Americans do love pizza, fresh from the local pizzeria—or frozen from the supermarket freezer. Unfortunately, it’s one of the biggest sources of saturated fat and sodium in the American diet. After desserts like cakes and doughnuts, it’s the second-biggest source of calories for children and adolescents.
But it’s not all bad news. Pizza offers calcium-rich cheese and lycopene-rich tomato sauce (lycopene is a phytochemical linked to good eye health), and it can be a tempting “delivery system” for a serving or two of vegetables.
Like frozen entrées, frozen pizza often constitutes a meal in itself. Here’s how to pick a perfect pizza:
- Look for a frozen pizza with a whole-grain crust for more nutrients and fiber.
- Thin-crust is best.Stuffed-crust pizzas have more fat and calories.
- Keep it simple (and lower in calories) by forgoing multiple toppings, especially extra cheese, sausage and pepperoni.
- Need all that cheese? If your pizza is heavy with shredded cheese, feel free to scrape a little off before you put it in the oven. Better yet, for less fat and fewer calories, look for a cheese-less frozen pie.
- Pay attention to the serving sizes listed on the box. You may be surprised at how small one serving really is. And what looks like a pizza-for-one may actually list two (or more) servings.
- Sodium tends to be high, even among the best frozen pizza choices. A single slice can range from about 400 to over 1,000 milligrams, depending on the variety and the size of the slice. Vegetarian pies tend to have less sodium, but compare labels to be sure.
- If you are lactose intolerant or do not eat dairy foods, check out pizzas made with soy cheese. The options are growing.
- Whatever pizza you choose, make it more nutritious by adding your own veggie toppings—thinly sliced onions, bell peppers or mushrooms, or leftover cooked broccoli or spinach, for example. As with frozen entrées, add a salad and fruit to round out the meal.