Is Pizza Healthy?

How many calories are you consuming in a single slice of pizza?

Photo by Erik Rank

We asked the Nutrition and Food Studies Department of Montclair State University to analyze a plain slice: dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella. They examined three slices from three area pizzerias.

The consolidated result? According to the analysis conducted by Rebecca Yellin, one of the department’s top students, a typical slice packs, a typical slice packs 318 calories, 18 grams of protein, 11 grams of fat (7 of which are saturated) and 565 milligrams of sodium. While that doesn’t upend the USDA’s recommended 2,000 calories a day, the distribution isn’t ideal.

“The slice contains one-third the daily recommendation for calcium and some protein, but not much else,” says professor Charles Feldman. The dough provides little fiber; the cheese is high in fat. “Eating one slice once in a while is okay,” Feldman says.

But who eats just one? With fat and salt levels high, three slices would deliver about 75 percent of the daily recommended intake for sodium and total fat.

And that’s plain pizza. Make it a pepperoni slice, and you add 140 calories, 13 more grams of fat (5 saturated) and 450 more milligrams of sodium. You’re “at or exceeding the recommended limits for fat and particularly sodium,” Feldman says. “A better alternative would be a vegetable topping such as broccoli rabe, which would add vitamins A and C, with little negative consequences.”

Still, a single slice, if you can stick to that, beats a Big Mac, a bomb cyclone of 540 calories, 28 grams of fat (10 saturated), 25 grams of protein and 950 milligrams of sodium, according to McDonald’s own Nutrition Calculator.

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