The Healthiest and Worst Things You Can Order at &pizza

All photographs by Janis Jibrin.

No matter what you order at &pizza, if you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet, you’ll need to adhere to one important rule: Don’t eat the whole thing. There are straight up too many calories in each of the chain’s oval-shaped pies for you to consume an entire pizza in one sitting. Instead, split your &pizza with a friend—or eat half to two-thirds of it and save the rest for later.

Now, for a truly nutritious offering (that’s still tasty, we promise), you’ll want to create your own. While there are seven suggested combos on the chain’s menu (plus two dessert pizzas which we won’t cover here), you’ll score a healthier pizza if you make it yourself from the list of best ingredients below.

It’s important to note, however, that this piece was written with &pizza’s available calorie information only—we were not able to obtain the full nutrition facts with the menu items’ grams of carbohydrate, fiber, saturated fat or other nutrients. Nevertheless, through interviews with the staff, my own insights on food composition as a dietitian, and eating a few pizzas there, I can confidently provide the following suggestions for health-conscious diners.

Dough

BEST: Ancient grain. I was able to take a look at the ingredient lists for the crusts, and although the “Ancient Grains” dough first ingredient is “wheat flour” (a.k.a. white flour), it also contains whole wheat, spelt, oat, and other whole grains. These whole flours contribute fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds).

WORST: Gluten-free. After water, the next ingredient is tapioca starch, followed by brown rice flour, so I’m guessing this crust is fiber-poor. But if you need to avoid gluten, it’s a perfectly reasonable option. Also, it’s also a lot lower in calories than the other doughs (190 versus 400 for “traditional” and 420 for “ancient grain”).

Sauce

BEST: Classic tomato or spicy tomato. They’re both low cal (just 20 calories per serving) and rich in lycopene, the antioxidant pigment that gives tomatoes their red color. (The basil pesto sauce, while healthy, has 160 calories per serving, so if you order this, eat just half the pizza.)

WORST: Mushroom truffle. It’s a cream sauce, which means it probably contains unhealthy fat. However, at 60 calories per portion, there’s likely not enough of the fat to do real damage.

Cheese

BEST: Mozzarella or shredded blend. With the amount they use on your pizza, you’re getting a little calcium and protein, without too much saturated fat, the type linked to high LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

WORST: Vegan mozzarella. &pizza’s vegan cheese may be no worse than other brands, but there’s nothing to recommend about vegan cheese in general, which is typically concocted from highly saturated oil, soy protein, and a bunch of chemicals! But if you’re a vegan craving a more “real” pizza experience, a little won’t hurt you.

Vegetables

BEST: They’re all good! Broccoli, grilled onion, jalapeño, tomato, mushroom, roasted pepper, spinach, pineapple, and spicy chickpea are all fair game. Pile ‘em on! Their many health benefits would fill many blogs, but for starters:

  • Capsaicin, which gives jalapeños their heat, lowers cholesterol; eat them regularly and they may help protect against heart disease. Sure some people get heartburn from hot peppers, but they’re actually good for your digestive tract. Capsaicin encourages the secretion of mucins, which protect the lining of the stomach and intestines.
  • Chickpeas contain modest (but decent) amounts of nearly every vitamin and mineral and lend fiber.
  • A phytonutrient in broccoli called “sulforaphane” may not only neutralize cancer-causing chemicals before they do damage but also help put the brakes on the spread of cancer.
  • The other vegetables (and pineapple) come with their own antioxidant, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.

Proteins

BEST: Chicken or shrimp for omnivores or pescatarians. Both are low in calories and saturated fat and are good sources of selenium. This mineral is a component of your body’s antioxidant defense system which quashes destructive disease-causing compounds called free radicals. Chicken’s also high in niacin, a B vitamin that help convert food into energy. Egg or the spicy chickpeas are good options for vegetarians. Now that cholesterol in foods is no longer on nutritionists’ “bad” list, adding egg to your pizza is a good way to get high quality protein, some selenium (see above), and a sprinkling of vitamins. Are you vegan? Instead of the vegan beef option, get a much richer cache of nutrients by asking for two servings of spicy chickpeas.

WORST: Pepperoni, beef meatball, Italian sausage, salami, and bacon. These types of meats are often high in saturated fat, and cured meats have been linked to higher cancer risk. If pizza without these ingredients isn’t pizza to you, note that two are exceptionally higher in calories than other proteins: The meatballs have three times the calories as the “best” choices; the pepperoni nearly double.

Finishes

BEST: Have any (or all) of these: Arugula, basil, sun-dried tomato, banana pepper, pickled red onion, lemon (plus, if you like, hot sauce and black pepper) in addition to one of the following: olive oil, garlic oil, red pepper chili oil or basil pesto. 

WORST: None of them are all that bad. The Cherry Bomb BBQ is probably the least healthy as the catsup and molasses usually mean high sodium and some sugar.

Healthy Recipes to Try

Except for doubling up on spicy chickpeas to provide protein in the vegetarian pizza, the calorie tallies are based on standard portion toppings. (Subtract 230 calories from the total if you opt for the gluten-free crust.)

If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss, you should consider sticking to just eating half the pizza. Otherwise, eating two-thirds of the pizza should be fine. Believe me, two-thirds of a &pizza is very filling!

A Healthy “Omnivore” Combo

  • Dough: Ancient grain
  • Sauce: Classic tomato
  • Cheese: Shredded blend
  • Vegetable toppings: (grilled onion, roasted pepper, spinach)
  • Protein: Chicken
  • Finishes: Basil, sun-dried tomato, red pepper chili oil

Calorie tally: 840 (420 for half of the pizza, 560 for two-thirds of the pizza)

A Healthy Vegetarian Combo

  • Dough: Ancient grain
  • Sauce: Classic tomato
  • Cheese: Mozzarella
  • Vegetable toppings: Broccoli, mushroom, roasted pepper
  • Protein: 2 spicy chickpea servings (if you’re pepper-heat-shy, opt for eggs)
  • Finishes: Arugula, basil, sun-dried tomato, pickled red onion, garlic oil

Calorie tally: 885 (443 for half of the pizza; 590 for two-thirds of the pizza)

 

Janis Jibrin is a registered dietitian who has spent much of her career writing about nutrition, Janis’s articles have appeared in Dr. Oz The Good Life, Self, Yoga Journal, and other magazines. She’s also written best-selling diet books and helped develop a year-long weight loss program for United Health Group. This semester, she’s teaching nutrition at American University.

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