5 Tips for Eating Pizza With Diabetes | DiabetesTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About DiabetesTeam
Powered By

Eating Pizza With Diabetes: 5 Tips

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Posted on August 18, 2023

Pizza is a favorite meal for young and old alike. Whether it’s a birthday party or the end of a long workday, almost everyone gets excited about pizza. If you or someone you love is living with diabetes, you may worry that pizza can’t be a go-to meal. Eating pizza if you have diabetes can be challenging because pizza is high in:

  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Total carbs
  • Saturated fats (in cheese and toppings like pepperoni or sausage)
  • Sodium (salt, added to tomato sauce and toppings like pepperoni)

Alluding to the Mediterranean diet, one DiabetesTeam member joked, “Well, isn’t pizza Mediterranean food invented in Italy? Why isn’t it healthy for you?”

The good news is that with a few switches and swaps, you don’t have to say goodbye to this Mediterranean favorite. Keep reading to learn five tips that can help people with diabetes enjoy pizza while taking care of their health.

1. Try Making Pizza at Home

Takeout pizza or frozen pizza is convenient but may exceed recommended amounts of carbohydrates, saturated fat, and more. One slice of a 14-inch cheese pizza from a fast-food restaurant contains 309 calories, 12.5 grams of saturated fat, and 36.7 grams of carbohydrates. For reference, when it comes to blood sugar control, the American Diabetes Association recommends limiting your carbohydrate intake to 45 to 60 grams per meal. One slice also provides 650 milligrams of sodium, 43 percent of the American Diabetes and American Heart Association’s recommended daily sodium intake for a person with diabetes and high blood pressure.

When you have diabetes, “your home can feel like a safe zone for your blood sugar,” observed a DiabetesTeam member. When you prepare your own meals, you know exactly what ingredients you put in — especially the ones that matter to people with diabetes, such as the number of grams of carbs, saturated fat, and sodium.

Making your own pizza is popular with some DiabetesTeam members. One member likes to grill homemade pizzas on the barbeque to add a “smokey, wood-fired pizza oven taste.”

Additional perks of making pizza yourself are that “it helps a lot to bring your food bill down and the nutritional value up,” said another DIY pizza advocate.

2. Think About Your Pizza Crust

When it comes to your pizza crust, you have many more options today than people with type 2 diabetes did even five or 10 years ago. Your crust choice can help make your pizza more diabetes-friendly by lowering its glycemic index. High-glycemic foods raise your blood sugar more quickly than lower-glycemic index foods. White flour, which is used to make most pizza crusts, is generally a high-glycemic food.

The crust options below can be better choices for people with diabetes, for many reasons, such as having a lower glycemic index or containing fewer carbs.

Thin-Crust Pizza

One pizza-loving DiabetesTeam member only “eats pizza once a week, always thin crust, small pieces, and a maximum of two slices.”

Eating fewer slices and choosing thin-crust over thick-crust, deep-dish, or stuffed-crust pizza will make it easier to keep your blood sugar levels in healthier ranges. Deep-dish and thicker-crusted pizzas have more bread and can hold more toppings, so they may contain higher amounts of carbs and saturated fat.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Crust Dough

Pizza dough usually contains all-purpose white flour, a processed, low-fiber grain. Choosing a higher-fiber, whole-grain crust for your pizza will reduce its glycemic index. Whole-wheat flour has a lower glycemic index and slightly more protein than white flour. Eating carbs with protein and fiber slows down how quickly your blood sugar rises.

Plant-Based Crusts

Adding “riced” veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini to pizza dough is an excellent idea for people looking for a more diabetes-friendly way to eat pizza. You can even buy some cauliflower crust pizzas in the grocery freezer aisle, but make sure to read the ingredient list to look for what type of flour is mixed with the vegetable. Sometimes, rice flour is used, but be careful — it can drive your carb count up.

Almond-Flour Pizza Crust Dough

Using flour made from ground almonds in your pizza dough lowers your pizza’s glycemic index and adds fiber, healthy fats, and protein. Nuts are healthy for people with diabetes because they have more beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids, protein, and fiber and are lower in carbohydrates. This means better blood sugar numbers for you and feeling fuller, faster, and for longer. Just keep in mind that although healthy, nuts are rich in calories. Eat them in moderation if your goal is to lose weight.

3. Top Your Pizza With Veggies

Adding fiber-rich toppings like vegetables can help lower the overall glycemic index and saturated fat content of your pizza. The best options for diabetic-friendly veggies for pizza toppings are nonstarchy vegetables such as:

  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives (which can be high in added sodium)
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes

You can balance out the carb-heavy nature of your pizza meal by using the “plate method” advocated by health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fill one-half of your plate with salad greens and fiber-rich vegetables to help fill you up.

Some pizza gourmets also love adding crisp microgreens or arugula, which can provide a nutrient-packed, refreshing garnish and a pop of bright green to your veggie-forward pizza options.

4. Choose Lean Protein Pizza Toppings

Pepperoni, bacon, ham, and sausage contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium, which need to be limited on a heart-healthy diet for individuals managing diabetes. When meal planning, people living with diabetes should try to get enough lean protein. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein as one with less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving.

Following these guidelines, leaner sources of savory and filling proteins for your pizza are:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey, chicken, or reduced-fat pork sausage
  • Egg

Cheese can be a high-fat and high-sodium pizza topping. If you’re shopping for pizza ingredients at the grocery store, you can check the nutritional information to look for lower-fat and lower-sodium varieties of cheese.

If you’re ordering pizza from a restaurant, the following tips can help limit fat and salt:

  • Avoid creamy cheese sauces.
  • Avoid deep-dish (which have multiple layers of cheese), or cheese-stuffed crust.
  • Ask for your pizza to be made with a “lighter” serving of cheese — or even without cheese.
  • Select a lower-sodium cheese like fresh mozzarella.

5. Take a Walk After Your Meal

Taking a short walk after a meal can lower your blood sugar and reduce your risk for heart disease. Researchers have found that walking within 60 to 90 minutes after eating can help slow the rise in glucose levels caused by a carb-heavy pizza dinner. A post-eating walk can also help digestion — a bonus for those struggling with constipation or heartburn. Ideally, you should walk for at least 20 minutes at medium intensity for the best results.

With the spike in blood sugar levels caused by pizza, moving your muscles will help your body improve its circulation (blood flow) as it works to deliver energy (glucose from the pizza carbs) to your working muscles. As your muscles use the carbs, you can avoid dangerous or unhealthy spikes in blood sugar.

Enjoy Pizza Safely and Healthfully

DiabetesTeam members often ask how they can cook healthy meals every day. With these healthy pizza-eating tips, you can easily make your DIY pizza prep simpler and more delicious. Finding ways to have your pizza and eat it too will help you feel better in the long run — emotionally and physically. Making healthier choices, rather than cutting pizza out of your diet altogether, will help you be more successful in living your best life with diabetes.

Talk With Others Who Understand

DiabetesTeam is the social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones. On DiabetesTeam, more than 132,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with type 2 diabetes.

Are you living with type 2 diabetes? Do you have any tips for DiabetesTeam members? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on August 18, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about diabetes sent to your inbox.

Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. Learn more about her here
Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM is a certified nurse midwife and trained health literacy specialist.. Learn more about her here

Related Articles

In a recent survey of DiabetesTeam members, respondents discussed the impact diabetes can have on...

Survey: 64 Percent of DiabetesTeam Members Say Diabetes Interferes With Quality of Life

In a recent survey of DiabetesTeam members, respondents discussed the impact diabetes can have on...
Managing hunger when you have diabetes can feel like walking a tightrope. On the one hand, you wa...

Diabetes Hunger: 3 Ways To Manage

Managing hunger when you have diabetes can feel like walking a tightrope. On the one hand, you wa...
Living with type 2 diabetes requires you to carefully consider the products you consume, includin...

Cough Medicine and Diabetes: 5 Things To Look For

Living with type 2 diabetes requires you to carefully consider the products you consume, includin...
Have you ever considered donating your blood to a local blood bank? It’s like giving the gift of ...

Can You Donate Blood or Plasma if You Have Diabetes?

Have you ever considered donating your blood to a local blood bank? It’s like giving the gift of ...
Potatoes have gotten a bad rep for being “high in sugar,” but how about their orange counterpart,...

Diabetes and Sweet Potatoes: How Much Is Safe?

Potatoes have gotten a bad rep for being “high in sugar,” but how about their orange counterpart,...
Even the best accommodations at work sometimes aren’t enough to help you keep your job when you h...

Can You Apply for Disability Benefits With Diabetes?

Even the best accommodations at work sometimes aren’t enough to help you keep your job when you h...

Recent Articles

Welcome to DiabetesTeam — the place to connect with others living with diabetes. This video will...

Getting Started on DiabetesTeam (VIDEO)

Welcome to DiabetesTeam — the place to connect with others living with diabetes. This video will...
Diabetic macular edema (DME) can be categorized as center-involved or non-center-involvedCenter-i...

Center-Involved Diabetic Macular Edema vs. Non-Center-Involved: Differences and Management

Diabetic macular edema (DME) can be categorized as center-involved or non-center-involvedCenter-i...
Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a relatively common vision problem in people with diabetes.Optica...

Diagnosing Diabetic Macular Edema: What Is OCT?

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a relatively common vision problem in people with diabetes.Optica...
If you have diabetes, you probably already know that it can cause problems in many different part...

5 Ways Diabetes Affects Your Eyes and Vision

If you have diabetes, you probably already know that it can cause problems in many different part...
Diabetes, eye surgeries, and aging — what do these all have in common? They’re three of the 10 ca...

The 10 Causes of Macular Edema

Diabetes, eye surgeries, and aging — what do these all have in common? They’re three of the 10 ca...
If you’re living with diabetic macular edema (DME) and type 1 or type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellit...

4 Diabetic Macular Edema Treatments To Know

If you’re living with diabetic macular edema (DME) and type 1 or type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellit...
DiabetesTeam My diabetes Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close