Why does pizza have so many calories?
As a dish made with ingredients from different food groups, pizza is a filling meal that can supply you with a lot of important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. But it can also cause you to go way past the recommended daily food intake as a slice can often contain much more calories than you think.
However, not all slices of pizza have to break the calorie bank; it all depends on the core ingredients and your choice of toppings.
The first major factor that determines a pizza’s calories is the crust. While it’s not the most noticeable part of the pizza, it accounts for 50 of the calories in a slice containing 200-300 calories. Also, as it soaks up a lot of the oil during the cooking process, the crust can add an extra 40 calories for every teaspoon of oil.
Crust thickness also affects calorie count. According to LiveStrong, a typical slice of thin-crust cheese pizza contains 230 calories while a slice of thick-crust cheese pizza contains 312 calories. A slice of Chicago-style Deep Dish Cheese Pizza, which is much thicker, can even go up to a whopping 640 calories. That’s more than a quarter of the daily recommended number of calories in one slice!
It should also be noted that the ingredients that make up the crust are just as important as its size. If you’re looking for a healthier option alternative crusts made of whole-wheat flour or vegetable based cauliflower crusts can be good options.
The cheese is also very important as it not only contributes to the calorie count but also the pizza’s sodium and cholesterol content. While a slice of Domino’s Classic Cheese Pizza contains 237 calories. 462 mg of sodium, and 21 mg of cholesterol, a slice of their Spinach & Feta pizza only contains 150 calories, 250 mg of sodium, and 10 mg of cholesterol. Cheese-free vegan pizzas take it a step further as a slice of these usually have 0 mg of cholesterol and saturated fats.
The sauce can also have a hefty impact on the calorie count. While most pizzas use tomato-based sauces, which are relatively low in calories, pizzas that use dairy-based white sauces can really bump up the number of calories. For example, a slice of Papa John’s 12” Cheese Pizza contains 210 calories with a tomato-based sauce and 215 calories with white Alfredo sauce. It’s not a big difference, but it adds up with the other ingredients and with each additional slice that you eat.
While crust, cheese, and sauce are pizza’s core ingredients, the toppings are what really make the difference when it comes to calories.
Meat toppings like pepperoni and Italian sausage add the most calories, with each ounce adding about 130 calories to the pizza. And while extra meat does give you some extra protein, it also contains a lot of sodium and saturated fat. For example, compared to the 462 mg of sodium in Domino’s Cheese Pizza, the chain’s MeatZZa Pizza contains 770 mg, which is more than a third of the recommended daily sodium intake.
If you’re a meat lover try to opt for something with leaner meats like a BBQ Chicken Pizza or a Hawaiian Pizzas. Ham and chicken contain way less fat compared to pepperoni, sausage, and bacon.
In contrast, vegetarian pizzas are often a lot healthier as they can provide some much needed nutrients to balance out all that bad stuff. Veggies like garlic, onions, and bell peppers contain fibre and antioxidants that keep your body healthy. Margherita Pizzas can also help keep your heart healthy with vitamin C from fresh tomatoes and monounsaturated fats from olive oil.
With that said, vegetarian pizzas can still be pretty calorie-dense! A slice of Pizza Hut’s Medium Hand-Tossed Veggie Lover’s Pizza still contains 230 calories. While that’s not as many calories as a meat-based pizza, it’s still a lot for one part of a meal.
Where can I get the healthiest pizza?
If you want the healthiest pizza possible, you’ll have to make it yourself. Since you can control everything that goes into a homemade pizza, you can cut out the unhealthy bits and add in more nutritious ingredients.
There are several ways you can make your homemade pizza extra healthy. Instead of using regular flour for your crust, you can use whole-wheat flour for that extra fibre. Also, you can cut out a lot of calories by using low-fat mozzarella cheese instead of regular pizza cheese. And, if you’re feeling up to it, you can even make homemade tomato sauce to avoid the added sugars in store-bought sauces. The sky’s the limit with how healthy you want your homemade pizza to be.
There’s nothing wrong with ordering takeaway pizza every once in a while, as long as you keep the caloric and nutritional value of your whole day in mind. And while pizza can be more calorific than it looks, you can still find a place for it in a healthy diet as long as you’re mindful of the ingredients.