Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Costco Pizza Bad For You?



Short answer

Costco pizza is high in calories, fat, and sodium, particularly in a single slice. Regular consumption can contribute to dietary imbalances and health issues like obesity, hypertension, and heart disease. Enjoying it in moderation within a balanced diet and being mindful of portion sizes is key to minimizing potential health risks.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of a Slice: Fat, Salt, and Calorie Analysis

When it comes to understanding how food impacts our health, breaking down the nutritional content is vital. With Costco pizza, a popular choice for many shoppers, evaluating the specific content of fat, salt, and calories per slice helps us gauge its place in a balanced diet.

Caloric Content: A typical slice of Costco pizza contains a significant amount of calories. According to the company’s nutritional information, one slice of their cheese pizza packs in about 700-760 calories, while a slice of the combo pizza is slightly higher. This is a hefty portion of the average recommended daily intake of 2000 calories for most adults. Consuming just one slice can account for over a third of a day's caloric needs.

Fat Content: The fat content is another considerable component. A slice of Costco cheese pizza has around 28 grams of fat, which includes 11-12 grams of saturated fat. The pepperoni variant has similar fat content. Guidelines advise that saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of your total daily calories, so one slice might take up a significant portion of that limit.

Salt Content: Sodium intake is a concern for many individuals and Costco pizza contains a high level of salt. The sodium content for a slice of cheese pizza hovers around 1,200 mg, while the pepperoni or combo types can exceed this amount. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. One slice of Costco pizza could therefore nearly meet or exceed the ideal daily sodium intake.

In summary, it's important to note that while enjoying a slice of Costco pizza on occasion might fit within an otherwise healthy diet, regular consumption can challenge dietary guidelines with its high calorie, fat, and particularly sodium content. Whether you're watching your weight, managing blood pressure, or maintaining heart health, it's essential to consider these numbers and balance them within the context of your overall dietary intake.

Below is a simple breakdown of the nutritional content for a slice of Costco pizza in terms of fat, salt, and calories:

Pizza Type Calories Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Cheese 700-760 28 11-12 1200
Pepperoni 620-680 24 10 1290
Combo 680-740 29 12 1270

It's always advisable to look at the bigger picture of your diet when indulging in foods high in calories, fat, and sodium to ensure overall dietary balance. An occasional slice might be okay, but for those particularly concerned about these dietary components, it's crucial to consume such items mindfully.

The Effects of Processed Cheese and Meat Toppings on Health

When pondering the health implications of indulging in a slice of Costco pizza, it's essential to consider the specific components, such as the processed cheese and meat toppings. These items are staples on many pizzas, but their impact on health can be significant.

Processed cheese, often used for its meltability and shelf stability, typically contains additives, preservatives, and a higher proportion of saturated fats compared to natural cheese. While cheese does offer nutritional benefits such as calcium and protein, the processing significantly alters its quality. For example, a study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology suggests that processing can lead to a reduction in the bioavailability of certain nutrients.

Moreover, the high sodium content in processed cheese is another concern. According to the American Heart Association, excessive sodium intake is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Thus, monitoring intake of such cheese is vital for those watching their sodium levels.

As for meat toppings, they often include items such as pepperoni, sausage, and bacon, all of which are processed meats. These meats can be high in saturated fats and sodium, not to mention containing preservatives like nitrates and nitrites. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens, indicating that there's sufficient evidence they can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Frequent consumption of these processed meats may also be associated with other health issues, including increased risks for coronary heart disease and diabetes as per an analysis published in the Circulation journal. Given these potential health risks, portion control and moderation become important factors when consuming pizza with these types of toppings.

In summary, while processed cheese and meat toppings contribute to the appealing taste and convenience of a pizza, their impact on health must be weighed carefully. Here’s a brief rundown of the points to consider:

  • Processed cheese is rich in sodium and saturated fats, which may impact heart health negatively.
  • The nutritional quality of cheese can be diminished through processing.
  • Meat toppings, like pepperoni and sausage, are considered processed meats, which may increase the risk of certain cancers and other health issues.
  • Mindfulness regarding portion sizes and frequency of consumption is key to minimizing potential health risks.

Ultimately, knowledge of these foods' health effects can guide informed dietary choices, helping to strike a balance between enjoyment and well-being.

Refined Flour and Glycemic Index of Costco Pizza

When considering the nutritional profile of pizza, one of the key components is the crust, which is largely made of flour. Costco's pizza, like many others, uses refined flour for its dough, which has a significant impact on its glycemic index (GI) and potential health implications.

Refined flour is made by milling wheat grains and stripping away the bran and germ, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. This process also removes essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The absence of these components contributes to a higher glycemic index, meaning that it can cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar levels after consumption.

  • Absence of Fiber: Fiber plays a vital role in slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to moderate blood glucose levels and contributing to a lower glycemic response. The low fiber content in refined flour could be a concern for individuals with insulin resistance or diabetes.
  • Impact on Blood Sugar: Foods with a high GI can lead to quick spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes over time. A diet consistently high in high-GI foods may also contribute to weight gain and increased cardiovascular risks.
  • Nutrient Depletion: The refinement process of flour results in the loss of several key vitamins and minerals. Although the flour used in pizza dough may be enriched to replace some of these nutrients, it does not fully compensate for the natural diversity of nutrients found in whole grains.

The specific glycemic index of pizza can vary depending on additional factors such as the ratio of crust to toppings and the types of toppings used. However, the large percentage of the pizza's base coming from refined flour means that it will inherently have a higher glycemic index compared to foods made with whole grains.

Studies have suggested that the frequent consumption of high-GI foods is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases. For instance, a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-GI diets are linked to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and overweight (Livesey et al., 2019).

It is important for individuals, particularly those with blood sugar management concerns, to consider the cumulative glycemic load of their meals. One should balance high-GI foods like Costco's refined flour pizza with lower-GI foods that contain more fiber and nutrients to maintain a healthier diet profile.

Therefore, while enjoying a slice of Costco pizza on occasion can be part of a balanced diet, relying on it regularly as a meal choice might not be the best option for blood sugar and overall health due to the high glycemic index associated with its refined flour base.

Hidden Additives and Preservatives in Costco Pizza

When we indulge in a slice of Costco pizza, we're often more concerned about its cheesy, gooey deliciousness than what's actually inside. However, as a health-conscious consumer, it's important to be aware of the hidden additives and preservatives that can have long-term health implications.

Common Additives in Pizza

  • Flavor Enhancers: Costco pizzas, like many others, may contain flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) to improve taste and keep you coming back for more. While generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, some studies suggest a potential link to headaches, obesity, and metabolic disorders with excessive consumption.
  • Sodium Nitrate: Used in processed meats like pepperoni to maintain color and inhibit bacterial growth, sodium nitrate has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers and other health issues when consumed in large amounts over time.
  • Artificial Colors: To make ingredients like peppers and cured meats visually appealing, Costco pizza may include artificial colors. The impact of artificial food dyes on health is still debated, but there are concerns about their connection to behavioral issues in children.

Preservatives in Pizza

  • Sodium Benzoate: This preservative extends the shelf life of the dough and other components but can convert to benzene, a known carcinogen, under certain conditions, such as exposure to heat or light.
  • Calcium Propionate: Found in the crust to prevent mold growth, calcium propionate can cause irritability, restlessness, and sometimes, sleep disturbances in some individuals.
  • Sorbates: These are added to prevent mold and yeast growth. Though generally safe, there have been rare reports of sorbates causing skin allergies.

Pizza enthusiasts with food sensitivities or health concerns should take these additives and preservatives into account. While the occasional slice won't likely cause harm, awareness and moderation are key. Reading ingredient lists and seeking transparency from food chains can help you make better-informed decisions about what you consume.

The Role of Preservatives in Shelf-Life

Costco Pizzas are not only loved for their taste but also for their convenience. Part of this convenience comes from the use of preservatives that ensure the product can last from production to your plate without spoiling or losing its intended flavor profile. However, it is worth considering the potential health costs of these shelf-life extenders, which may impact individuals with specific sensitivities or pre-existing health conditions more severely.

Recommendations from Experts

Dieticians and health professionals often advocate for a diet that is low in processed foods, which tend to be high in additives and preservatives. While occasional consumption of such foods, including Costco's pizza, is generally not problematic for the average person, it is advisable to limit intake and opt for whole, minimally processed foods whenever possible. For those concerned about the potential health risks associated with food additives and preservatives, consulting with healthcare providers for personalized advice is recommended.

Understanding the full ingredient profile of Costco pizza, as well as other processed foods, is crucial in making healthy choices. As a rule of thumb, if you can't pronounce it, it might be a good idea to investigate further or potentially avoid it.

Frequency of Consumption and Balanced Diet Considerations

When pondering whether Costco pizza can fit into a healthy diet, it's vital to consider how often it's consumed and what else comprises your dietary pattern. Like many fast-food options, pizza from Costco is rich in calories, saturated fats, and sodium, which can present health concerns if eaten too regularly.

Understanding Portion Sizes: An integral part of including any fast-food item like Costco pizza in a balanced diet is understanding appropriate portion sizes. A single slice of Costco pizza is larger than the standard serving size recommended by nutritionists, meaning that consuming multiple slices can lead to an excessive intake of calories and nutrients that are best consumed in moderation.

Weekly Consumption Recommendations: While there's no universal recommendation for how many times you should eat pizza per week, it's generally advised to limit high-calorie, high-fat foods like pizza to occasional indulgences rather than regular meals. For most people, this might mean enjoying a slice of Costco pizza every other week or as a monthly treat as part of a diverse diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Correlation with Lifestyle and Activity: Your level of daily physical activity also impacts how often you can reasonably include pizza in your diet without negative health consequences. Individuals with a more active lifestyle may be able to enjoy these indulgences more often as they have higher energy requirements. However, this is not to say that active individuals should not also aim for nutrient-dense meals for overall health.

Nutritional Balance in Overall Diet: It is important to balance the rest of your meals throughout the day when you choose to indulge in pizza. Ensuring that the remaining meals are lower in saturated fat, sodium, and calories can help minimize the potential negative impact of a high-calorie meal like pizza. Including plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains in your diet on the day of and the days following your pizza indulgence can help maintain nutritional balance.

Considerations for Specific Dietary Needs: For individuals with specific dietary restrictions or conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or weight management goals, the frequency of pizza consumption should be more carefully considered. Consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider can provide personalized guidance to fit such foods into your diet in a way that minimizes health risks.

Role of Portion Control and Accompanying Choices: When you do choose to eat pizza, consider the portions and what you eat with it. Opting for a single slice and pairing it with a salad can create a more balanced meal compared to multiple slices with a side of high-fat, high-sodium items.

In summary, while the occasional slice of Costco pizza can be part of a balanced diet, it's all about controlling the amount and frequency of consumption. Carefully considering the rest of your dietary intake on days when you eat pizza, as well as your overall dietary pattern, are key steps in ensuring this convenience food does not negatively impact your health goals.

Healthier Pizza Alternatives at Home and in Stores

When it comes to pizza, the convenience and taste of a store-bought or takeaway option like Costco pizza can be alluring. However, for those conscious about health, finding healthier alternatives is a priority. Among the vast range of options, certain choices stand out based on their nutritional profiles and ingredients that can contribute positively to one's diet.

Homemade Pizza Alternatives

  • Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Crust: Opting for a whole wheat crust can add fiber to your meal, which aids in digestion and provides a slower release of energy. For those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, a gluten-free crust made from almond flour or cauliflower can provide a lower-carb alternative that is easier on the gut.
  • Vegetable Toppings: Pile on the vegetables to increase the nutrient density of your pizza. Vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions not only add vitamins and minerals but also fiber, which helps you feel full longer.
  • Lean Protein Choices: Incorporating lean proteins such as grilled chicken, turkey, or even plant-based options like chickpeas or tofu can improve the protein content of your pizza, supporting muscle repair and growth.
  • Low-Fat Cheese: By choosing reduced-fat cheese, you'll cut down on saturated fat intake, which is beneficial for heart health. Alternatively, nutritional yeast can serve as a cheese substitute that provides some protein and is often fortified with vitamin B12, an important nutrient for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Homemade Sauce: Preparing your own pizza sauce allows you to control the ingredients, reducing sugar and sodium. Using fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs can enhance the flavor without the need for added preservatives.

Health-Conscious Store-Bought Alternatives

  • Frozen Pizzas with Nutrient-Dense Bases: Some frozen pizzas now feature crusts made from blended vegetables, legumes, or ancient grains, providing more nutritional benefits than traditional options.
  • Organic Ingredients: Pizzas that use organic ingredients tend to have fewer pesticides and questionable additives. This can be especially important for those looking to minimize their exposure to potential toxins.
  • Low-Sodium Options: Because pizza can be high in sodium, particularly from added cheese and processed meats, look for low-sodium options to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

When searching for alternatives either in the frozen section or preparing your own at home, paying attention to ingredient lists and nutritional labels is key. Aim to choose products with a short, recognizable ingredients list and balanced macro and micronutrient profiles. While these healthier alternatives might require a bit more effort or cost slightly more, the benefits to your long-term health can be substantial.

Expert Opinions

Dietitians often suggest that making pizza at home can empower you to make healthier choices. According to a study published in Public Health Nutrition, individuals who cook more meals at home tend to have healthier overall diets and consume fewer calories. Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends homemade pizza as a way to control portion sizes and reduce the intake of processed foods, which often contain high levels of sodium and trans fats.

In summary, while indulging in a slice of Costco pizza on occasion won't derail a balanced diet, consistently opting for healthier homemade or carefully selected store-bought alternatives can significantly impact your health for the better, aligning your pizza consumption with dietary wellness.

Frequently asked questions

Considering that a single slice of Costco pepperoni pizza contains approximately 1,290 mg of sodium, it's quite challenging to include it in a low-sodium diet, which typically limits sodium intake to 1,500-2,300 mg per day according to the American Heart Association's guidelines. If it must be incorporated, strict attention to the rest of the day's sodium intake is crucial, and it should be an infrequent indulgence.

Yes, making homemade pizza can improve your diet quality by allowing for control over the ingredients, such as opting for whole grain dough, lean proteins, reduced-fat cheese, and plenty of vegetables, which increase the meal's nutritional value. Additionally, by avoiding excess sodium and additives often found in store-bought pizzas, homemade pizzas can be healthier and more aligned with a balanced diet.

Refined flour, used in Costco pizza crust, is low in fiber since the milling process removes the bran, which contains most of the grain's fiber. Low-fiber diets can slow digestion, leading to constipation, and don't provide the same level of satiety as high-fiber foods, which can result in overeating and weight gain over time. For better digestive health and satiety, choosing whole grain alternatives is recommended.

Yes, choosing a pizza with a vegetable topping is generally healthier than one with processed meat toppings like pepperoni or sausage. Vegetable toppings offer more vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber with fewer calories and less saturated fat and sodium, contributing to a more balanced nutrient intake and reducing the risks associated with processed meats, such as increased cancer risk.

Ask a question about Costco Pizza and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased blood pressure
  • high blood sugar spikes
  • headaches from additives
  • restlessness from preservatives

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of heart disease
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • potential for chronic diseases
  • increased risk of colorectal cancer from processed meats
  • increased risk of other cancers from additives

Ingredients to be aware of


  • enjoyment of flavors
  • convenience
  • calcium and protein intake from cheese
  • muscle support from added protein

Healthier alternatives

  • whole wheat crust
  • gluten-free crust
  • vegetable toppings
  • lean protein choices
  • low-fat cheese
  • homemade sauce
  • frozen pizzas with nutrient-dense bases
  • organic ingredients
  • low-sodium options

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)


  • Gluten-free option
  • Lower-calorie crust
  • Convenient 24-count pack
  • Vegetable-based alternative
  • Ready-made for ease
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-06-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-06-2023

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