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A Generic Photo of a pizza. See PA Feature TOPICAL Pizza. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Pizza.

A Generic Photo of a pizza. See PA Feature TOPICAL Pizza. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Pizza.

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It’s National Pizza Month - hurrah! Lisa Salmon reveals simple ways to pimp a pizza for guilt-free gorging

Pizzas aren’t generally known for their health-boosting properties, but there’s a reason they’re one of the world’s most popular foods - they’re so darn tasty!

And October is National Pizza Month, so it would be rude not to indulge in a slice - or two - right? But, that doesn’t have to mean ruining your healthy-eating efforts, if you choose your toppings - and base - wisely.

“Unhealthy, fatty pizzas tend to be the shop-bought and takeaway varieties, not their potentially much healthier cousin, the home-made pizza,” says Nigel Denby, head of nutrition at Grub4Life (grub4life.org.uk). “Home-made pizzas can be as healthy or unhealthy as you like - cutting down on the saturated fats and processed meats and adding lots of vegetables, and even fruit, will ensure it’s full of goodness.

“With just a bit of creativity, you can have all the taste with much less of the unhealthy aspects.”

Shop-bought or takeaway pizzas are often packed with saturated fats, carbohydrates and salt, not to mention calories. A single slice of a thin-crust cheese pizza can contain around 250 calories - add calorie-laden toppings and a thick crust, and you’re up in the 300-plus calorie bracket per slice.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it was just a couple of slices we were munching. But considering a standard pizza might contain eight slices, it’s suddenly easy to rack up a massive 2,400 calories in just one meal, which is roughly a man’s entire recommended daily calorie intake, and well over the recommended 2,000 calories a day for a woman.

Ideas to cut the calories

lInstead of traditional refined white flour, use wholewheat flour in the base.

lAvoid shop-bought tomato sauce that can be packed with sugar. Make your own, using tinned tomatoes, olive oil, seasoning, basil and garlic - which are full of antioxidants and calcium.

lSpread pesto on the crust. Made with basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, it adds some healthy vitamins and minerals, plus omega-3.

lSubstitute regular cheese for low-fat mozzarella to lower the pizza’s saturated fat and cholesterol content. Low-fat ricotta is another option.

lPile on the veggies for extra fibre and nutrients - it should be easy to get two or three of your five-a-day on one pizza.