Okay, let’s be honest with each other. You’re here because of some wishful thinking that because Neapolitan pizza has spinach on it, it’s healthy?Well, it is definitely healthier because of the spinach. Overall, Neapolitan pizza is not any healthier than the average pizza.
But, just because Neapolitan pizza isn’t the healthiest food you can eat, that doesn’t mean it’s “bad” or that you shouldn’t eat it.
Let’s break it down and look at exactly what makes up a Neapolitan pizza. Then, you can make a decision for yourself whether or not it is a healthy option for you.
The Neapolitan Pizza
Before we get into its nutritional value, let’s go over exactly what a Neapolitan pizza is. The Neapolitan pizza comes from Naples.
Although the term “pizza” has been around since at least the 10th century, it is in Naples that the modern pizza is believed to have originated. So, in terms of traditional and historical importance, Neapolitan pizza is very important.
A Neapolitan pizza is a very simple but very specifically made pizza. It has a leavened bread base, tomato sauce, cheese, and spinach. But the ingredients of a true Neapolitan are very specific.
For example, the tomato sauce is, traditionally, made from San Marzano tomatoes or Pomodorino Vesuviano (meaning Vesuvian tomatoes), which are grown around the volcanic planes of Mount Vesuvius.
The cheese cannot be just any cheese. It must be mozzarella cheese. Specifically, the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. This is a cheese that has a Protected Designation of Origin (meaning a cheese can only be called this if it comes from this original area). This cheese is made from the milk of the semi-wild water buffalo that have been raised in Campania and Lazio.
Neapolitan pizza as a whole is also a protected food. This specific style of pizza also has a Protected Designation of Origin. A true Neapolitan pizza can only be declared as such if it meets a strict criteria laid out by the Italian Standardization Body and the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana.
UNESCO has even declared the skill of making Neapolitan pizza to be an “intangible cultural heritage”. It is this specific kind of pizza that inspired the New York pizza, which was introduced to the US by Italian immigrants in the 20th century.
So, if you have a great love of pizza, all of this information is probably making you want to eat a Neapolitan pizza whether it can be considered “healthy” or not.
Nutritional Value in Neapolitan Pizza
So, what exactly is in a Neapolitan pizza? Here is a rundown of the ingredients in a classic Neapolitan pizza:
- Wheat flour (00 flour is best),
- Marinara sauce/tomato pizza sauce
- Mozzarella cheese
Number of Calories:
The calories in a pizza will vary depending on its size and the amount of cheese you add. But, on average, a Neapolitan pizza will have somewhere between 400 and 800 calories.
Pizza, in general, isn’t the most nutrient-dense food. But it is only bread, cheese, tomato sauce, and some toppings. So it definitely doesn’t deserve the demonization it receives. So long as you aren’t eating a cheese pizza for dinner every night, then you’re fine.
You might feel you have a good grasp of how nutrient-dense these foods are. As you can see from how broad the number of calories in a Neapolitan pizza can be, it’s difficult to determine the extra nutritional value. But, here is a breakdown of a 780 calorie Neapolitan pizza:
- Fat: 12g
- Carbohydrates: 156g
Just for some extra information, here are some nutritional facts about the ingredients of a Neapolitan pizza.
Neapolitan pizza requires a very protein-dense dough. If you’re looking for a simple way to make your pizza a little healthier, Neapolitan pizza dough is a good choice. So, just how nutritious is Neapolitan pizza dough?
The healthiness of the sauce depends on your own exact ingredients. If you make it yourself from fresh tomatoes, then the nutrients will be better retained. So your pizza will have a greater nutritional benefit.
If you make it from passata or canned tomatoes, it will still be relatively healthy but there’s a chance that there may be preservatives in the can. This could just be salt but it’s still something to consider.
If you’re considering using a jar of pre-made pizza sauce, make sure to not only check the ingredients but also the nutritional information. A lot of store-bought pizza and pasta sauces contain an unexpectedly high amount of sugar. So, if you want to keep your pizza healthier, then it’s a good idea to make your own. Even if you just add some garlic and herbs to a passata.
The mozzarella cheese is the least nutritious ingredient on this pizza. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are a few options when it comes to making the cheese healthier.
You can use reduced-fat cheese. But you need to be careful. Some dairy products that have a reduced fat content often have extra ingredients added.
This is because reducing the fat content can affect the flavor. This means that some reduced-fat dairy products have added sugar to enhance the flavor. So, once this has balanced out, a reduced-fat dairy product is no healthier than a full-fat product.
Fat isn’t always a bad thing either. There are healthy fats. Check to see how much saturated fat is in the cheese that you have chosen. This is more important than the overall fat content.
One option to make your pizza a little healthier (and a little kinder to the planet) is by trying out some vegan cheese. Vegan cheese gets a bad reputation for being tasteless. But there are some amazing options out there today. So it’s worth giving it a go.
You probably know that spinach is good for you. In fact, spinach is amazing for you. It is a leafy green and is very high in iron. So, if you want to make your pizza healthier, then you can just add more spinach!
How to Make a Neapolitan Pizza Healthier
Although pizza isn’t as unhealthy as people often make out, there are some ways to make your pizza a little healthier. Here are just a few ideas.
Make Your Own
This is by far the easiest way to make any food healthier. Making pizza from scratch is not only great fun but definitely healthier. You have complete control over the ingredients in your pizza. Plus you can also be sure of the cleanliness of the kitchen in which it’s made. So it’s healthier in more ways than one.
So, what can you do to make sure your own pizza is healthier than takeout? Well, you can control what the toppings are cooked in. When you make your own pizza, you will soon realize that it is nowhere near as greasy as a takeout pizza.
Although one of the best things about takeout is the grease (no one is ordering pizza for their health) but this is one way of upping the nutritional value of your pizza.
Grease comes from oil. But not all oil is bad. Extra virgin olive oil is actually very good for you. You won’t need much oil when you’re making a pizza. And it’s not necessary to cook the toppings beforehand, but using something like extra virgin olive oil is a great way of adding something a little healthier to your pizza.
Use a Woodfire Oven
Surprisingly, woodfire ovens can make your pizza a little healthier. This is because of how quickly the pizza is cooked. As shown above, pizzas are surprisingly nutrient-dense. Especially if you load them up with healthy leafy greens like spinach.
But with a woodfire oven, or any other kind of proper pizza oven, the pizza is only cooked for around a minute. This quick cooking means that the nutrients are kept inside the pizza, rather than cooked away.
So, if you have a pizza oven, or maybe just thinking about getting one, it’s definitely worth using for that small extra healthy addition.
Creating a Healthier Base
If you’re still concerned about whether or not a Neapolitan pizza is all that healthy, there are a few ways to make a healthier version. These are:
- Using a tortilla wrap
- Making a cauliflower base
- Using wholewheat flour
You have probably seen these healthy alternatives to pizza bases all over social media. They are regularly touted as tasting exactly the same, if not better. While they are definitely healthier to an extent, we’re going to be honest and say that they do not taste the same as normal pizza dough.
When it comes to foods like pizza, so long as you eat them in moderation, you will be fine. Eating pizza is only a problem if you have it very regularly. This is because it doesn’t have many of the nutrient-rich foods you need in your diet.
But even so, here are the nutrients and calories in these healthier alternatives to pizza dough bases.
As a general guide, here is a breakdown of the recommended Dietary Reference Intake, produced by the Institute of Medicine. These are the specific nutrients and minerals that you should be eating every day and how much of them.
Amount for Males
Amount for Females
20%-35% of Daily Intake
20%-35% of Daily Intake
<25% of Daily Intake
<25% of Daily Intake
For further comparison, there are around 120 calories in the average pizza dough. This will, of course, vary depending on the size of the pizza. Here is the nutritional breakdown for a 50g of pizza dough:
- Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 22mg
- Sodium: 150 mg
- Protein: 4g
The base is what is most commonly replaced in “healthier” alternatives to pizza. But, as you can see from this comparison, the base really doesn’t have much of an impact. Carbohydrates, bread especially, have long been demonized. But they don’t hold the huge number of calories as many people think.
Foods that are high in carbohydrates don’t usually have the best nutritional value. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them. Carbohydrates should be an integral part of your diet. It is from carbohydrates that we draw so much of our energy.
But, with all that said, you can still make a small change by swapping out the pizza base. Here are a few alternative bases you can try out.
This is a very popular alternative. Tortillas crisp up when cooked, so they are almost like the traditional thin and crispy pizza base which originated in Naples. This is, however, one of the best options when it comes to creating a healthier version of a Neapolitan pizza.
Tortillas are super easy to find or even make yourself. They’re also cheaper to buy than ready-made pizza bases. Tortillas can be cooked, covered in sauce and other toppings, and then returned to the oven.
Tortilla base pizzas are also much quicker to make and cook. You won’t have to spend time kneading and trying to make sure they cook through properly.
One downside to tortilla base pizzas is that they won’t work as well in a pizza oven. Tortilla bases are better suited for standard kitchen ovens. The extremely high heat of a pizza oven can burn the tortilla or make it overly crispy.
In the average flour tortilla, there are around 40 calories. So there are a lot fewer calories in a tortilla than in a white wheat pizza base. Here is the specific nutrient breakdown:
- Total Fat 0.5g
- Sodium 40mg
- Total Carbohydrates 9g
- Fiber 1g
- Sugars 0g
- Protein 1g
As you can see, a tortilla base has the fewest calories of all the alternatives and the traditional white wheat pizza base. This is partly because it is so thin. Compared to many other pizza base options, a tortilla also has much fewer carbohydrates.
This nutritional information is for a standard white wheat tortilla. To make this even more nutritious, you can use a whole wheat tortilla or corn instead. The calorie content won’t change much but there will be more fiber in the whole wheat tortilla. And there will be much fewer calories in a corn tortilla.
Overall, a tortilla, whether white, whole wheat, or corn, is likely the closest to a traditional pizza base. If you enjoy a very thin and crispy pizza then absolutely give this a try. You might even prefer it. Think of this almost as an open quesadilla but with some extra ingredients inside.
For a time, cauliflower became the go-to carb alternative. Somewhere between zucchini linguini ending and cabbage noodles beginning, cauliflower rice and dough became popular.
This is mostly because cauliflower can crisp up well. It does, however, have a strong taste. Cauliflowers also hold a lot of water and are difficult to drain and turn into pizza “dough”. But, they have a good nutritional value and are low in calories.
The number of calories in a pizza base will, of course, depend on the size of the pizza itself. So, you can always just have a smaller pizza. But, if you’re intent on making your pizza as healthy as possible, cauliflower is a good idea.
The number of calories in a medium-sized cauliflower pizza base will be around 142. This is pretty low. Especially in comparison to a white flour pizza base. But calories can’t be the only factor you consider.
Calories are a useful indicator of how filling your food will be. But, when it comes to health and nutritional content, they don’t tell you very much. A chip has fewer calories than an apple. But we know that an apple is a more nutritious choice.
So, what nutrients will a cauliflower base actually provide for you? Here’s a rundown of the nutrients in a cauliflower pizza base:
- Total Fat 10.7g
- Sodium 202.2mg
- Potassium 124.2mg
- Total Carbohydrate 2.6g
- Dietary Fiber 1.5g
- Sugars 0.7g
- Protein 9.5g
As you can see, a cauliflower base has slightly more nutritional value than a dough base. Unsurprisingly, there is a huge difference in the number of carbohydrates. But this potentially means that you won’t be as full or satisfied when you are finished eating.
Whole Wheat Flour Bases
One of the best ways to improve your nutritional intake without massively changing your diet is to introduce whole wheat. Swapping your standard white bread and pasta for whole wheat will barely make a difference when it comes to taste.
The calorie intake will stay relatively the same. But the nutritional benefit of whole wheat is much higher. This is because whole wheat bread and pasta contain complex carbohydrates. These are higher in fiber and so are much easier to digest.
In an average whole wheat pizza dough, there are around 106 calories. So the overall calorie intake is slightly less than in a traditional white flour pizza. Here is the nutritional breakdown of an average whole wheat pizza base:
- Total Fat: 2.9g
- Sodium: 145.9mg
- Potassium: 17.2mg
- Carbohydrates: 18.1g
- Protein: 2.9g
Compared to a standard white wheat pizza, a whole wheat pizza has fewer carbohydrates and fewer calories. But also less protein and a lot more fat. This is, however, mostly unsaturated fat. So it isn’t a “bad” kind of fat.
Overall, a whole wheat pizza has more fiber. But the nutritional value, in comparison with a white wheat pizza, balances out.
So, if you want to make your pizza that little bit healthier, swap out your plain white flour for wholewheat flour. If you don’t like the taste of wholewheat bread, you can also just substitute half of the plain white flour. This will still improve your nutritional intake from your pizza and the taste will pretty much be the same.
That said, white bread and simple carbs aren’t terrible for you. Like all other foods, they should be eaten in moderation. Pizza is a delicious food and, so long as you’re not eating it too often, you shouldn’t worry much about how healthy it is.
Whole wheat has a richer taste than plain white flour. So give it a go, you might even prefer it.
The Problem with “Healthy” Alternatives
Carbohydrates have been demonized for years. We are often told to completely take carbs out of our diet as they are considered to be incredibly fattening. But, is there really anything wrong with them?
Just like any food, carbohydrates are absolutely fine in moderation. There are carbohydrates in lots of foods, not just bread and potatoes. (Although these are carbohydrate-dense foods). Pizza really isn’t as “unhealthy” as many people think. This is especially true if you make it yourself.
Another problem that is specific to a Neapolitan pizza is that a true Neapolitan is made in a very specific way. As mentioned above, Neapolitan pizza is a protected food. Due to the fact that it is pretty much the original pizza, if you make any kind of alteration it stops being a Neapolitan pizza.
So, if you decide to alter the base of your Neapolitan pizza, you are essentially making your own kind of pizza. This is pretty cool but it’s definitely not a Neapolitan.
So, we suggest you simply have a Neapolitan pizza and make it properly. This will be great fun and bring you so much joy. (Which is a lot more fun than counting how many calories are in each slice of mozzarella).
Gluten Free and Vegan Pizza
A lot of people perceive food that has been altered to remove gluten and animal products to be healthier. Gluten-free pizza will definitely be healthier if you have coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance.
But it won’t have much of an impact if you can easily eat and digest gluten. The emergence of gluten-free foods has been great for those who have digestive problems when it comes to gluten. But it was simply a fad for those who have no issue with gluten.
Vegan food is, generally, lower in calories. But this is only true to an extent. Due to the fact that vegan alternatives are made from vegetables, nuts, and legumes, they are usually healthier.
But, you can just as easily make a vegan pizza as calorie-dense as one loaded with cheese and meat. It will require more toppings so if you want an option that is lower in calories, choosing vegan alternatives is a good idea.
Plus, eating less meat and dairy is recommended for a healthy lifestyle. It’s also great for the planet and for animals. So, if you want to make yourself, the planet, and the lives of animals healthier, swapping out dairy cheese for vegan cheese is a great idea.
Overall, the answer to the question “Is Neapolitan pizza healthy?” is: it depends. If you have had a horrible day and are tired and just want some delicious carbs to comfort you. Then we say yes, Neapolitan pizza is healthy for you.
If you have had pizza several times this week and are wondering which pizza you can buy that will be “healthy”, then we say no, Neapolitan pizza isn’t that healthy for you. It would be better for your digestive system, energy levels, and overall health if you had something with more nutrients and vegetables.
The idea of food being “healthy” or not is tied to diet culture. Sure, some foods are richer in nutrients than others. And you should absolutely make fruit and vegetables the core of your diet. But, if you want a pizza, then have one.
It’s better to consider how the food will make you feel than whether or not it’s considered “healthy”.
Dividing food into categories of “good” and “bad” will only make you restrict yourself. Restricting food often leads to binge eating. This is definitely not healthy. If “healthier” to you means a reduction in the number of calories, then the most calorific ingredient on a Neapolitan pizza is the cheese. You can reduce this by switching to a vegan cheese or removing the cheese entirely.
But we’re not going to tell you to make a pizza without cheese. And if you do, it definitely cannot be classed as a Neapolitan pizza.
So, if you want a pizza: eat a pizza. Enjoy it and then wait a little until you have another one. Fill most of those meals in between with fruits and vegetables. But always make sure to eat what you enjoy and what feels right for you.
Rather than cave to external pressures of what should be considered “healthy” or “good” foods.
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