Solving The Pizza Puzzle

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Did you know that the USDA publishes a website called the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference which lists foods and their caloric and nutritional value? It’s very cool.  Except for right now. During the US government shutdown if you click to this wildly useful website, here’s what you’ll see:

USDA Site Shutdown


Really people?

You took down a USDA WEBSITE because of the shutdown?


To me, that the Government decided to take down this particular website is incomprehensible. It’s not like this site is chock-full of up-to-the-minute, breaking-news type of information. Calories and Fat Content do not change day-to-day, people! You could have left it up and running. Why the government wonks didn’t just furlough the webmaster and leave the site live is, frankly, inexplicable. But take it down they did.


So here I sit, jonesing to do some in-depth pizza research but without a rock-solid source. Luckily, I had some key pizza facts gleaned from this site tucked away from earlier research I did for an article.

So even though the USDA site is down, I can still proceed as planned with a post about how to enjoy pizza while going lo-co.

AKA solving the pizza puzzle.

Which is not solving, really. Because I was dismayed to find that pizza is not a great lo-co choice.

Before the government took down the nifty USDA nutritional site, I learned that one single solitary slice of regular crust, cheese pizza packs 285 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 18 grams of cholesterol. That’s ONE slice, no toppings.

And who has one slice?

Well, OK, I do. Sometimes. But I’m weird that way.

Most normal people would have 2 slices.  So you need to double those fat calories and cholesterol for a typical pizza meal.

And while I like plain pizza, most folks add a topping.  For example, what if you’re like my friend the hysterical, talented cartoonist Chris Juneau, and want bacon on your pizza? Well, I planned to write a whole bit about bacon (because Chris believes bacon goes on anything) but I can’t because the government took down….

OK, enough about that.

What I can do is tell you about the nutritional value (anti-value?) of a slice of pizza with the the ever-popular pepperoni topping.  A single slice of pepperoni pizza wallops with 313 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 28 grams of cholesterol.

Which means if you lunch on 2 slices of pepperoni pizza, you’ll hit 50% of your total recommended fat consumption and more than 25% of your cholesterol – before the day is half over.

What’s a person to do? Well, there are ways you can solve the pizza puzzle and still fit it into a lo-co lifestyle.

You just have to be smart about what you order – and/or make it at home.

Since I can’t seem to cook at home since my son left for college, I can’t really lecture about home-made pizza (though we used to make that a lot – it’s easy and delicious and healthy). So here are some things to mull as you place your local pizza parlor order:

  • Ditch thick, order thin. Thick crust pizza has more fat than thin crust. (And crust stuffed with cheese? Come on, you weren’t really thinking that, were you?)
  • Choose Less Cheese.  This seems obvious, lo-co-wise.  That’s because it is.  If the rest of your dining companions want regular cheese, that’s fine – just fork some off your slice and leave it on the plate. I do it all the time. And yes, I get weird comments, but if they’re good friends they’ll be said jokingly and with love. And if they’re you’re family, well, they’re stuck with you. So leave some cheese on the plate.
  • Pile on the sauce and veggies. If you can get your pizza-mates to order a pie with less cheese (or, heavens, cheese-less), make up for it with extra sauce – it has lycopene! And pile on any veggies you want – though try to choose the veggies that aren’t breaded and fried – I love eggplant, but it’s not the best veggie topping. Broccoli and/or spinach sauteed in garlic are fabulous pizza toppings. Or go wild and hawaiian. Load up on veggies and you won’t miss the cheese. Truly.
  • If you must have a meat topping, choose ham or canadian bacon, not pepperoni.  (Chris Juneau, this one’s for you!) I wish I could give you the exact nutritional details, but did you know the US Government shut down the USDA site… oh, sorry. The truth is that ham and canadian bacon – or diced chicken or shrimp – are leaner, more lo-co choices than pepperoni, sausage or beef. Maybe your pizza place even has turkey bacon or turkey sausage? Not highly likely, but worth asking!

You can stick with pizza for lunch or dinner (or, hey, breakfast) – and it can be part of a lo-co lifestyle if you choose wisely. And I bet you can find out more once the government shutdown…


But it is, really, a cool site.  Check it out in a few days…weeks…  Hopefully soon.


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