/ Food & Drink, Health

Fresh pizzas aren’t always the healthiest option


Stuffed crust is more fattening than thin crust, right? And fresh must be better than frozen. Not necessarily – especially when it comes to pizza. But could clearer information help you make healthier choices?

When a pizza is oozing with cheese and adorned with pepperoni everyone knows it’s not going to be good for you.

But if you fancy the occasional treat, you should have the right to be able to make a sensible choice, shouldn’t you? We put pizzas under the knife in a recent investigation and I’ve been bemused by the results.

Thin crust, thin waist?

The research, to coincide with National Obesity Week this week, looked at the calorific value, fat and salt content of fresh, frozen and takeaway pizzas. I’d love for the results to be logical – deep pan the most fattening and fresh the healthiest – but it just didn’t work out that way.

One clear finding was that frozen pizzas tend to be lower in fat and saturates than fresh pizza. But bizarrely, thick crust pizzas were not necessarily higher in fat than thin crust ones.

How big’s a portion of pizza?

My bug bear? Portion size. With the smell of pizza wafting through the house, when the timer goes, I’m very unlikely to cut myself just one slice of the pizza. I don’t want a measly slice – I’m looking for a sensible compromise of around half a pizza.

Yet some pizza packing suggests that a fifth of a pizza is a suitable portion size. Others agree with me and say a half, while the greediest portion is an entire pizza. With different measurements being used across the range, it’s really tricky to compare like-for-like.

I was shocked to discover that Dr Oetker’s portion size ranged from 76.25g to 395g. The same company is suggesting that with one pizza you’ll eat a fifth of it, and another the whole thing.

If you’re interested in the findings – and have a particular preference for Margherita or pepperoni pizza – the full research paper is available. For those that aren’t I’m afraid the message is pretty confusing. That’s why we’re still campaigning for a single UK approach to front of pack labelling and crucially, traffic light colour coding.

Personally, I’ve been quite impressed by Pizza Express’ Leggera range. These pizzas replace the middle with a healthy helping of salad – and the menu even states up front what the calorific and fat content of your pizza is.

Do you even care what’s in your pizza? I know I do. With every good intention to start the New Year by losing a few pounds I’d like to think I can get together with friends and not blow the calorie bank.


What is the problem with looking at the nutritional data per 100g on the packaging to compare pizzas.
As most pizzas are going to be relatively high in fat and salt , I dont see how a traffic light system designed to cover all food items is going to help in choosing which of 2 or 3 pizzas has the lower fat content !

ourmaminhavana says:
20 January 2011

Am I the only one unable to open the Excel spreadsheet on the pizza findings? I’ve tried throughout theday with no success.

I have to say if I’m planning to eat a pizza the last thing I’ll be looking at is the fat/salt information – it might put me off my dinner. It also takes time, and chances are I’m looking for something quick and convenient and don’t have time to stand at the counter comparing the fat per 100g, then working out how much that adds up to if I’m eating half a pizza.

Traffic lights would mean that I’d be more likely to take a step back and pick something marginally healthier, and who knows? A red traffic light might encourage me to step away from the pizza completely and consider something a bit healthier instead.

ourmaminhavana – I can open the spreadsheet OK but if you’re having problems drop an email to consumeraction [at] which.co.uk and I’ll see if I can send it through to you in a different format.

ourmaminhavana says:
21 January 2011

Thanks Nikki. I had no problem opening it this morning!
As you say, choosing pizza you know you are making a relatively unhealthy choice.

Elisabeth Bertrand says:
21 January 2011

Pizza is not unhealthy.
Fastfood is unhealthy.

If you are about to buy a so-called ‘pizza’ at Pizza Hut, Domino’s or another American chain you know it’s going to be high in fat and calories.

Various newspapers worldwide publish headlines such as “Frozen pizzas ‘are healthier’ option”,”Study reveals frozen pizzas healthier than fresh variety” I just think this is all very misleading.

What makes Pizza unhealthy are toppings which are marketing inventions, to make pizza have a broader appeal they started adding things such as pork as a topping for pizza (why don’t you just have a hamburger?). Also the deep crusted pizza, filled with cheese? Another weird fast food invention. When I eat pizza it could include mozzarella cheese or Parmesan, perhaps some Gorgonzola but in rational amounts on a freshly stone baked pizza it’s no more unhealthy then a cheese sandwich.

Pizza made the traditional Italian way is still the best, fresh, plain with a tomato sauce base perhaps topped with fresh vegetables for example such diced tomatoes and a little basil and a sprinkel of olive oil.

Pizza in Italy – it is not junk food!