Pizza has become as American as hot dogs, baseball, and July 4th. Many of us grew up enjoying this fast meal, with many different variations and toppings to choose from. In celebration of National Pizza Day, we take a look at how this food became a national dish and put our spin on healthier options so that we can enjoy this meal without derailing our diets.
The Origins of Pizza
Pizza in its most basic form is flatbread, which has been around for thousands of years – 6,000, to be exact. However the word “pizziare” first appeared in Italy about 1,000 B.C., and even that wasn’t the pizza we’ve come to know today.
It wasn’t until circa 1522 that Italians ever saw a tomato. Deciding to introduce it as a topping to their flatbread, this unwittingly gave birth to the first crude pizzas. Eventually, tomatoes began to grow in popularity throughout Italy, and around the same time that this was occurring, mozzarella cheese was slowly beginning to catch on as well.
Even so, the classic combination of tomatoes and mozzarella on a flatbread crust didn’t come together until centuries later, around 1889, with the addition of basil. In the late 1800s, the recipe made it to American shores along with Italian immigrants, and pizza became an Italian-American classic.
Celebrate with a Healthy Slice
The great thing about pizza is that it’s very adaptable to tweaks to accommodate most dietary restrictions. Try some of the following substitutions for both dough and toppings, and come up with a few of your own if you’re feeling adventurous.
Dough Base: Your base doesn’t always have to be made with white flour. Try substituting whole wheat or another whole grain flour for white to up the fiber content. Or forgo the traditional way all together and try a cauliflower pizza dough using finely chopped cauliflower into a fine consistency as your “flour”.
Cauliflower is rich in the B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, manganese and fiber. It’s also very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making for a tasty and nutritious pizza crust.
Healthier Toppings: Try combining toppings like mashed white beans with fresh herbs (in lieu of tomato sauce), caramelized onions and a little shredded Gouda cheese for a delightfully different, nutrient-packed version of pizza that’s loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants and great taste!
Try It Sweet: Make a dessert version of pizza using your favorite fruits – think berries, kiwi, and pineapple for plenty of antioxidants and fiber too. For the base, try whole wheat pastry flour, rolled oats, and flax seeds for more fiber and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Pizza is truly adaptable, so go ahead and indulge on National Pizza Day. Just make sure to enjoy it in moderation and incorporate some healthy twists to make it good for you.