As far as health is concerned, pizza, after all, does have the once traditional “four main food groups”: meat, dairy, vegetables, and bread. Healthy pizza, however, will have these ingredients in the right proportion, and also of high quality (organic, fresh, etc.).

Whether you are making pizza at home, buying frozen pizza, or eating out, there are principles for healthy pizza that you should keep in mind.

Calorie-count, cholesterol and saturated fat content: Where available, you should check the nutritional information about the pizza you are eating for calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. One large slice of Hand-Tossed pepperoni pizza from Domino’s, for example, has 340 calories, 14g of fat, 5g of saturated fat, 16 mg of cholesterol, 660 mg of sodium, and 42g of carbohydrates. Vegan pizza, on the other hand, has on average 155 calories, 4g of fat, 0g of saturated fat, 0g of cholesterol, 251g of sodium, and 28g of carbohydrates. (As a rule, all vegan food has zero cholesterol, as it is purely plant-based and all plant-based food has no cholesterol.)

(An extreme example can be seen in 8oz, or two slices of Domino’s Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza, which has 780 calories, 37g of fat, 15g of saturated fat, and 1,940mg of sodium.) As a general guideline, a serving of tasty, healthy pizza (2 small to medium slices) should be 200 calories or less. Indeed, some scrumptious vegan pizzas have a less than 100 calories per serving.

Toppings: Perhaps the greatest factor in the calorie count of pizza is whether you will have cheese or not. A cheeseless pizza is almost by definition a healthy pizza. Each ounce of mozzarella, for instance, contains 80 calories, 5-6 grams of fat, and 25mg of cholesterol. No-cheese pizzas may seem strange in North America, but in fact the original Italian pizza, the Marinara was made without cheese, just crushed tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and a thin crust, baked in a wood-burning oven. If you go to an authentic Italian pizzeria, you can order one to try for yourself. (Using high-quality ingredients makes all the difference in these pizzas.) Many pizza experts consider this their favorite pizza, and the European Union has officially recognized the Marinara pizza as a European Traditional Food Product (TFP).

Low-fat mozzarella or vegan cheese substitutes can be used if preferred. However, these are not usually available at restaurants, unless the restaurant is a vegan one. Moreover, the calorie and fat count of these substitutes is not much different from ordinary mozzarella. The main difference with the vegan cheese is the absence of cholesterol.

Finally, using your imagination with veggies not only makes your healthy pizza more interesting (e.g. spicy Thai-curried broccoli, or briny Kalamata olives to substitute for anchovies) but also increases its fiber content as well.

Healthy Pizza Crusts: Whole wheat pizza crusts are available from many fast-food pizza outlets. Using whole wheat pizza crusts alone increases the fiber content of your pizza by about 50%. In addition, there are many interesting variations which are gluten-free, have no refined carbohydrates, and incredibly fiber-rich. These are not usually found in restaurants (except for specialty health-food and vegan ones), but can be made fairly easily at home. Some vegan cookbooks, for instance, have very interesting pizza crusts made from seeds, legumes, and vegetables. These make for super-healthy pizzas, particularly suited for athletic types.

So, although the run-of-the-mill fast-food pizza is almost a definite no-no for health-conscious individuals, healthy pizza can definitely form a mouth-watering part of a good diet plan.