The Healthiest Frozen Pizzas

Experts love brands like Caulipower, Amy’s and California Pizza Kitchen. Find out why.

The Healthiest Frozen Pizzas, Ranked BySondraP via Getty Images

You’re not alone in your love for frozen pizza.

The category saw nearly $5 billion in sales last year, a 4.5 percent increase as new products continue entering the market, according to market research group Information Resources Inc. The top-selling frozen pizza brands in the U.S. are Nestle-owned DiGiorno, Schwan’s Co.’s Red Baron and Totino’s Party Pizza, owned by General Mills.

But as one of the most popular brands, DiGiornio’s Four Cheese Pizza also often ranks as one of the least healthy. It has 290 calories per serving, which is one-sixth of a pizza, or 1,740 calories for the whole pie (which, let’s be honest, is closer to what your average person eats when they’re in the mood for frozen pizza), and 10 grams of fat, 38 grams of carbohydrates and 670 milligrams of sodium per serving.

To help us find some healthier options, we asked three nutritionists to share what they consider the top five healthiest frozen pizzas.

Samantha Stewart, RDN

Samantha Stewart's top three picks: Caulipower, Amy's and California PizzaHuffPost
Samantha Stewart’s top three picks: Caulipower, Amy’s and California Pizza Kitchen.

“I absolutely love pizza, and, yes, even as a dietitian, I’m not afraid to say that,” said Samantha Stewart, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based registered dietitian nutritionist, who works with heart patients, often taking them on grocery store trips to educate them on reading nutrition labels.

She said she looks for frozen pizza low in total fat, saturated/trans fat, sodium and sugar, and high in protein, polyunsaturated/monounsaturated fat and fibre.

Stewart worries less about carbohydrates when evaluating frozen pizza because “we’re talking pizza here, and I’m pro-balanced eating.” But serving size is important with frozen pizza since it can vary drastically.

Here are Stewart’s top choices:

1. Caulipower Veggie Pizza

  • Serving size: 1/2 pie (165 g)
  • Calories per serving: 310
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 37 g
  • Sodium: 500 mg

“I am a huge proponent of a plant-based diet,” she said, and this one lists cauliflower as its first ingredient.

The crust also contains brown rice flour, a gluten-free whole grain, and the pizza has 3 grams of fibre per serving, 13 per cent of the daily fibre goal, which Stewart says is important since most Americans don’t get enough fiber. It’s also low in saturated fat and sodium, and rich in poly and monounsaturated fats.

2. Amy’s Margherita Pizza, Thin Crust

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza (123 g)
  • Calories per serving: 260
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Sodium: 540 mg

Each serving is low in total fat, saturated fat and sodium, she said. Plus, Stewart said, “All ingredients are organic, all the way down to the garlic, basil and oil.”

3. California Pizza Kitchen Five Cheese and Tomato

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza
  • Calories per serving: 270
  • Fat: 10 g
  • Saturated fat: 4.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 33 g
  • Sodium: 540 mg

Even though this pizza is a little higher in total fat, saturated fat and sodium than her other choices, the portion size is a little larger and it’s “still a much healthier choice in comparison to some of the other options out there,” Stewart said.

4. DiGiorno Thin & Crispy Spinach and Garlic

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza
  • Calories per serving: 260
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Sodium: 460 mg

“When you think DiGiorno, this may not be the pizza that comes to mind, but it’s still a great choice,” Stewart said.

While the pizza is small in size, its sodium is on the low end, she said, but total fat, saturated fat and fibre are higher than other selections.

5. Red Baron Thin & Crispy Five Cheese Pizza

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza (141 g)
  • Calories per serving: 350
  • Fat: 16 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 38 g
  • Sodium: 830 mg

“Some might say I can’t be a dietitian anymore for recommending this, but it’s honestly the best choice if Red Baron happens to be the only pizza staring back at you in the frozen pizza section,” Stewart said.

The larger serving size of one-third of a pizza is a plus, but total fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar are on the higher end. Still, it is “significantly better than other frozen pizza options,” she said.

Malina Malkani, RDN

Malina Malkani's top three picks: Lean Cuisine, Caulipower andHuffPost
Malina Malkani’s top three picks: Lean Cuisine, Caulipower and Amy’s.

“Frozen pizza can be a convenient and healthy meal option for days when you don’t have time to cook, especially when it’s topped with veggies, which boost the nutrient content of the meal, rather than processed meats, which tend to be higher in sodium and saturated fat,” said Malina Malkani, a New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle.

“That being said, all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle depending on how often and how much they are eaten,” and moderation is the key, she said.

Malkani’s rankings:

1. Lean Cuisine’s Farmer’s Market Pizza

  • Serving size: 170 oz. (one package)
  • Calories per serving: 320
  • Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 46 g
  • Sodium: 610 mg

Malkani praised this pizza for its ingredient list filled with vegetables and “other recognizable, whole food ingredients,” like organic tomatoes and organic portobello mushrooms.

This is a good option for anyone working on portion control, she said, since the whole pizza equals one serving, and it contains a good balance of protein, fat and fibre, which will keep someone feeling satisfied longer.

2. Caulipower Veggie Pizza

Like Stewart, Malkani also selected the Caulipower veggie pizza for its gluten-free, cauliflower-based crust. The additional vegetable toppings mean it “offers more vitamins and minerals than the majority of other frozen pizzas,” including vitamin C, vitamin A and iron, Malkani said.

3. California Pizza Kitchen Margherita Recipe, Gluten Free

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza
  • Calories per serving: 190
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 21 g
  • Sodium: 400 mg

Malkani said this gluten-free option is lower in calories and sodium than many other frozen pizzas.

“When you keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, and an ideal limit for most adults is 1,500 milligrams per day or less, this pizza makes it easier than most to keep your daily sodium intake in check,” she said.

4. Amy’s Kitchen Cheese & Pesto Pizza

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza (132 g)
  • Calories per serving: 360
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 37 g
  • Sodium: 680 mg

This pizza’s crust is made partly with whole wheat flour, which boosts the fibre and helps people feel full, and the serving size makes it “good for sharing,” Malkani said.

“It’s made with mostly organic, recognizable, whole food ingredients that are vegetarian and soy-free and nut-free for those with allergies,” she said.

5. DIY Frozen Pizza

Making your own pizza with a pre-made frozen crust is the best option for controlling what goes into a pizza, Malkani said. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value and Cali’flour offer frozen, low-carb cauliflower-based pizza crusts.

“I recommend choosing a pile of vegetable toppings that enhance the fibre, vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content of your meal,” she said.

Kristi Coughlin, RDN

Kristi Coughlin's top three picks: California Pizza Kitchen, Amy's andHuffPost
Kristi Coughlin’s top three picks: California Pizza Kitchen, Amy’s and Milton’s.

Kristi Coughlin, a Central Oregon-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Effectual Nutrition, an online private nutrition practice, loves pizza so much she eats it weekly, which she said people find surprising considering her line of work.

“When selecting the healthiest frozen pizza, it was essential to consider taste alongside the nutritional facts,” she said. “Of course, the taste was the top deciding factor, followed by total calories, fibre and protein.”

Here are Coughlin’s rankings, in no particular order:

California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust Margherita Recipe

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza
  • Calories per serving: 300
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Saturated fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 30 g
  • Sodium: 470 mg

Coughlin ranked this pizza as the best traditional option: “The taste was delicious; even my youngest daughter enjoyed it, and that is saying a lot.”

She praised its short list of ingredients, no artificial flavours, 2 grams of fibre and 12 grams of protein.

Amy’s Kitchen Cheese Pizza, Gluten Free

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza (113 g)
  • Calories per serving: 330
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32 g
  • Sodium: 550 mg

Coughlin said this pizza, with a simple cheese and tomato topping, is a “blank slate” and suggests adding more toppings. “Next time, I will be adding bell peppers and onions for added flavour and fibre,” she said.

Milton’s Thin & Crispy Cauliflower Crust, Roasted Vegetable Pizza

  • Serving size: 1/4 pizza (126 g)
  • Calories per serving: 230
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Saturated fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 27 g
  • Sodium: 570 mg

The toppings of zucchini, onions, and red, yellow and green peppers were big flavour enhancements, Coughlin said, explaining that this frozen pizza is a solid grain-free option for those wanting to limit flour intake or with gluten intolerance.

Also, a quarter of the pizza has 2 grams of fibre and 12 grams of protein.

Sweet Earth Veggie Lover’s Pizza

  • Serving size: 1/3 pizza (145 g)
  • Calories per serving: 200
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 38 g
  • Sodium: 300 mg

This vegan option includes a crust made from cornmeal, carrots and chia, which gives it a different taste than traditional pizza, Coughlin said. But, the abundant veggie toppings means one-third of the pizza has 5 grams of fibre and 6 grams of protein.

Real Good Pizza Co. Large Three Cheese Pizza

  • Serving size: 1/2 pizza (121 g)
  • Calories per serving: 240
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Sodium: 660 mg

Coughlin said this pizza has a crust made from chicken and Parmesan cheese and is a good low-carb, high-protein option. The “different take on crust” gives it 4 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein, but zero grams of fibre, she said.

The bottom line with choosing any healthy frozen pizza is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, Coughlin said.

“With the many different types of dietary preferences out there, it is essential to select a frozen pizza that best suits your personal preference,” she said. “Pick the pizza that tastes best to you and meets your individual calorie, fibre and protein needs.”

(This story originally appeared on HuffPost)

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