We know there are plenty of pizza freaks out there who also ask this age-old question: Why can’t pizza be healthy?! It tastes so good, the calories just shouldn’t count. But, alas, they do count. We, of course, don’t bother counting them. What counts is how pizza makes us feel.
But, did you know: a single slice of pizza can have up to 15 grams of protein?! That sounds pretty healthy to us (as if we needed another reason to eat the pizza). But we’re taking it a step further—for all of you pizza fanatics looking to get buff. We’ve made a PIZZA PROTEIN BAR! Serious pizza flavor, packed into an all-natural, homemade protein bar.
Check out the recipe below, learn why pizza might be healthy, and find out what pizza-thletes do to stay in shape.
Pizza is Healthy (in Theory)
It’s well known that pizza isn’t the healthiest of foods, but that’s one of the many reasons we love it so much. Yet, despite it’s cheesy, greasy, carb-o-licious goodness, we still hang onto the hope that pizza might be good for us in some way. Well, Pizza Hut claims on its website, each slice of pizza is a nutritious, “balanced meal!” You get “complex carbohydrates in the dough; calcium and proteins in its cheese, meat or fish toppings; and fibers and vitamins with its veggies.” Seriously...this is an actual quote from Pizza Hut's actual website... Not sure if you’re buying it, but we’ll roll with it.
I mean, it could be worse. If you saw our Pizza Donut episode, you know that the government used to consider pizza a vegetable in school lunches because of the tomato sauce—and a tomato is actually a fruit! In that case, pizza can even cover all five of the main food groups, am I right?! (This is also discussed on Pizza Hut’s website.) Well, these might be pretty far-reaching health claims, but pizza is good for us in a different way. We say that pizza’s good for the soul, and how much gooder can it get than that?
Can Pizza Prevent Cancer?
Actually, pizza might be even gooder than we thought. It’s not quite a balanced meal, but pizza has been linked to cancer prevention! Researchers in Italy conducted a study looking at the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, and asking if pizza can protect against cancer. Good news, pizza freaks. The study found that “regular pizza eaters” had a far lower risk of esophageal cancer than those who didn’t eat pizza regularly!
But, there may also be some bad news, depending on what kind of pizza you eat. These cancer-preventative effects are associated with Italian pizza specifically, which is “less than 50% crust, 20% tomato sauce, 20% mozzarella cheese, and 4% olive oil,” according to the lead researcher of the study. American fast-food pizzas are very different—often with way more calories and fat, along with preservatives and lots of heavy toppings. Undeniably delicious, but not cancer-fighting.
The key elements in Italian pizzas that are associated with lowered cancer risk are cooked tomatoes, which are high in lycopene, and olive oil. So, certain pizzas can be healthy when we’re thinking in terms of cancer. That means load on the fresh tomato sauce, but hold back on the thick crust and mountain of toppings. Or, don’t. After all, somethin’s gonna kill ya.
The World Pizza Games
Now we know that pizza can have some health benefits, but any nutrition regimen needs to be paired with proper exercise. That’s where the World Pizza Games come in to play. Every year at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, the finest pizzaioli (pizza makers) in the land gather to compete in an Olympics-style competition. There are five events that test these pizza-thletes skills:
- Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing—the pizzaioli perform acrobatic dough tossing routines to music, and are scored by judges. Think floor gymnastics routines with twirling and flying pizza doughs, typically performed by pizza-making dudes.
- Fastest Dough—competitors start with 5 dough balls, and whoever can toss out all 5 doughs to cover 5 pizza screens in the shortest amount of time wins.
- Largest Dough Stretch—who can toss out the largest dough in 5 minutes, which ends up looking like twirling a giant, doughy magic carpet.
- Fastest Pizza Box Folding—pizza-thletes have to fold five 12-inch pizza boxes as fast as possible. An underrated skill, but a crucial one for those of us waiting on that warm delivery.
- Pizza Triathlon—a tricky trio of box-folding, fast dough-tossing, and large-dough stretching skills. For the endurance pizza-thletes!
At this years World Pizza Games, Justin Wadstein was the champ of Acrobatic Dough Tossing, with a crazy routine set to the song “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. In the Fastest Dough finals, all five doughs were tossed out in just 29 seconds. The Largest Dough came out to over 102 cm (over 3 feet 4 inches)! And the fastest box was folded in just 20 seconds. Serious pizza skillz! After all that hard work, those pizzaioli certainly deserved a slice—or a pizza protein bar.
Pump Up the Pizza
In case pizza doesn’t pump you up enough already, we’ve got this tasty, pizza-flavored protein bar to give you that extra pump you need. It’s nutritiously pizzatastic. Of course, it tastes like pizza. Does it taste great? Well, we'll let you decide.
We do have one tip: rather than eating it warm, we recommend popping these babes into the fridge before eating. They taste just like cold pizza! So get to freestyle-tossing some dough, break a sweat, and eat this pizza protein bar!
- ¼ cup oat flour
- ¾ cup unflavored protein powder (we used Quest multipurpose powder)
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- ¼ cup parmesan
- ⅓ cup pepperoni, chopped
- ⅓ cup nuts (pine nuts & pistachios), chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- ½ - ¾ cup milk
- ½ cup mozzarella
- 1-2 tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- salt, to taste
- top with pepper & red pepper flakes, if desired
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and stir together. Use milk to adjust consistency as needed—you want a thick batter.
- Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment, lightly spray, and pour in batter. Spread out batter into a smooth, even layer.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and firmly set at the center.
- Once baked, cool on wire rack.
- Remove your baked pizza protein square from the pan (lift the foil to pull it out) and cut into bars.
- Then it’s time to Eat The Pizza protein bar!
- Individually wrap leftover bars and store in the fridge, or freeze.
Per 1 bar, yields 10
98 cals | 9C | 5F | 7P