With their high fat and salt content and low fibre levels, frozen pizzas are not exactly health food, but there are a few things to look for on the nutrition panel and ingredients list that can help you make a lighter choice.
Despite descriptors such as “super thin” or “regular”, most frozen pizza crusts look quite similar. And they don’t seem to make a big impact on the kJ content either. It’s the toppings that seem to determine the pizzas’ nutritional value.
There appears to be an increase in vegetarian frozen pizza choices in the supermarket, perhaps in a nod to healthier eating. While vegetarian pizzas can be better for you than meaty ones, if they’re cheese-heavy it will add significant kilojoules. For a lighter choice, look for a pizza with more vegetables, and less meat and cheese.
Unsurprisingly, the Weight Watchers pizza we looked at was the lowest in kilojoules and saturated fat. However, with a whole one-serve pizza weighing in at a tiny 175g, it’s almost a third of the size of the 500g pizzas. And at about 645kJ, they’re more of a snack than a satisfying meal.
It’s to be expected that most pizzas have a hefty fat content, but some have frankly terrifying amounts. If you eat a whole, one-serve Dr. Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella you’ll be wolfing down 45.6g of total fat – that's more than three tablespoons. Ewww! For heart health watch out for saturated fat content on the nutrition panel.
When comparing nutritional values between pizzas, beware the “per serve” figures on the nutritional information panel – the suggested “serves” per pizza – don’t reflect how many serves people actually eat.
Dr. Oetker was the only brand which recommended one serve per whole pizza - making it very easy to calculate how many kilojoules you've eaten by looking at the “per serve” column in the nutritional panel.
Most pizzas we looked at had suggested serving sizes ranging from four serves per pizza up to eight serves, which makes it much harder know what the kilojoule load is.
For example, if you have one 56g “serve” of When In Rome Hawaiian, you’d consume 545kJ. Realistically, an adult is more likely to eat at least two slices (two serves 1090kJ) or four slices (four serves 2180kJ).
A few men we asked said they’d easily eat one whole pizza (eight serves – 4360kJ) – that’s half the suggested daily adult kilojoule intake of 8700kJ.
The “per 100g” figure on the nutritional panel is the best way to calculate how many kilojoules you’ve eaten – but remember to take into account the weight of the pizza. Eating half of a 500g pizza may be 500kJ more than eating half of a 400g pizza with the same amount of kilojoules.
Of the 50 pizzas CHOICE looked at:
- None had a low sodium level (less than 120mg/100g).
- 80% had medium sodium levels (120mg/100g to 600mg/kg)
- 20% had high sodium levels (600mg/100g or more)
If you eat half of McCain’s Pepperoni pizza, you’d consume 1440mg of sodium, which is:
- 100% of the safe daily upper sodium limit for kids aged four to eight years
- 72% for nine to 13-year-olds (2000mg)
- 63% for adults (2300mg).
What the nutrition expert says...
Like our tasters, Natasha Murray, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, struggled to find any redeeming features of frozen pizzas.
“The same as most processed foods, frozen pizzas are high in fat and salt and low in fibre and vegetables. Even with vegetarian pizzas, you’d be lucky to get even one serve of veggies on a whole pizza, and the meat is generally poor quality,” she says.
“Dietary guidelines advise you to limit processed foods, but if you do choose to eat a frozen pizza, add an extra serve of veggies as topping on the pizza and have it with a side salad.”
What are the most popular frozen pizza brands?
McCain Foods is the leading frozen pizza producer with 64 per cent of the value share in the Australian frozen pizza market, but its share has been in decline due to tough competition from premium offerings from Dr. Oetker, as well as supermarket brands which have eroded the company’s value share. *
*Source: Euromonitor: Ready Meals in Australia Jan 2013.