Pizza Party

Nutrition Action Healthletter Brand-Name Rating


White flour, cheese, pepperoni. No one's confusing pizza with health food. But if you keep a box in your freezer for an occasional no-fuss meal, there's good news: a handful of decent pies are showing up in supermarkets. Crusts are getting thinner or adding whole grains. And veggies like shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash, and arugula are replacing some—or all—of the cheese or processed meat. Plus, a new crop of whole-grain crusts lets you make your own pizza with toppings DiGiorno would die for. It’s still tough to dodge most of the salt, white flour, and saturated fat. But if you’re hunting for a better pizza, here are some to try.

Article written by Lindsay Moyer and Bonnie Liebman. The information for the article was compiled by Leah Ettman.

Get Thin

Thin-crust pizzas have fewer calories per slice.

“Farm-grown leafy spinach, 100% real mozzarella, our signature sauce and swirls of hearty garlic sauce,” says Dr. Oetker Virtuoso Signature Spinach Thin + Crispy Crust Pizza. And boy does the good doctor pile on the spinach.

Slice for slice, you get less (typically white) flour and fewer calories in thin-crust pizzas (though the thin crust may lead you to eat more slices).

Other thin-crust pizzas we liked: Whole Foods 365 Goat Cheese & Pesto Thin Crust and DiGiorno Pizzeria! Thin Spinach & Mushroom.

Your Slice or Mine?

About the same diameter, yet a CPK serving is a third of the pie, while a DiGiorno serving is a sixth.

A serving of California Pizza Kitchen Four Cheese Crispy Thin Crust Pizza has the same number of calories (about 300) as a serving of DiGiorno Four Cheese Original Rising Crust Pizza, according to their Nutrition Facts labels.

But even though both pies measure roughly 11 inches across, a serving of CPK’s pizza is one-third of the pie, while for DiGiorno’s (thicker-crust) pizza it’s just one-sixth.

What gives? Labels define a serving of pizza as the fraction that weighs closest to five ounces. So they assume that you’d eat a narrower slice of a pizza that’s heavier (thanks to a thicker crust or extra toppings) than a pizza that’s lighter.

Would you? Maybe. Maybe not.

That’s why we have no Best Bites and no chart that ranks calories or other nutrients in pizzas. The numbers depend on the serving size, and a serving is just too unpredictable.

The bottom line: When you compare Nutrition Facts on pizzas, make sure you do the math to match how much you’re likely to eat.

Save on Salt

Light in sodium, not taste.

Amy’s Light in Sodium Spinach Pizza proves that it’s possible to get less salt—but no less flavor—in a frozen pie.

The single-serve (7 oz.) pizza keeps the sodium to a modest 390 milligrams (along with 440 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat). Our tasters never noticed the missing salt.

Thanks, Amy. Now how about some Light in Sodium pizzas with whole-grain crust?

Go Whole

Frozen pizzas with whole grain: a welcome...but rare...find.

When it comes to grain, don’t confuse “multi” with “whole.”

The “multi-grain crust” in Newman’s Own Thin & Crispy Margherita All Natural Pizza, for example, has more salt than whole grain.

You’re better off with a Freschetta Artisan Crust Pizza (just not the Pepperoni).

The thick crust is 51 percent whole grain. Amy’s Cheese & Pesto Pizza’s crust is also half whole grain, though you’d never know it from the taste.

Or start with a ready-made whole-grain crust and add your own toppings (see “Upper Crusts”).

Veg Out

Marinated and grilled eggplant, peppers, and zucchini. Yum.

Tired of veggie pizzas with just mushrooms, (tasteless) olives, and onions?

Try Whole Foods Marinated Grilled Vegetables Wood-Fired Pizza. Its “mélange of marinated grilled vegetables” includes sliced eggplant, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and asparagus. Or head to Trader Joe’s and pick up a Trader Giotto’s Kale, Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Pizza.

Veggies offer more than flavor. Their potassium may blunt the rise in blood pressure from all the salt in your pizza.

Upper Crusts

A 100 percent whole-grain crust without too much salt. Nice.

Ten minutes. That’s about all it takes to bake a ready-made crust. Three of the best:

  • Engine 2 Plant-Strong Stone Baked 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crusts. Lower in sodium than most, with a nutty, whole-grain taste. Check the freezer case at Whole Foods.
  • Boboli 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust. Slightly softer texture than Engine 2.
  • Archer Farms Whole Wheat Thin Pizza Crusts. Ultra-crispy, almost cracker-like crust, with more whole grain than white flour and lower in sodium than most. At Target.

No Cheese, Please

No cheese? No problem.

One way to solve pizza’s saturated fat problem: lose the cheese.

Take Trader Joe’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza. Between its shiitake mushrooms, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, slightly sweet caramelized onions, and balsamic vinegar, you might not miss the cheese.

Don’t live near a TJ’s? Amy’s Roasted Vegetable No Cheese Pizza is nearly identical.

Adding Veggies to Your Pizza? A Few Tips

  • Don’t overdo it or the crust will get soggy.
  • Slice raw vegetables thin so they cook quickly.
  • Add delicate leaves—arugula, basil, cilantro, parsley—after the pizza is out of the oven.
  • For deeper flavor, add pre-roasted vegetables like onions, butternut squash, and peppers.
  • Don’t fool yourself. Extra veggies are nice, but you can only get so much from a pizza. So make sure you fill half your plate with a salad or vegetable side dish.