Is Pizza Healthy? What a Dietitian Wants You to Know

Nutrient 1 slice (100 g) of a 12″ Pizza Hut Cheese Pizza, USDA 1 slice (184 g) of frozen DiGiorno Cheese Pizza (1/4 of pie), USDA 1 serving (167 g) of Margherita cauliflower

crust pizza(1/2 of pie), Great Value, USDA
calories 280 468 371g
Total Carbohydrates 30g 58g 38g
Dietary Fiber 2g 4g 4g
Total Sugars 3g 9g 3g
protein 12g 23g 13g
Total Fat 13g 16g 18g
Saturated Fat 5g 6g 7g
Sodium 624mg 1,270mg 710mg
Calcium 208mg 351mg 351mg

Is Pizza Healthy?

Depending on how you are enjoying your ‘za, it can be a part of a healthy and balanced diet—with a few caveats. While having a single slice along with a green salad or other veggies will fuel your body with nutrients without overwhelming it with excessive amounts of calories, carbs and sodium, eating an entire pizza topped with cured meats is an entirely different story. Assuming you are sticking to proper portion sizes, here are some effects you may see:

Benefits of Pizza

It Is a Source of Key Nutrients

Thanks to the ingredients used to make pizza, it is packed with important nutrients that we all need to thrive, including protein, B vitamins, calcium and iron. And if you are opting for veggies as a topping, you can get a boost of fiber as well. Choosing a cauliflower or a whole-grain crust as your pizza base can provide additional fiber, protein and micronutrients, depending on the variety you opt for.

It May Provide a Serving of Vegetables

If your slice of pizza is made with two tablespoons of tomato paste, eating it “counts” as a vegetable serving, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). And since only 10% of Americans are eating the recommended servings of vegetables every day, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), utilizing any way to include more veggies in a diet is certainly a positive thing.

It May Support Your Bone Health

Calcium is one of the most important nutrients that support bone health, per a 2020 article in MedComm. And since many pizzas are made with dairy cheese, it may be a source of this bone health-supporting nutrient. Pizza also contains other nutrients that support bone health as well, like zinc and magnesium.

Potential Downsides

It Can Be High In Sodium

Depending on the pizza you choose, it can be high in sodium. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Yet, some pizzas provide over 1,000 mg of this mineral per serving, providing close to half of what a person should be consuming in an entire day. Consuming too much sodium consistently may increase a person’s risk of experiencing high blood pressure, per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It May Increase Your Blood Sugar Levels

Depending on the crust used to make your pizza, the serving size of your slice and the quantity of protein and fat-containing toppings that are used, enjoying pizza may result in elevated blood sugars.

Pizza contains carbohydrates, and eating carbohydrates, mainly refined carbs, may cause a blood sugar spike quickly, especially for those who have diabetes. But, eating one slice of pizza that is made with cheese and fiber-rich toppings like onion and peppers, and enjoyed with a fiber-rich side salad can be a reasonable meal for people who are concerned about their blood glucose levels. Opting for a cauliflower or chickpea-based crust can be another option that may be blood sugar-friendly for some people as well. Of course, every person has different needs, so finding the best pizza balance for blood glucose support may require some trial and error.

It Might Not Support Your Weight Loss Goals

One or two slices of pizza can fit into a nutritious, balanced meal. But eating pizza to the point that you are overly stuffed can result in you consuming way too many calories, which may contribute to weight gain over time. One 14″ pizza can have over 2,000 calories, which is around the amount of calories a person should be consuming in an entire day.

How to Make Pizza More Nutritious

Pizza’s nutritional value can vary widely, depending on a variety of factors. If you are a pizza lover and you want to make sure you are eating pizza in the most nutritious way, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Opt for a thin-crust pizza instead of a deep dish
  • Skip the stuffed pizza crusts and dipping sauces
  • Enjoy your slice of pizza with a side salad or cooked vegetables
  • Top your pizza with lean protein, like chicken strips, instead of processed meat, like pepperoni.
  • Choose vegetables or fruit (hello, pineapple!) as flavorful toppings
  • Try cauliflower or chickpea-crust pizza for more fiber
  • If you like classic crust, try using whole-grain dough instead of white

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pizza an unhealthy food?

If a reasonable serving size is enjoyed, pizza can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. Enjoy your pizza with a side salad and skip the ultra-processed toppings to give your meal a nutritional boost.

Is it OK to eat pizza once a week?

Pizza can absolutely be enjoyed once a week. Just be sure to stick to an appropriate serving size and enjoy your slice with some vegetables and, perhaps, some additional protein.

Do 2 slices of pizza sabotage your weight?

There is no one food that will sabotage your weight. It is best to look at whether your overall diet is balanced. Two slices of pizza can be appropriate for many people, depending on their current weight, activity level and other factors.

What’s the healthiest pizza to eat?

There are plenty of pizza choices that can be considered healthy. Some options that can easily fit into a nutritious and balanced diet include a thin-crust pizza and a cauliflower-crust pizza. Topping choices on the more nutritious side are vegetables, chicken, shrimp and cheese.

Is pizza healthier than burgers?

Both pizza and burgers can be made in very healthy ways. But there are variations that can make them quite high in saturated fat, sodium, added sugars and more. For example, a burger made with lean beef and served on a whole grain bun is a nutritious meal. But a triple-patty burger topped with bacon, specialty sauces and other high-fat additions will provide excessive quantities of calories, saturated fat and sodium. Ultimately, both can be healthy, depending on how they are prepared and how much you eat.

Is pizza OK for weight loss?

Pizza is not only ok for weight loss but can also be weight loss-friendly. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods is not recommended when you are on a weight loss journey. Enjoying foods like pizza in moderation as a part of an overall balanced and healthy diet is a better way to focus on your weight management goals.

The Bottom Line

If you think you can’t have a slice of pizza when focused on supporting your health, think twice! Sure, downing an entire pepperoni pie in one sitting is not the healthiest practice. But a slice of veggie pizza accompanied by a crispy green salad can absolutely be a part of many people’s nutritious and balanced diet. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, so always make sure pizza is appropriate for your needs with your healthcare provider. Most people who are pizza lovers can feel free to celebrate this great news with a piping hot slice of ‘za and enjoy every single bite.

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