Pizza—who doesn't love it? Whether it's ordered by the pie or the slice, it's a delicious, convenient, inexpensive staple of the American diet from small towns to big cities and everywhere in between. But as countless people know, too many trips to the local pizza parlor can take a toll on your waistline. From the high-fat cheese and toppings to the calorie-laden crust, pizza can be a nutritional minefield. Fortunately, there are creative ways to lighten things up so you can enjoy a slice without the guilt.

Let's start with the sauce

A recent study found people who ate a diet rich in tomatoes had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease. That's due to the lycopene in tomatoes. Lycopene is an antioxidant that's even more powerful when cooked.

Rethink your toppings

Pepperoni and sausage may be familiar favorites, but your health may pay the price for eating them. Instead, look to your produce drawer for good-for-you toppers that satisfy. Mushrooms are popular on pizza, and with good reason-they're not only rich in nutrients, they have a chewy, meaty texture that can be very satisfying to carnivores. Roasted peppers are another great pizza topper-the veggie adds vitamin C, and when tossed on a pie with low-fat goat cheese instead of mozzarella, the pie  is elevated to a guilt-free, gourmet meal. Another creative idea: layer your pie with diced butternut squash, strands of spaghetti squash, or grilled fennel for a tasty, impressive alternative.

Be choosy about cheese

Pizza chefs commonly throw full-fat mozzarella cheese onto pies by the handful. If you're ordering out, ask the chef use a light touch and merely drizzle the shreds onto the pie. Or, if making your own, use a reduced-calorie cheese. Out with a crowd? Cut down on calories by blotting your pizza with a napkin to soak up excess grease. And limit yourself to one slice, and order a side salad or soup to help make it a meal.

Change your crust

Although certain places are famous for deep-dish pies, less is better when it comes to crust. Avoid any pizza with a crust that's an inch thick or-yikes!-stuffed with extra cheese. Many restaurant chains have thin-crust options. If you're making pizza at home with raw dough, roll it out as thinly as you can. Add different textures of veggies and extra tomato sauce, and you'll have a satisfying meal.

Enjoy a salad starter

It's no secret that filling up on salad can help you avoid overdoing the main course. Just about every pizza joint offers a basic plate of greens. Ask for extra veggies and a dollop of oil and vinegar, and enjoy as an appetizer to prevent binging on pizza. If salad isn't available, you might be able to get a cup of a veggie-heavy broth-based soup.




American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I Love Pizza But Am Trying to Eat Healthy. Is There Any Way I Can Have Pizza without Ruining My Eating Plan?" Web.

American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The 'Za: A Quick and Healthy Meal." Web.