furthermore, cheese contains a naturally-occurring trans fat called trans-palmitoleate—the same kind contained in whole milk—which may help boost metabolism by turning off the liver's fat production and boosting muscles' ability to manage glucose. According to a study published the Annals of Internal Medicine, people with higher trans-palmitoleate levels reduced their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 60 percent.
Still, almost any food eaten in excess will inhibit weight loss. For dairy products, the recommended daily amount is two to three servings.
In the video above, sports nutritionist Cheryl Zonkowski explains why pizza is actually a fairly balanced food and advises how much to eat.
Make Good Choices When Ordering Out
If you're ordering delivery pizza, take a couple of minutes to research the nutritional content of your options. Avoiding any "Pan" or "Deep Dish" crusts can make a huge difference in calories and fat content. Choose "thin crust" if possible. Papa John's offers whole-wheat crust, a great option.
Toppings are important to consider when you're counting calories. By skipping pepperoni and sausage, you can save 100 to 250 calories per slice.
If you're not aware of the nutritional facts, you can easily end up overindulging with dishes like Pizza Hut's Supreme Pan Pizza [two slices = 620 calories, 32 grams of fat, 1440 mg of sodium] or Papa John's Pan Crust Cheese Pizza [two slices = 720 calories, 30 grams of fat, 1960 mg of sodium].
Likewise, frozen pizzas vary tremendously in calories and nutritional value. Check the nutrition label. Look for fat content of 15 grams or less and sodium content under 700 mg. For a good place to start, check out Kashi brand pizzas.
Make Your Own Pizza
You have the most control over what goes into your body when you prepare your own food.
Choose a crust, preferably whole-grain, and top it with a sauce [watch the added sugar content], cheeses and vegetables. In the video below, STACK expert Chris Mohr shows you how to make your own pizza using a pita as the crust, which can knock out a few more calories.
Source: Livestrong.com, theheart.org, EatthisNotthat, Mohrresults.com
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock