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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: If I order vegetable-topped pizza, do a couple of slices count as a serving of vegetables?

A: Vegetable pizzas are a great choice, but most take-out or frozen pizzas don’t supply a meal’s worth of vegetables, even with tomato sauce. If you order a combination of several different veggie toppings, an entire 14-inch (large 8-slice) pizza might contain the equivalent of about a cup. To make pizza fit as part of a healthfully balanced meal, try adding extra veggies of your own. While waiting for pizza delivery, microwave, steam or sauté some vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers or broccoli. Leafy greens work especially well as an add-on, because a good size portion cooks down to a size that can fit on each pizza slice. You can use fresh, pre-washed spinach or any leafy greens and microwave them right in the bag, or quickly thaw and heat some frozen spinach or kale for your pizza. Sauté these briefly with some garlic or sprinkle with a dash of Parmesan for extra flavor as you add it to the pizza. Another option is to make pizza at home, starting with pre-made crust or whole-wheat dough to save time, if you like. Then you can load the pizza with lots of vegetables, making it healthier, tastier and more filling.

Yet another approach for pizza as part of a healthful meal is to have a side salad or a plate of antipasto to round out the meal, with raw vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, marinated mushrooms or artichoke hearts, leftover roasted vegetables and raw carrot sticks or pepper strips. These options provide the chance to get a reasonable proportion of the two to three cups of vegetables daily that are recommended for us from age nine onward. Moreover, getting extra vegetables can help make a meal filling enough without the excess calories that can add up so quickly when satisfying hunger with pizza alone.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 12/28/2015

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