Nutrition: The Runner's guide to Pizza

Prepped the right way and consumed in reasonable quantities, the slice is definitely right. Choose pizza for fuelling, recovery...and, yes, reward

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Top it off...

Cheese is both the good news and the bad news. It provides calcium for strong bones and high-quality protein for building muscles, but it can derail your diet with huge amounts of calories and saturated fat, says sports dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield. ‘A good guideline is no more than 115g of cheese for a pizza that serves four,’ says Scritchfield. The real thrill of pizza-making is choosing the rest of the toppings. Perhaps it goes without saying that there are virtually limitless tasty and vitamin-rich veggie options, and you can get creative with choices like fennel or broad beans. Sliced pears or figs add a sweet contrast to your savoury slice. Committed carnivores are well catered for, too, with healthy choices like sirloin steak and pork fillet strips packing a lean, flavourful punch.

Topping the balance

For a well balanced pizza, combine earthy ingredients (mushrooms, spinach) with sweet (peppers, onion) and salty (parmesan, olives, anchovies), while resisting those that lack nutritional punch. We’ve rated classic toppings to see which earn their spot on the top, and which you should ditch. Then we’ve suggested some options you may not associate with pizza (yet), but which deliver on flavour and health.


Mushrooms For a low-calorie cost, mushrooms deliver umami flavour and cancer-fighting compounds called beta-glucans.

Onions The bulbs are laced with quercetin, an antioxidant that may improve endurance.

Spinach Nitrates in this leaf may bolster muscle function by improving muscular contraction.

Sliced tomato Packed with the super-nutrient lycopene and with just 40kcal in 10 slices, they don’t hurt your waistline.

Olives Packed with beneficial phytonutrients, a source of iron and big salty flavour.

Oregano/basil/thyme Herbs add a punch of flavour to pizza for virtually no calories.

Pineapple A controversial choice in taste terms, perhaps, but the ‘Hawaiian’ staple is brimming with vitamin C.

Chicken Provides low-fat protein and niacin, a B vitamin needed for converting food into energy.

Ham Unlike most other meats at the pizzeria, ham is low in heart-hampering saturated fat.

Chillies Rich in vitamins C and B, plus other antioxidants. Research suggests they may also fire your metabolism.

Broccoli Loaded with cancer-fighting sulforaphane.

Aubergine A boost of fibre and health-promoting antioxidants.

Anchovies A sustainable source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Eggs Protein and the brain-boosting compound choline.

Fat chance!

Pepperoni Nitrites found in cured meats such as pepperoni have been shown to raise diabetes risk. Better protein toppings include chicken, prawn and lean steak. 

Green pepper Go with more nutrient-dense red peppers.

Sausage A fat bomb. A healthier choice is chicken sausage.

Minced beef Opt for slices of leaner steak such as sirloin or lean minced beef.

Get creative

Avocado Loaded with vitamin K, folate and vitamin C.

Broad beans For fibre and folate, a B vitamin that’s been shown to fend off hypertension.

Fennel Liquorice flavour and a hefty hit of vitamin C.

Kale For vitamin K – higher intakes may cut diabetes risk.

Nuts Almonds or pistachios add heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

Sweet piquante peppers Sweet-spicy capsaicin, which may help with weight loss.

Pork tenderloin Underrated lean meat with great texture for pizza.

Right ho, cheese!

Brie The ripening process that produces oozy cheeses boosts levels of anti-inflammatory compounds to help fend off heart trouble.

Mozzarella Scritchfield says the high water content makes these springy white balls less calorie-dense.

Goat’s cheese Rich in heart-healthy omega-3s and bone-strengthening calcium, and packs around 30 per cent less fat than cheddar.

Ricotta ‘Ricotta contains more whey than other cheeses, which is great for improving recovery and building lean body mass,’ says Scritchfield.

Pecorino Blend into sauces for a sharp-tasting, calorie-controlled flavour punch.

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