7 Worst Fast-Food Pizzas to Stay Away From Right Now
Pizza has always been a busy person's food. Its origin story unfolds in Naples, in the late 1700s, when the city's thriving working class needed something inexpensive and convenient to eat. Some 300 years later, the pizza itself has evolved. But that need for hot, hand-held comfort food remains largely the same.
From a slice to an entire pie, it doesn't matter how you cut it: 'za is still fairly inexpensive, and easy to consume. It's a quick dinner with friends, a late-night snack, a reheated leftover. And there is no version of pizza more convenient or cheap than fast-food pizza. While the options are vast, the struggle to choose a relatively healthy option is real. We consulted with dietician Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and got guidance on where to begin.
"While pizza can be quite light if it includes a thin crust and is loaded with veggies, the opposite is also true. Many pizzas are loaded with layers of cheese and processed meats, all atop a thick layer of dough which is sometimes even filled with extra cheese," she says. And while cheese, meats, and bread can fit into a healthy eating plan, "portion size is key."
"Too much of any food can add up to more calories and sodium than one person should consume during a meal. And if you eat more than one slice…well…it can really add up," warns Goodson.
We've broken down some of the unhealthiest options currently on the market and offered suggestions on how to build a better-for-you option to replace them.
And don't miss We Tasted 7 Chain Cheese Pizzas & This Is the Best.
1 slice (1/8 pie) Blaze Pizza's Large Meat Eater Pizza
Blaze Pizza walks that line between a fast-food and fast-casual chain, and perhaps it's its slightly elevated stature that makes it the best of the worst on our list. The meat is the real issue with this pie: it's piled high with Italian meatballs and pepperoni, and the fat content reflects the amount of meat we're dealing with. According to Goodson, though, "because the pizza is smaller, it isn't so bad that you gasp. Sometimes choosing a smaller version of the worst option can make it the best!"
She still suggests opting for a slice of the Red Vine pizza at Blaze instead. With cherry tomatoes and basil in place of the meat, it rings in at 200 calories and less than half the amount of fat.
1 slice (1/8 pie) Domino's Large Hand Tossed Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
While Domino's holds the title of the largest pizza chain in the world by most measures, it certainly doesn't offer the healthiest pizza options. Especially when you consider a pie like this one, which is heavy on the meat and uses a garlic-parmesan white sauce in place of a traditional red sauce—which usually packs more fat. This is why just a slice lands you at a whopping 410 calories.
In fact, Goodson points to the fat and sodium content of this pizza as problematic. But she also offers up a healthier hack: get this pie on a thin crust and cut the bacon, and you'll still be able to enjoy the great flavor while not going overboard on calories.
1 slice (1/8 pie) Pizza Hut's Large Meat Lover's Pan Pizza
This pizza is a beast! Not only are we looking at a whole lot of meat here; we're looking at a whole lot of everything. The crust is thick and piled high with cheese, pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham, bacon, seasoned pork, and beef.
"The variety and volume of meats here definitely cause the grams of fat milligrams of sodium to tick up," says Goodson. And speaking of sodium, just one slice of this pie has more of it than a Big Mac.
This is why Goodson suggests opting for the Hand-Tossed Veggie Lovers Pizza instead. It incorporates veggies like Roma tomatoes and black olives and cuts the meat, resulting in a calorie count that is almost halved.
1 slice (1/8 pie) Papa Johns' Large Pepperoni, Sausage and Six Cheese Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza
Are you sensing a theme here? While we love a meat lover's slice of ' za as much as the next person, they are clearly the most detrimental to nutrition. Goodson points to Papa Johns' Pepperoni, Sausage and Six Cheese stuffed crust pizza as another option with an unreasonably high calorie count. At just under 500 calories per slice, indulging in more than one of these bad boys can really add up. She also emphasizes that the amount of sodium here is fairly astronomical.
The Garden Fresh pizza at Papa Johns is a much healthier option. Loaded with five different veggies, you're getting half the sodium and a fraction of the calories with this slice.
1 slice Little Caesars' Detroit-Style Deep Dish Specialty 5 Meat Feast with Stuffed Crust
There's nothing little about this Little Caesars' delicacy, which is a deep dish-style pizza with a cheese-stuffed crust. There is even more cheese atop the 'za, in addition to the meat-a-palooza of bacon, sausage, ham, pepperoni, and beef.
"Coming in at over 500 calories a slice, this pizza takes you overboard on the calories,' Goodson says. "In addition, many of the processed meats contain a ton of sodium, making one slice count for over half of the sodium amount recommendation for a day."
Looking for something healthier? You can easily make a better choice by switching to a thin-crust pie. Goodson recommends piling it with veggies for a significantly better-for-you choice.
1 slice (1/8 pie) Marco's Large Thick Crust All Meat Pizza
This calorie count means that eating just three slices of this pie from Marco's can get you close to maxed out on calories for the day. Not ideal! The chain tops its thick crust with pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, and bacon, and slathers on the "original sauce" and signature three cheeses. According to Goodson, this ends up taking you overboard on both calories and sodium. "The ham, sausage, and bacon are likely what makes the sodium go through the roof here, not to mention the grams of fat," she says.
She recommends switching to a thin-crust pie. The mushroom and cheese slice, she says, is "still fairly high in calories per slice, but the fat and sodium are almost cut in half making this the better choice at Marco's."
1 slice (1/8 pie) Sbarro's XL NY Stuffed Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza
Sbarro's XL NY Stuffed slice is just as big as its name makes it seem, and in this case, bigger is not better. The crust on the bottom and top of the pizza is layered with cheese, and then there is even more cheese inside the slice, along with sausage and pepperoni.
With such an excess of cheese, crust, and meat, this slice is the slice to stay away from. Goodson points to the calorie and sodium count in particular, which make up this nutritional nightmare.
She suggests going for the Spinach Tomato slice on Sbarro's regular crust instead, which has less than half of the calories and sodium and a fraction of the fat.
A previous version of this article was originally published on Mar 30, 2022.
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