If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard that you should avoid or reduce your consumption of certain foods and drinks, including sugary beverages, refined grains, and candy.
Of course, it’s best for everyone, not just those with diabetes, to follow a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet that contains plenty of protein, healthy fat, and fiber.
That said, on occasion, people with diabetes can enjoy foods that are often viewed as “unhealthy,” including pizza.
This article explains how people with diabetes can safely eat pizza and provides tips for healthy eating habits for those with diabetes.
Is pizza safe for people with diabetes?
The short answer to this question is yes, people with diabetes can enjoy all types of pizza.
However, it’s a good idea for all people, not just those with diabetes, to limit their intake of pizza. Here’s why.
High in refined and total carbs
Regardless of whether you have diabetes, healthcare professionals generally recommend limiting your intake of refined carbs, including the white flour used to make pizza crust.
But people with blood sugar management issues, such as those with diabetes, need to be particularly mindful of the amounts of refined and total carbs they’re consuming.
Refined grains are stripped of certain nutrients like protein and fiber, and they have a greater effect on blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, whole, unrefined grains or other nutrient-dense carb sources, such as fiber-rich fruits and starchy vegetables, tend to affect blood sugar levels less (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
What’s more, research has linked diets high in refined carbs and ultra-processed foods like frozen pizzas with the following (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source):
an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
higher fasting blood sugar levels
higher hemoglobin A1c — a marker of long-term blood sugar management
In general, if you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to monitor your total carb intake, including the types of carbs you’re consuming. This is because carbs are the macronutrient that has the greatest effect on your blood sugar levels.
Depending on the type, a 100-gram slice of cheese pizza can pack around 30 grams, or two servings, of carbs, while providing a relatively small amount of protein and minimal fiber (5Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that the carb content of a pizza slice can be much higher depending on the thickness of the crust, the size of the slice, and the toppings.
So, if you were to eat two slices of cheese pizza, you could be consuming around four servings, or 60 grams, of carbs, which is a significant amount.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Daily Value (DV) for carbs for someone who eats 2,000 calories per day is 275 grams (6Trusted Source).
High in sodium
Pizza can be very high in sodium, which can be problematic for some people, especially those with diabetes.
For example, two slices (200 grams) of Pizza Hut cheese pizza contain 1,248 mg of sodium, which is more than 50% of the recommended daily sodium limit of 2,300 mg (5Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
This is a concern because people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure, which can be affected by a high salt intake (8Trusted Source).
High in saturated fat
The same two slices (200 grams) of Pizza Hut cheese pizza deliver 10 grams of saturated fat, or half of the current DV (5Trusted Source, 9).
A diet high in saturated fat may also worsen diabetes by contributing to insulin resistance, which negatively affects blood sugar management (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
However, this doesn’t mean that people with diabetes have to avoid pizza altogether.
It simply means you should consider moderating your intake of pizza, as well as other foods rich in refined carbs, and that the majority of your diet should comprise whole, nutrient-dense foods.
What are the best types of pizza for people with diabetes?
To be clear, a person with diabetes can safely have any type of pizza they want on occasion, even if it’s not the most nutritious option.
However, in general, it’s best for people with diabetes (and everyone else) to consume mostly whole, nutrient-dense foods, including vegetables, fruits, protein sources like fish and chicken, as well as beans, nuts, and seeds.
When choosing carbs, it’s best to go for nutrient-dense carb sources most of the time. These include fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, and buckwheat.
If you order pizza, there are some ways to make your slice a bit more nutritious and blood-sugar-friendly.
Ingredients to choose
When deciding on a slice, opt for toppings like these:
For fiber: grilled veggies, including zucchini, peppers, olives, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes
For protein: roasted chicken, fresh mozzarella
For healthy fats: olives, pine nuts
Choosing a whole grain crust or a crust made with almond flour or cauliflower can also boost your fiber intake.
Plus, a crust made with almond flour or vegetables like cauliflower tends to be much lower in carbs than regular pizza, and it will affect your blood sugar less significantly than crusts made with white or whole wheat flour.
Just keep in mind that certain low carb pizzas, such as those advertised to people on keto diets, can be very high in calories because they’re typically much higher in fat than regular pizza.
Ingredients to limit
It’s perfectly healthy to enjoy a slice of your favorite pizza on occasion, even if it contains ingredients like extra cheese or pepperoni.
That said, if you want to make your slice healthier, it’s best to limit certain ingredients.
Here are some ingredients to watch out for:
processed meats like bacon, ham, and sausage
fried chicken and fried vegetables like fried eggplant
extra cheese topping and cheese-stuffed pizza crusts
sweet toppings like barbecue sauce and sweetened pineapple chunks
extra-thick crusts and deep-dish-style pizzas
creamy, high calorie sauces like Alfredo sauce and ranch dressing
Many specialty pizzas contain one or more of these ingredients, which can significantly increase the carb content and overall calorie load of your slice.
For example, two large slices of Papa John’s Super Hawaiian Pizza contain 80 grams of carbs and 680 calories. Plus, at 1,840 mg of sodium, this meal packs 80% of the recommended daily sodium limit.
Also, be mindful of the size of your pizza slice. Even though frozen pizzas and chain restaurants have set slice sizes, independently owned pizzerias may cut very large slices, which contain more carbs and calories per slice.
Healthy tips for pizza lovers
If you’re a pizza lover and have diabetes, you don’t have to give up your favorite cheesy food.
Here are a few tips on how to incorporate pizza into an overall healthy diet.
Let go of the guilt. If you love pizza, there’s no reason to completely avoid it. It’s OK to enjoy a slice occasionally. In fact, studies show that in the short term, restricting your favorite foods can cause you to crave them even more (12Trusted Source).
Pair pizza with healthy sides. Enjoying a slice of pizza alongside a large salad with a protein source like grilled chicken or salmon is a smart way to cover all of your nutrient needs and make the meal more filling (13Trusted Source).
Go for nutrient-dense toppings that are high in fiber and protein. When ordering your pizza, choose toppings like mushrooms, spinach, and artichokes for fiber, and add a protein source, such as grilled chicken.
Make your own pizza at home. Making your own pizza at home is not only a fun experience but also allows you to control the ingredients. Check out the recipes below for ideas.
Be mindful of portion sizes. When ordering pizza, be aware of the slice sizes available. You can also choose thin crust pizzas at certain restaurants, which typically contain fewer calories and carbs.
If you break pizza down into its simplest ingredients, it’s really just flour, oil, cheese, and marinara sauce. Nothing to fear!
If you take a balanced approach to diet and nutrition, you can enjoy your favorite foods, including pizza, from time to time and not think twice about it.
Instead of fixating on one meal or one particular food, your focus should be on the overall quality of your diet.
Nutritious pizza recipes
Making a pizza at home is a perfect way to try out new ingredients and create nutritious pizza recipes that are just as delicious as the slices you get from your favorite local pizzeria.
Here are a few ideas for homemade pizza recipes. These are a good choice for people with diabetes because they’re lower in carbs and higher in protein and fiber.
Zucchini pizza crust. This zucchini pizza crust is made with almond flour, zucchini, and eggs and topped with mini bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms, jalapeño, and mozzarella.
Cauliflower pizza crust. Top this low carb cauliflower pizza crust with shredded chicken, pesto, mozzarella, and spinach for a delicious and low carb pesto chicken pizza that’s packed with protein.
Almond flour pizza crust. This low carb almond flour pizza crust is easy to make. Top it with your choice of cheese, sauce, and veggies.
If you aren’t a fan of making pizza from scratch, there are plenty of options for making pizza at home that require minimal work in the kitchen.
Frozen pizza crust options from Cappello’s and Califlour Foods make great options for those who don’t want to make their own crust.
Simple Mills offers nutritious boxed pizza mix crust made with minimal ingredients that can be whipped up in no time with just a few simple ingredients.
Shop for Cappello’s, Califlour Foods, and Simple Mills pizza crust online.
If you have diabetes, lower carb crusts and toppings that are higher in fiber and protein are a good choice. These will affect your blood sugar levels less significantly.
The bottom line
If you have diabetes, following a nutrient-dense diet is essential for optimal health and blood sugar management. However, this doesn’t mean you have to give up pizza.
Instead, enjoy a slice or two of your favorite pizza occasionally as part of a balanced diet.
Also, you can try making your own pizza at home using lower carb ingredients, such as almond flour and veggies, to make a diabetes-friendly pie that’s delicious and nutritious.