Is it pizza? Is it an omelet? Neither: it’s a pizza omelet! (Kinda like a frittata, but so much more exciting!)
Many of my clients have elevated blood sugar (glucose). One of the many things you can do to lower your glucose is to reduce your intake of carbohydrates — especially, refined carbohydrates, such as sugar or foods that contain a large amount of flour (even “whole wheat”), white rice, rice noodles, or other refined starches.
Many of my clients love pizza — also known as a food that is predominantly made of white flour. According to the Nutrition Coordinating Center Food & Nutrient Database (NCCDB) curated by The University of Minnesota, a typical 10-inch thin-crust pizza contains 94 g of carbohydrate and a thick-crust pizza contains 230 g. That’s a lot of carbohydrates!
Carbs & glucose 101
When you consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose during the process of digestion. Glucose is a simple sugar and the primary source of energy for the body’s cells. The rate at which carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream can vary depending on several factors, including the amount of carbohydrate consumed, the type of carbohydrate consumed, the presence of fiber, and the overall composition of the meal.
Some carbohydrates are rapidly digested and absorbed, leading to a rapid and significant increase in blood glucose levels triggering a similarly rapid and significant increase in insulin levels, the hormone tasked with transferring glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells). Examples of such foods include white bread, white rice, sugary drinks, pasta, and pizza (especially when they aren’t accompanied by a significant amount of protein or fiber). Other types of carbs, like legumes, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits, are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a gradual and more sustained release of glucose and insulin into the bloodstream.
Not only are lower glucose and insulin levels associated with better health; less-refined foods also provide more nutrients than highly processed foods that have had much of their nutritional content stripped away during milling and refining — like white flour & rice.
At best, pizza can thus be considered a “missed opportunity,” since it supplies a lot of energy but very little in the way of essential nutrients — ya know, things like protein, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc. (This type of food is called “energy dense:” it supplies a lot of energy but not a lot of nutrients.) At worst, pizza can send you on a blood-sugar roller coaster ride featuring glucose spikes followed by glucose crashes, fatigue, brain fog, carb cravings, and more fun things.
One way you may be able to counteract refined-carb-inducted glucose gyrations is to eat a fiber-rich appetizer like a salad, or drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water, before tucking into your pizza (or better still, a salad dressing in apple cider vinaigrette); research has found that accompanying refined carbs with acid, fiber, fat and protein can slow the speed at which carbs leave your stomach and convert into glucose.
These are two of the blood-sugar regulating “hacks” that biochemist and Instagram health influencer Jessie Inchauspe (“The Glucose Goddess”) recommends. On her Instagram feed (well worth a visit if you’re glucose-curious) she shows what happens to her own glucose level (as measured by a continuous glucose monitor) when she eats pizza on its own (sharp spike followed by slow decline) versus pizza preceded by a serving of roasted green beans (significantly smaller spike, a small dip, another small increase, and another dip). A sharp spike-and-slump sequence can lead to feelings of “food coma,” whereas the flatter curve is likely to provide more sustainable energy.
Pretty cool, huh? Definitely a smart move if you find yourself at a party or restaurant where the only food on offer is pizza.
However, the GG’s hacks don’t address the paucity of nutrients in pizza. While you might have a lower glucose spike by following her advice, you still aren’t getting much protein, calcium, potassium, or any of the other essential nutrients that help to induce deep satiety.
This is what led me to dream up “Pizza Omelet.”
Yes, I know, even the tastiest omelet in the world can’t replace a deliciously tangy, chewy sourdough pizza crust. But let’s be honest, how often do you find that kind of amazing pizza crust? (When you do, go ahead and enjoy a little — esp. since sourdough-leavened dough is less glycemic than yeasted dough.)
Meanwhile, I think we can all agree that most of the flavor of pizza resides in its toppings, not its crust. And that’s where Pizza Omelet really comes into its own!
All you need to do is bake a fluffy omelet and then top it with tomato sauce and all your favorite pizza toppings. Here I used artichoke hearts, olives, prosciutto, part-skim mozzarella, and pine nuts, but you can use any other toppings you like — salami/pepperoni, meatballs, goat cheese, roasted, jarred peppers, sliced mushrooms, onions, asparagus, pesto, and even tuna (French pizza restaurants commonly offer seafood pizzas called “Oceane” or “Neptune” that feature tuna, mussels, shrimp and onions — delicious!).
Not only do these toppings provide a cornucopia of amazing flavors and textures (who can resist bubbling, stringy mozzarella or the buttery crunch of freshly toasted pine nuts?); but they also supply the essential nutrients that will make every cell in your body sing. Who knows, your tastebuds may even forgive you for not eating “real” pizza! 🙂
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium scallions finely sliced (I snip them with kitchen scissors)
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 2 cups leafy greens such as baby spinach, kale, arugula or a mix of these; chop coarsely
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 2 egg whites equivalent to 6 tbsp liquid eggwhite, which you can buy at the supoermarket)
- 1 tsp oregano dried
- ¼ cup tomato sauce ideally without added sugar; I like Rao's jarred pizza sauce
- 2 artichoke hearts canned or jarred, drained, cut into quarters
- 6 olives pitted, ano color you like
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 2 ounces part-skim mozzarella coarsely grated
- a few leaves of fresh basil for garnish
- Preheat the broiler on HIGH; set the oven rack 8 inches below the broiler.
- In a 9-inch skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and scallions and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Add the leafy greens, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted; about 1-2 minutes.
- While the greens are cooking, combine the eggs, egg whites, and dried oregano in a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
- Once the greens are cooked, add them to the bowl with the beaten eggs and stir to combine.
- Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, return to medium heat, and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Pour the egg-vegetable mixture into the skillet. Let cook for 2 minutes, gently lifting up the edges of the omelet to let some of the egg mixture run underneath it.
- Place the skillet under the broiler until the eggs are set and puffed up. Remove and set the skillet on the stovetop.
- Spread the sauce over the eggs and top it with artichoke hearts, prosciutto (torn into small pieces), olives, cheese, and pine nuts. Then grill again until the cheese is bubbling and the pine nuts are starting to turn golden -- about 1-2 minutes.
- Use a pot holder to remove the skillet from the oven. Let cool for a minute, slide onto a serving plate, scatter with fresh herbs, and serve immediately.
- Keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge and reheats well in the microwave. Works well in a lunchbox or at picnics, too.