Forget "American as apple pie." If there's one pie that's truly American, I say it's pizza. Sure, the cheesy favorite originates from Italy, but from the 20th century on, pizza made a major name for itself in the U.S. of A.—and there's not a more American pizza restaurant than Pizza Hut. Since its inception in Wichita, Kansas in 1958, this iconic chain has established locations all over the country and beyond.
Having grown up in a pizza-loving household, I could certainly regale you with tales of eating at Pizza Hut over the years (I even remember their buffet and salad bar from decades past!). As a nutritionist, I can also tell you a thing or two about the healthfulness of its menu. Below, I've gone through the chain's offerings with an eye attuned to important nutrients like fat, saturated fat, sodium, protein, and fiber.
How to order healthy pizza from Pizza Hut's menu.
But first, a few pointers for ordering the healthiest options on Pizza Hut's menu:
- Choose your crust wisely. Stuffed crust and the Big New Yorker are two to avoid for their high calories and carbs, whereas hand-tossed or thin and crispy crusts are better choices. (My pizza recommendations below are all based on the large hand-tossed crust.)
- Be wary of salads. Yes, Pizza Hut's salads include fresh vegetables, but many are surprisingly high in calories, fat, and sodium. Check nutrition info before ordering.
- Make it your own. Whether it's choosing a low-sugar sauce for your wings or veggies as pizza toppings, you have the option to health-ify your Pizza Hut by customizing your order.
And now the 16 best and worst menu items at Pizza Hut!
Best: Veggie Lover's
Shocker, I know, but Pizza Hut's Veggie Lover's pie tops the list of healthiest pizza options available. Diced tomatoes, green bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives, and onions all lend fiber and antioxidants to this meatless choice, which supplies a respectable 12 grams of protein. You don't have to be vegetarian to enjoy it!
Best: Buffalo Chicken
The Buffalo Chicken is one of the restaurant's better-for-you pizza options, with just 260 calories per slice. Though its sodium content is quite high, it's the lowest-carb pizza on Pizza Hut's menu—a plus for folks watching their carb intake.
Best: Hawaiian Chicken
You're probably used to Hawaiian pizza being served with ham, but swapping Canadian bacon for chicken shaves off some calories and sodium. And since chicken's savory flavor blends well with pineapple, you won't miss out on taste.
To make a decent choice for health, keep your pizza plain. Opting out of toppings and just going with sauce and cheese gets you a mere 280 calories per slice. Need some extra flavor? Shake on some crushed red pepper.
Best: Backyard BBQ Chicken
With the least sodium of any pizza on the menu, the backyard BBQ chicken is probably the best of the bunch for heart health. (Diets high in sodium can aggravate hypertension.) Just note that this is only compared to other options; its 500 milligrams per slice aren't exactly low.
Pepperoni is the most classic of pizza toppings, but it's not the healthiest. The meaty rounds bring their ample sodium and fat to this single-topping pizza. On the plus side, though, a single large, hand-tossed slice comes in at just 300 calories.
Worst: Meat Lover's
Sausage, pepperoni, ham, oh my! According to Pizza Hut's description, "this pizza is NOT messing around"—unless, of course, you mean messing around for your health. If you eat two slices, you'll take in 80% of your daily value of saturated fat and 72% of your daily value for sodium. Fortunately, you can customize the meat lover's by removing a meat or two, if you like.
Worst: Pepperoni Lover's
Sensing a theme here? Adding processed meats (like even more pepperoni than usual) to your pizza doesn't do much for its health factor. In fact, research shows that diets high in these meats are linked with higher risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The Supreme pizza has some ingredients in its favor, like nutrient-rich bell peppers and fresh mushrooms… but piling on beef, pork, and pepperoni takes this one into less healthy territory. Try it on thin crust to enjoy its toppings while bringing calories and carbs down a notch.
Here, Philly's iconic sandwich gets made over into a saucy, meaty pizza. It's not Pizza Hut's absolute worst choice, but it's still not terribly healthy, especially when you eat more than one slice. Consider sticking to a single piece, then rounding out your order with some Naked Wings or a green salad.
Best: Oven-Baked Veggie Pasta
"Healthy" is relative when it comes to Pizza Hut's pastas. Though the veggie baked pasta contains real vegetables and 9 grams of fiber—a considerable amount that'll help you reach the daily recommended target of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men—it's also loaded with surprising levels of sodium, carbs, and even sugar from its sweet tomato sauce.
Worst: Oven-Baked Chicken Alfredo
If you're in the mood for chicken, there are better choices than the oven-baked chicken Alfredo. This hefty pasta contains more than an entire day's worth of saturated fat. Though science now shows not all saturated fat is bad for us, the American Heart Association still recommends limiting it for heart health.
Sides & Wings
Best: Naked Bone-In Wings
Without dipping sauce, Pizza Hut's "naked" bone-in wings are some of the healthiest items on the menu. Each wing contains 9 grams of high-quality protein and just 80 calories.
Worst: Straight-Cut Fries with Cajun Seasoning and Ketchup
Pizza Hut isn't exactly famous for French fries, but fries do make an appearance on the menu. This version, dusted with Cajun seasoning, has sodium galore. Plus, as a fried food, it could increase systemic inflammation in your body.
Best: Cinnamon Stick
Finish your meal on a light note with a cinnamon stick or two. These breadstick-like desserts are the best of Pizza Hut's dessert choices, with just 4 grams of sugar and 80 calories each.
Worst: Chocolate Donut Bites
After a pizza dinner, you may want to avoid the chocolate donut bites, which are rather heavy. Two small bites contain 19 grams of sugar, 36 grams of carbs, and 30% of the daily value of saturated fat. If you're hankering for chocolate, consider sharing these with a friend.