The other night I was eating dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, and I got to thinking about frozen pizzas and what ingredients are contained in all those varieties in the frozen aisle, and I decided this would make a great Grocery Store Spotlight. After all, we all have those nights when we’re just too busy or lazy to cook, and frozen pizza is always the go-to dinner for the kids when parents leave them with a babysitter. I did a lot of babysitting growing up, so I’ve cooked many a frozen pizza in my day, but it wasn’t until now that I wondered what goes into them.
So to keep things simple, I compared the cheese pizzas from some of the most popular frozen pizza brands. To be honest, I was really discouraged by what I saw. For example, here are the ingredients in the Digiorno 4 Cheese Pizza (rising crust):
WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, SHREDDED LOW-MOISTURE PART-SKIM MOZZARELLA CHEESE (PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), TOMATO PASTE, SUGAR, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF WHEAT GLUTEN, VEGETABLE (SOYBEAN OIL AND/OR CORN OIL), WHITE CORN MEAL, GRATED PARMESAN, ASIAGO, AND ROMANO CHEESES MADE FROM COW’S MILK (PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), SALT, YEAST, BAKING SODA, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE, DATEM, SPICE, GARLIC, ASCORBIC ACID, YELLOW CORN MEAL.
Besides the fact that it contains tons of ingredients, many of which I don’t recognize and can’t pronounce, Digiorno uses added sugar, soy and spice (which is label code for MSG). That earns it The Nutritionista’s thumbs down, which I know is very scary and intimidating to Kraft Foods!
Here is a list of all the brands that do NOT earn my seal of approval. Click on them to see a complete list of ingredients.
Tombstone: Doesn’t contain a ton of ingredients, but what it does contain is NOT healthy!
Red Baron: Who knew soy came in that many forms?
Tony’s: This brand wins the award for most words I can’t pronounce!
California Pizza Kitchen: I’m so sad to say it, but this brand gets my lowest grade of all! Too bad because I love CPK’s pizzas! The cheese pizza contains added sugar, hydrogenated oils, MSG, soy and a whole bunch of other unnecessary ingredients. Guess I won’t be eating their pizzas anymore!
Ok, so before you start hating me for ruining your frozen pizza experience for good, here are a couple of brands that aren’t too bad by my standards!
Amy’s: This brand can be found in the natural section of most grocery stores. It’s a little bit more expensive than the regular brands, but I think it’s worth it to know you’re paying for unbleached flour, all organic ingredients and a high-quality oil and skipping the MSG, hydrogenated and modified foods, soy and added sugars (uses organic honey instead) and preservatives.
Trader Joe’s: Of all the brands I looked at, TJ’s Organic 3 Cheese Pizza gets my ultimate seal of approval. Like the Amy’s, it is all organic and contains no preservatives, but it also contains very few ingredients (9 ingredients as compared to CPK brand with more than 30 ingredients!) and is reasonably priced ($4.29).
CRUST: ORGANIC WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, SALT, ORGANIC SUNFLOWER OIL, YEAST. TOPPING: ORGANIC TOMATO SAUCE (tomatoes, water, organic EVOO, salt, oregano), ORGANIC FONTAL, MOZZARELLA AND PARMESAN CHEESE
If you have a few extra minutes, I think making your own pizza is an even better option because you have complete control over what ingredients you use and everything is fresher. Trader Joe’s carries a ready-made whole wheat pizza dough for 99 cents, and you can take it home and add a healthy tomato sauce and whatever toppings you like. I love using big chunks of fresh mozzarella and basil or piling it with veggies. If you buy a ready-made crust, look closely at the label and make sure it doesn’t contain any of the harmful ingredients I’ve discussed. I took a quick glance at the ingredients in the Boboli ready-made crust, and it contains more than 20 ingredients, many of them additives and chemicals.
There are tons of frozen pizza brands on the market, and each one makes several different varieties of crusts and toppings, so it’s crucial that we read labels and feed our families the highest quality we can find.
Do you know of any other healthy brands of frozen pizza that I may have missed? Or, do you have a healthy pizza recipe or topping combo? If so, share the amore!