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A Great Pizza Advice

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Mr. Bad Food takes a look at your favorite pizzas and serves up a few tasty recipes you can roll out at home.

No matter how you slice it, most of our "usuals" are topping-heavy artery cloggers. While one piece here or there won't derail your diet, having Pizza Hut or Domino's on your speed dial is a sure sign you'll soon be singing bye-bye miss (or mister) American thighs!

A survey by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that a typical serving of plain cheese pizza (two to three slices, depending on the size of the pie) has 600 calories and 25 grams of fat (10 of which are saturated).

Like toppings? The numbers grow a lot worse. A two-slice serving of Pizza Hut’s Stuffed Crust Meat Lover’s pizza has 840 calories and 42 grams of fat, including 20 grams of saturated fat. Two slices of Domino’s hand-tossed pepperoni can tally 429 calories and 20 grams of fat.

NOTE I am not including carb counts because any Atkins (or other low-carb plan follower) knows pizza crust is a high-carb killer.

Now, back to our dough... um, I mean show:

And it’s not just the delivered pizzas that are loaded with the fattening stuff. A Celeste sausage pizza for one packs 530 calories, 27 grams of fat -- six saturated -- and a whopping 1,400 milligrams of sodium!

Now come with me, papa John (couldn't resist), as I deliver the news about your home-delivered pies.

Let's start with America's red-roofed favorite, Pizza Hut. A word of warning -- sidestep the Stuffed Crust. A medium slice of the stuffed stuff will sock you with a minimum of 405 calories (ham) and 17 grams of fat (Chicken Supreme and Veggie Lovers in a tie). And have you seen how small a "medium" is these days?

A better choice: the Thin 'n' Crispy selections. From ham to meat lovers, the choices will have you chowing on a range of 210 calories and 7 grams of fat to 340 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Like any food, a little here and there ain't gonna kill you or your diet. So if you go to the local pizza palace once a month and enjoy TWO slices of your favorite style, don't sweat it. Just stick to your diet for the majority of the time and you'll do just fine.

For more Pizza Hut info, go to their website www.pizzahut.com.

Much of the same awaits you just down the road at Domino's. Mr. Bad Food did a double take when gazing at the nutrition numbers provided by the delivery specialists. It seems Domino's knows most people aren't gonna stop at one slice. Thus their numbers are for two.

Eat two slices of a 14" hand-tossed cheese pizza and you'll wolf down 515 calories and 15 grams of fat. Choose the thin crust style and those numbers plummet to 385 calories and 17 grams of fat. Yes friends, when it comes to pizzas that won't leave you stuffed, thin is definitely in!

And by the way, don't even consider a 6" deep dish style. Not unless you don't want less than 600 calories and 27 grams of fat.

Because Little Caesar's offers little pizzas (they have a 12" size), you can enjoy pizza, pizza without feeling like a decadent Roman emperor. Single slices range from 120 to 180 calories and 6 to 8 grams of fat.

The square cuts are decent choices too. In fact, to my untrained eye it appears Little Caesar's serves the leanest slices around. However, keep in mind that this supremacy is probably due to the slices being the smallest among the major makers.

The bottom line: you should always go for the thinner, smaller cuts and limit toppings to veggies and cheese. If you need meat to make it right, opt for ham or chicken.

Ready for a few recipes that'll save you money, fat and calories?

Let's start with this goodie from frequent eDiets contributor Katherine Tallmadge, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

In a previous Eat This column, Katherine wrote:

A more gourmet -- and FUN -- alternative is to make a pizza from scratch. It’s easier than you realize and fun for friends and family to participate!

My client, Pete, hosted other couples for a pizza party one Sunday evening. At the party, Pete allowed folks to build their own pizzas. All the guests shared each other’s creations and had fun building a pizza to suit their tastes.

Some of the toppings:
1) thin layer of pesto and sliced plum tomatoes
2) sauteed or roasted veggies with pizza sauce and reduced fat mozzarella cheese

Start with pizza dough you can buy at the store or make your own. Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mediterranean Light:

Three Hour Pizza Dough

For the sponge:
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup whole wheat flour

For the dough:
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour

Mix ingredients for the sponge and let sit covered in a warm place for 30 minutes. Add the lukewarm water and olive oil. Mix well. Add the salt. Then, stir in the whole-wheat pastry flour, then the white flour.

Scrape out of the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough will be sticky, but keep flouring your hands and add only enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the kneading surface.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Turn so the greased side is up. Cover and let rise for two hours.

Punch the dough down, and let it rise again for 40 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out thin or press out and stretch with your hands. Line an oiled pizza pan (a round pan with holes in it) and shape an attractive ridge around the edge with the overhanging dough.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Use a baking stone if you have one. Spread the topping of your choice over the pizza and bake 20 to 30 minutes.

Makes a 12-15 inch crust, or 6 servings. Nutritional values preserving: 167 calories for 1/6th of the pie (or 1,002 for the whole pie). Toppings are additional, but if they're mainly vegetables, the added calories are minimal. Mr. Bad Food is running a special today. Eye one pizza recipe, get 3 more. Dig in...

Mushroom Pizza in Minutes

Top both halves of a whole wheat English muffin with 1/4-cup fat-free tomato sauce, 1/2-cup chopped mushrooms and 2 tablespoons shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with chopped basil, then broil in the toaster oven until cheese is melted and bubbling (about 3 minutes).

Per serving: 109 calories, 4g fat, 32g carbohydrates, 11g protein, 5g fiber, 830mg sodium

Thin-Crust Pepper Pizza for One

In a 350°F oven, heat a 6" low-fat flour tortilla on a baking sheet until crisp (about 5 minutes). Remove from the oven, piercing any air bubbles with a knife, then top with 1/4-cup fat-free tomato sauce, 3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, and a half-cup thinly sliced green and red pepper. Return to the oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbling (about 10 minutes).

Per serving: 200 calories, 5g fat, 30g carbohydrates, 10g protein, 3g fiber, 720mg sodium

Veggie Pizzettes

Defrost 4 frozen mini phyllo dough shells and arrange on toaster oven baking tray. Fill each shell with 1 tablespoon fat-free tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon minced mushrooms, shredded carrots or chopped spinach and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese. Broil until cheese is melted (about 2 minutes).

Per serving: 150 calories, 7g fat, 15g carbohydrates, 6g protein, 1g fiber, 570mg sodium

It may come as no surprise that the pizza industry has evolved into a $30-billion-dollar-a-year business.

Sink your teeth into these pizza factoids:

-- Field of Screams: Americans eat 100 ACRES of pizza each day. That's about 50 slices per second.

-- There are more than 61,000 pizzerias in the U.S. alone. And pizzerias represent 17% of all restaurants.

-- 93% of Americans eat at least one pizza per month.

-- Every man, woman and child in America eats and average of 46 slices (23 pounds) of pizza per year.

-- According to a Gallup Poll, children between the ages of 3 and 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups for lunch and dinner.

-- 62% of Americans prefer meat toppings on their pizza, while 38% prefer vegetarian toppings. Pepperoni is America's favorite topping -- it's on 36% of all pizzas ordered. Other popular toppings: mushrooms, extra cheese, sausage, green pepper and onions.

When we don't take-out, we carry out from our local supermarket. You may be surprised at the wide selection of relatively healthy pizzas available at your grocer's freezer.

Like most topics that matter to you, the health-conscious consumer, eDiets tracked down a few of the better selections.

For more on store-bought pizzas, click here and take a roll in the frozen dough.

Mr. Bad Food recommends the oven-baked over the microwavable varieties. You get a much crispier crust and it only takes a few minutes longer to bake than nuke. But always check the calories and serving size on the box. Most of us don’t stop after just one slice. So be prepared to multiply the numbers by two, three and (dare we say?) four!

If you are feeling down on pizza, chin up... and chew on this:

Tomato sauce is rich in cancer-fighting lycopene and vitamin C. The cheese offers some protein and a dose of bone-building calcium. The key is to get that one-of-a-kind taste with built-in portion control, so you won’t be tempted to return to the scene of the crime again and again.

Since pizza is the second most commonly craved food in the U.S. (right behind chocolate, but we’ll save that for another week), there’s a good chance you’ll experience a yearning in the future. When you do, savor a single slice of your favorite pie alongside a bowl of mixed greens. You’ll get plenty of satisfaction and much less fat and calories.

Week 3: Mr. Bad Food's Excellent Atkins Adventure!

Look, up in the sky... it's a much slimmed down version of your favorite culinary crimefighter, Supperman! I've been on the eDiets-powered Atkins program for three weeks now. And guess what? I have dropped another 4 pounds this past week to balloon my 3-week total to 15 pounds!

Let me tell you, this plan is great. My clothes fit better... my old energy is returning... and I am not finding myself starving between meals.

I must admit that every so often I find myself lusting over a thick piece of pizza or a baked potato with my grilled steak, but then I think of the weight I am losing and the imagined (yes, it's all in my head) yearning goes away.

If you've been considering the Atkins plan, why not give it a go now? If it can work for Mr. Bad Food, it can -- and will -- work for you!

So come on and click here for more info and your free diet profile.

Well, until next week, the fridge door is closed. But if you have any questions and/or comments -- or even a tasteful joke or Hall of Shame nominee to share -- feel free to write me, eDiets editor-in-chief John McGran, at john@ediets.com.

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