Question: I rely on frozen pizza for a quick family meal once a week. How do I pick the healthiest one?
Answer: Once you start reading nutrition labels, you’ll see that in many cases frozen pizza can be lower in fat and sodium than other frozen meals (think lasagna, meat pies and butter chicken). And yes, to make the most nutritious choice, you need to read labels.
First, compare pizzas on saturated fat and sodium. You definitely want less of both. My recommendation is to look for no more than four grams of saturated fat and 600 milligrams of sodium per serving. These numbers translate into a fifth of the daily upper limit for saturated fat and one-quarter of a day’s sodium. (Healthy adults should consume no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.)
Be sure to check the serving size information. If you eat more than one serving, keep in mind that you’ll be consuming more saturated fat and sodium.
To keep the fat and sodium numbers reasonable, avoid pizzas with extra cheese and multimeat toppings such as pepperoni, salami, sausage and bacon. Instead, choose pizzas with chicken and vegetable toppings such as spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini and onions.
If you want to cut saturated fat even further, consider buying a cheese-less frozen pizza (e.g. Life Choices Thin Crust Pizza Vegetable No Cheese and Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza No Cheese). You can eat it without cheese or you can add your own grated part-skim mozzarella, feta cheese or goat’s cheese – all are lower in saturated fat than regular mozzarella.
If possible, choose a whole-grain crust to add fibre to your meal. Check the ingredient list to see whether whole-wheat flour is listed first. (Ingredients are listed in order, from greatest to least amount used.)
Most frozen pizzas are pretty light on vegetables, so I recommend adding your own. Before you bake your pizza, add vegetables such as red-pepper strips, grilled eggplant, mushrooms, frozen chopped spinach, broccoli florets, even artichoke hearts. If you want more protein, add leftover grilled chicken, shrimp or soy-based pepperoni.
Finally, for extra protein and calcium serve pizza with a glass of low-fat milk or soy beverage, or serve yogurt and fruit for dessert.
Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org . She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on the Globe website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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