Can You Eat Pizza When Pregnant?
Pizza is one of the most delicious and filling dishes ever invented. Getting pregnant is not a reason to crave this. But pregnancy cravings do make one want to have a lot of it, all of the time.
And it’s quite reasonable! Every single component is good on its own, from the crispy crust with its doughy sides to the sweet and tangy tomato sauce base topped with different kinds of gooey cheese and salty cured meats. Imagine how awesome everything would be in just one bite!
Unfortunately for all preggy mums out there, many doctors and nutritionists also recommend them to try and avoid pizza as much as possible – even when pregnancy cravings strike.
Why is Pizza Unhealthy for Pregnancy?
Pizza is considered by many medical experts as junk food, ergo not the healthiest option for expecting mothers. Let’s go back to the scrumptious layers that make up the pizza and see what scientific studies have discovered about each ingredient.
The Pizza Crust
The main culprit in the crust is its high carbohydrate content. Once digested, carbohydrate is converted into their simplest form – glucose – which is used by the body for energy. A slice of thin-crust pizza (just the crust, no toppings) has at least 15 grams of carbohydrates already, about 7% of the recommended daily intake.
Too much glucose in the blood may cause gestational diabetes which can evolve into type 2 diabetes, even after giving birth.
Some also disapprove of the fact that, more often than not, the crust is made with refined flour. Because the wheat’s germ and bran are removed in the refinery process, you don’t get to benefit from its good nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Tomato Sauce Base
Tomato, in any shape or form, is very good for pregnant women and their babies. It contains Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids – all well-known powerful antioxidants. It also has Lycopene which prevents pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure disorders associated with pregnancy).
The problem with tomato sauce is its high sugar and sodium content. A quarter cup of the canned variety contains 4.3g and over 300mg, respectively. Sodium increases the risk of gestational hypertension. If left untreated, this can lead to pre-term birth and serious heart problems in the future.
Pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, pancetta, and all these cured meats are flavorful but detrimental additions to pizza, especially for those with a bun in the oven. Not only are these incredibly high in sodium but they are also packed with nitrates – a must-have ingredient in preserving meats.
Nitrates on their own are not carcinogenic, but their reaction with other compounds during food processing could render them carcinogenic. Cooking these in high temperatures, as one would in pizza, is one example of making it cancer-causing.
Pescatarians in the family way are not safe with their seafood pizza orders either. While fish, shrimps, and clams are great sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids (must-have for expecting mums), these are also loaded with mercury. Mercury is incredibly toxic, it has tons of negative effects on the fetus, which could continue as they grow into adults.
This delightful dairy product is packed with saturated fat and sodium. A slice of pizza contains has 10g of fat, almost a quarter of the recommended daily intake. The total amount of sodium in the same slice is a whopping 600mg – most of which comes from that beautifully oozing cheese.
Some cheese varieties are also downright dangerous for expecting mothers. Certain products (Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Brie, and Camembert, just to name a few) are not completely pasteurized and could cause listeriosis, a bacterial infection which may lead to stillbirths and miscarriages.
Some of you may be ludicrously exclaiming “even vegetables?!” right now. But the truth is, yes, there are health practitioners who aren’t too impressed with vegetables on pizza. Greens, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers are incredibly nutritious, no doubt about that. But when they are too processed (in the case of those from a can), the veggies lose all their nutrients.
The Next Best Thing
It’s hard to curb cravings, especially when you’re carrying a baby. You deserve this treat because pregnancy is hard, tiring, and incredibly stressful. Instead of completely removing pizza from your diet, you could do the following instead:
- Less is more
Instead of getting those thick Chicago-style deep dish pizzas, opt for thin crust NY-style instead. You’ll still get that fix because the latter still contains all the amazing ingredients you’re craving for.
- Pick the better alternative
Do a bit more research about the specific ingredients that go into that much-needed slice. Instead of pepperoni, ask the waiter if they have freshly ground meat since it has lesser salt and no nitrates. Choose low-fat mozzarella rather than the oh-so-creamy and tasty blue cheese. Your tastebuds will know it, but your body won’t know one type of fat from another. And if you love seafood, try to veer away from tuna because it has more mercury than smaller varieties like herring or trout.
- Say no to the microwaveable option
Refrigerated boxed versions are readily available, amazingly cheap, and oh-so-easy to prepare. You can simply grab one from the freezer and then zap it in the oven. Unfortunately, these are overly processed and, to be honest, rarely care about the nutritive aspect of the dish.
- Cook at home
If you’re worried that even restaurants won’t get your order right, it would be best to prepare this dish at home. Admittedly, this is time-consuming, especially if you choose to knead your dough, cook up your sauce, and slice every single ingredient. The upside is you know you’re getting the safer, healthier options and still satisfy that neverending craving.
“In Moderation” is Still the Best
Pregnancy cravings are a proven fact. Studies show that up to 90% of pregnant women experience this during the first trimester which gets stronger during the second trimester. The sudden need for either sweet or fatty foods seems so normal, most people don’t question it anymore.
Pizza isn’t inherently bad. It’s not a huge no-no for pregnancy either. But it would benefit both the expectant mum and her little bun in the oven to enjoy just a slice in a week and no more. This is hard, to be perfectly honest, but the knowledge shared above and the tips provided can help. Give it a try and see where it goes!