Americans are crazy about pizza. When we checked yesterday, pizza was the number-one food word trending on Google (followed by cake in the number two slot, then chicken, salad, and coffee).
Pizza Hut was the top trend in quick-service-restaurant searches, too, with Domino’s and Papa John’s in the third and fourth slots).
BUT, Is Pizza Good for You?
Pizza, of course, is not a “simple” food category. The Pizza Making Forum cites over 10 “styles” of pizza, including New York, Chicago, Neapolitan, American, Cracker, Thick, California, Sicilians, Focaccia, and Gluten-free.
Apparently, America wants to eat every variety of — and know everything about — pizza. After all, we eat about 350 slices every second. so here are answers to three pizza nutrition questions.
Is pizza nutritious?
On its website, Pizza Hut lists only five ingredients in its pizza: dough, cheese, tomatoes, meat, and vegetables. Digging a little deeper, one of the posters on the Pizza Making Forum cites an “Ingredients Statements” from Pizza Hut released in September 2008. Download the pdf here for a list of various additives present in both the dough and the meat (BHA, BHT, high fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrite, etc.)
Editor’s Note: We are not picking on Pizza Hut. Rather, we used this company as the representative pizza-industry sample because they are currently trending #1 on Google search. If you really want to know what’s in your pizza, we suggest you carefully search your favorite restaurant or boxed choice.
Certainly, if chosen, carefully, pizza can be a smart fast food choice compared to other options. A Domino’s Pacific Veggie slice of pizza has 230 calories. Remember, that few of us can eat just one slice, but it’s still an attractive option compared to many hamburger or chicken competitors.
Is pizza bad for you?
Plenty of evidence indicates that people think pizza is not healthy, particularly when they’re trying to lose weight or are concerned about additives.
Vegetarians, of course, eschew the meat in classic pizza, but with fruit and veggie toppings pizza can work for vegetarians, too.
The dough is another hang-up for many health-minded consumers, but some restaurants (see #7, below), some frozen varieties (Amy’s, DiGiorno, Boboli) and any do-it-yourself-pizza baker can turn out whole-wheat crust that adds up to a healthy experience.
For some consumers, the cheese used in commercial pizza is a concern, since less expensive cheeses can contain fillers and preservatives. PizzaOne’s blog notes that, “One of the ingredients in inferior pizza cheese has been a chemical known as Polydimethylsiloxane, a substance that is sprayed on cheese to aid in keeping it fresh longer.”
Concered about additives? David Zinczenko, author of Eat This, Not That! 2013, has identified eight additives you never want to find in your food (e.g., BHA, Parabens, Partially Hydrogenated Oil, Sodium Nitrite, Caramel coloring, Castoreum, Food Dyes, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein.
How can I make pizza healthier?
1. Mens Fitness suggests ordering whole-grain crust, loading up on sauce, and choosing smarter toppings. Best of all, make it yourself.
2. Wendy Jo Peterson, author of Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies, recommends topping pizza with a pesto base and grilled salmon.
3. Huff Post’s “Healthy Living” section advises sticking with thin crust and veggie toppings.
4. Order only what you need — two or three slices max.
5. BodyBuilding suggests making your own low-carb protein crust and getting creative with toppings.
6. To keep from over-eating, order a salad on the side with your pizza.
7. Look around for a pizza restaurant that emphasizes healthy; for example, The Healthy Pizza Company in El Paso, TX, John’s Incredible Pizza Company in California (which cites nutrition info for each of its menu items), Naked Pizza, or Stone Hearth Pizza in MA.
Pizza, Pizza… Why not?