Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Pizza Express Bad For You?



Short answer

Dining at Pizza Express can vary in nutritional value. Items like the Classic Margherita and Pollo Forza pizzas are high in calories and sodium, making them challenging for those with caloric or sodium restrictions. However, options like the Leggera Superfood Salad offer a healthier alternative with fewer calories and fats. Ultimately, balancing these foods with overall dietary intake and individual health goals is key to enjoying Pizza Express responsibly.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Popular Pizza Express Menu Items

When it comes to dining at Pizza Express, the nutritional content of its menu items can vary significantly. To make an informed decision on whether these offerings align with your dietary needs, we must look into the details of what's on the plate. Below, we'll break down the nutritional profile of some of the most popular Pizza Express menu items, considering factors such as calories, macronutrients, and sodium content.

1. Classic Margherita Pizza:

  • Calories: Approximately 729 kcal per pizza*
  • Protein: 27 grams*
  • Carbohydrates: 92 grams*
  • Fat: 26 grams*
  • Saturated Fat: 13 grams*
  • Sodium: 1278 mg*

* These values represent the average estimate for a standard-sized pizza and may vary by location or specific preparation.

2. Pollo Forza Pizza:

  • Calories: Around 1019 kcal per pizza*
  • Protein: 61 grams*
  • Carbohydrates: 89 grams*
  • Fat: 47 grams*
  • Saturated Fat: 15 grams*
  • Sodium: 2304 mg*

* Nutritional values are averages and subject to change based on portion size and ingredient variations.

3. Leggera Superfood Salad:

  • Calories: Approximately 345 kcal per salad*
  • Protein: 11 grams*
  • Carbohydrates: 24 grams*
  • Fat: 21 grams*
  • Saturated Fat: 3 grams*
  • Sodium: 456 mg*

* These nutritional figures are estimates and vary depending on the specific ingredients and dressing used.

In analyzing these figures, it is important for diners to understand how their individual dietary needs may correspond with these menu items. For instance, those monitoring their caloric intake may find the calorie-dense pizzas a challenge to fit into their daily goals. Moreover, the high sodium levels in certain pizzas could be potentially concerning for people with hypertension or those attempting to manage their salt intake.

The Leggera Superfood Salad offers a healthier alternative, with lower calories and fats, suggesting an option for those seeking more balanced choices. Meanwhile, all diners should be aware that these are estimated values, and individual meals can differ based on customization, portion size, and preparation variations. Consulting with nutrition labels or staff at Pizza Express can provide more exact information based on your specific choices.

For those keeping an eye on macronutrient distribution, the balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats is key to meeting various nutrition goals. Pizzas generally lean towards higher carbohydrates and fats, making them a less optimal choice for low-carb or low-fat diets. On the other hand, protein levels in meat-topped pizzas can support those looking to increase their protein intake.

It is worth noting that the nutritional content of these menu items only forms one part of the picture. Quantitative data doesn't account for the quality of ingredients or the potential presence of vitamins and minerals. Diners with particular dietary concerns should consider the entirety of their diet and consult with a healthcare professional or a dietician for personalized dietary advice.

Sodium Levels and Heart Health Risks at Pizza Express

When dining out, especially at popular chains like Pizza Express, it's important to be conscious of the sodium content in menu items. Pizza, by its very nature, tends to be high in sodium due to components like cheese, cured meats, and certain sauces. Excessive sodium intake is a profound concern as it is tightly linked to increased blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The recommended daily limit for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams for most adults, according to the American Heart Association. However, for individuals with hypertension or prehypertension, the suggested intake is even lower, at around 1,500 milligrams per day. A single meal at Pizza Express can often surpass these limits depending on the choices made.

Common pizza toppings that contribute to the high sodium content include:

  • Pepperoni
  • Anchovies
  • Extra cheese
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Parma ham

Also, certain pizza sauces and salad dressings can be hidden sources of sodium. It's advisable to request such additions on the side to better control the amount consumed.

It is crucial to review the nutritional information provided by the restaurant. A transparent analysis of the sodium content can guide healthier decisions. For example, a classic Margherita pizza might be a better option compared to a meat-laden Diavolo when trying to reduce sodium intake. Moreover, opting for a salad as a starter over garlic bread can make a positive impact as well.

When considering heart health, balance and awareness are key. By understanding the potential risks associated with high sodium consumption, we can make informed decisions that help manage our long-term heart health. To mitigate these risks, one could:

  1. Choose pizzas with a thinner crust and less cheese.
  2. Avoid adding extra salt at the table.
  3. Share a pizza with friends to reduce individual sodium intake.
  4. Complement your meal with a side of fresh salad without dressing to balance the overall sodium consumption.

Recent studies, including those published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, have reinforced the importance of moderating sodium intake to maintain cardiovascular health. Regularly consuming meals high in sodium at restaurants like Pizza Express may lead to chronic health issues if not balanced with lower-sodium meals and an overall healthy diet.

In conclusion, while Pizza Express can offer a tantalizing dining experience, it's vital to be mindful of the sodium content in their offerings. Taking proactive steps to manage sodium intake can help support heart health and reduce the risk of hypertension-related complications.

The Role of Refined Carbohydrates in Pizza Express Dishes

Refined carbohydrates are a staple in many fast-food options, and Pizza Express dishes are no exception. These carbohydrates are grains that have been processed to remove the bran and germ, which results in a finer texture but also strips away dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Common refined carbs include white flour and sugar, both key components in pizza dough and some pizza toppings.

When considering the health implications of consuming refined carbohydrates through Pizza Express dishes, it's important to understand the impact these can have on the body. Research shows that refined carb intake can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, which is not only a concern for diabetics but can also affect energy levels and weight management in the general population.

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a diet high in refined grains may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. The lack of fiber in refined carbs can lead to a faster absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and, subsequently, to fluctuations in energy levels.
  • Weight Management: Another study indicated that high intake of refined carbohydrates is linked with increased body fat. Since fiber contributes to feelings of fullness, the low fiber content in refined carbs may lead to overeating because they don't satiate hunger as effectively.
  • Nutritional Value: The refinement process significantly diminishes the nutritional value of the grains. For example, white flour, commonly used in pizza dough, loses essential nutrients like B-vitamins, iron, and dietary fiber compared to its whole-grain counterpart.

Pizza Express, like many pizza chains, predominantly uses refined flour in its pizza bases. While tasty, such crusts are low in essential nutrients and may contribute to the negative health effects associated with refined carbohydrate consumption, particularly if eaten regularly and in large portions.

Some Pizza Express menus also include alternative options like whole-grain dough which can be a healthier choice. Whole grains are linked to better heart health and lower risk of chronic diseases, per the Journal of Nutrition. Consumers looking to enjoy Pizza Express without the full impact of refined carbohydrates should consider these alternatives when available.

Portion control remains critical when consuming dishes high in refined carbohydrates. Average-sized pizza servings can contain a considerable amount of refined carbs, which can exceed the amount recommended for a balanced diet, according to guidelines from dietetic organizations.

Understanding the role of refined carbohydrates in Pizza Express offerings is vital for making informed dietary choices. While an occasional pizza can certainly fit into a balanced diet, being mindful of the frequency and portion size can help mitigate the adverse health effects associated with refined carb consumption.

Calorie Density and Weight Management Concerns

When weighing the healthiness of dining at Pizza Express, it's crucial to understand the concept of calorie density and its implications on weight management. Calorie density refers to the number of calories packed in a given volume of food. Foods with high calorie density provide a large number of calories in a small amount of food, which can be a concern for those monitoring their weight.

Pizza, as a dish, typically has a high-calorie density due to the combination of cheese, cured meats, and refined dough. At Pizza Express, while there are options for every taste, the majority of their menu items can be classified under the high-calorie density category.

  • Cheese - Often a significant source of saturated fat, calorie contribution from cheese adds up quickly on pizzas.
  • Cured Meats - Ingredients like pepperoni and ham are not only rich in calories but also in sodium and preservatives.
  • Dough - The refined flour used for pizza dough is high in calories and can considerably add to the calorie count of each slice.
  • Olive Oil - While a healthy fat, olive oil is dense in calories, and its liberal use in gourmet pizza can increase overall calorie content.

For those concerned with weight management, it is beneficial to be aware of the potential high calorie inputs pizza can have. In particular:

Pizza Variety Serving Size Calories (Approx.)
Classic Margherita 1 slice 200-250
Pepperoni 1 slice 250-300
Vegetarian 1 slice 150-200

Considering a standard diet of 2000 calories per day for the average adult, consuming several slices of pizza can quickly exhaust calorie intake limits, potentially leading to weight gain if such high-calorie meals are a frequent occurrence.

It's important to note that not all pizzas are created equal, and there are variations that can be more supportive of weight management goals. Pizza Express offers salad options, lighter pizza varieties, and allows for customizations that can help reduce calorie density, such as:

  • Choosing a thinner base or a 'Leggera' option which combines a smaller pizza with a side salad.
  • Selecting low-fat cheese options or reducing the cheese topping amount.
  • Opting for plenty of vegetable toppings, as they add nutrient density and usually come with fewer calories compared to cheese and meats.

For comprehensive weight management, it's advised to balance indulgent meals with physical activity. Understanding portion sizes and the importance of moderation can make pizza a part of a balanced diet without significantly impacting weight goals.

Balancing Indulgence at Pizza Express with a Healthy Diet

Indulging in a meal at Pizza Express can be a delightful experience, but it's essential to balance such indulgences with a healthy diet to maintain overall wellness. While pizza is often categorized as a high-calorie, high-fat food, there are strategies one can implement to enjoy it in a more health-conscious way.

Firstly, it's important to be mindful of portion control. Pizza Express, like many restaurants, serves pizzas that are larger than what one might make at home. Eating an entire pizza or large portions can lead to consuming excess calories, saturated fats, and sodium. One approach to counter this is to share your pizza with a friend or take home a portion for another meal. Enjoying one or two slices alongside a salad filled with leafy greens can create a more balanced and satisfying dining experience.

Explore menu options that feature vegetables and lean proteins. Options with grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, spinach, arugula, and other vegetables add nutritional value and provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Avoiding or limiting high-fat toppings such as pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese can make your pizza a smarter choice within a healthy diet framework.

Considering the crust is also key to a balanced approach. Choosing a thinner crust over a thicker, breadier option reduces the calorie and carbohydrate content of your meal. Some locations may offer whole wheat or gluten-free crusts, which can provide additional fiber and cater to those with specific dietary needs or preferences.

Keep an eye on appetizers and side dishes as well. It can be tempting to start with garlic bread or dough balls, but these can significantly increase the calorie count of your meal. Opt for lighter starters such as salads with dressing on the side, or marinated olives, to avoid turning the meal into an overindulgence.

Lastly, consider your drink choice. Beverages like soda and alcoholic drinks can add unnecessary sugars and calories. Sticking with water, unsweetened iced tea, or a glass of red wine can complement your pizza without overloading on extra calories.

By practicing these tips, you can enjoy a meal at Pizza Express without veering away from a healthful eating pattern. It's about making informed choices that satisfy your taste buds while still respecting your body's nutritional needs.

Choosing Healthier Options at Pizza Express

When dining at Pizza Express, or any pizza establishment for that matter, it’s essential to navigate the menu with a nutritional lens. Making informed choices can help align your pizza indulgence with a healthier lifestyle. Here’s how to choose wiser, more nutritional options without compromising the joy of your dining experience at Pizza Express.

Opt for Whole Grain Base: Many pizza places, including Pizza Express, offer whole grain or whole wheat bases for their pizzas. Opting for a whole grain base is an excellent way to increase dietary fiber in your meal, which can help with digestion and provide a feeling of fullness, possibly leading to a lower overall caloric intake.

Vegetable Toppings: Pile on the veggies! Most vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Choosing a pizza loaded with various colorful vegetables can not only boost your nutrient intake but also add texture and flavor. Some popular healthier toppings include spinach, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Control Cheese Intensity: Cheese is often what makes a pizza truly delectable, but it can also add a significant amount of saturated fat and calories. Consider choosing options with less cheese or asking for a lighter portion of cheese to reduce these numbers. Pizzas such as the 'Leggera' option at Pizza Express come with a reduced amount of cheese.

Lean Proteins: If you prefer not to go vegetarian, focus on lean proteins like chicken or turkey. These items add nutritional value to your pizza without the added fats that come with processed meats like pepperoni and sausage.

Watch Out for Creamy Sauces: Creamy sauces can considerably increase the calorie and fat content of your pizza. If possible, opt for tomato-based sauces which are often lower in calories and fat, and can count towards your vegetable intake.

Salads and Sides: Starting with a salad before tucking into your pizza can help fill you up with nutritious, low-calorie vegetables, potentially leading you to consume a smaller portion of pizza. Just be wary of high-calorie dressings and cheese add-ons. When it comes to sides, steer clear of deep-fried options and choose something like marinated olives or a side salad to keep things healthy.

Portion Control: Pizza portions can be quite generous, and it's easy to overeat. You might consider sharing a pizza or saving a portion for later; Pizza Express offers a takeaway option for most of their dishes. Being mindful of portion sizes helps manage calorie intake and promotes better eating habits.

Beverage Choices: Lastly, don’t forget about what you’re drinking. Beverages can add a significant amount of sugar and calories to a meal. Choosing water, unsweetened tea or a light wine instead of sugary sodas or heavy beers can round out your meal on a healthier note.

Remember, the key to enjoying Pizza Express without the guilt is moderation and making smarter choices when it comes to what's on your plate. It's always valuable to get familiar with the nutritional information, often provided on the menu or the restaurant's website, to make these decisions with clarity and confidence.

Frequently asked questions

Heart-healthy options at Pizza Express include pizzas with thinner crusts, reduced cheese content, and plenty of vegetables. You can also opt for lean protein toppings like grilled chicken instead of processed meats and request for any dressings or sauces on the side to control sodium intake. Begin your meal with a fresh salad without dressing for something light and balanced. Be sure to inquire about whole grain dough availability and watch your portion size to manage total caloric and sodium intake.

To balance indulgence at Pizza Express with a healthy diet, practice portion control by sharing your pizza or saving some for later, choose nutrient-dense toppings like vegetables and lean proteins, select a thinner crust, and avoid high-calorie starters like garlic bread. Pair your meal with a healthy drink like water or unsweetened tea, and complement it with a side of salad. Moderation and informed menu choices will help you enjoy your meal without derailing your nutrition goals.

To make your Pizza Express pizza more diet-friendly, choose a whole-grain base for added fiber, opt for less cheese or a reduced-fat option, load up on vegetable toppings for nutrients and lower calories, and go for lean protein sources over processed meats. Additionally, consider a 'Leggera' pizza option that includes a lighter portion of pizza combined with a side salad. And always be mindful of your portion size – share your pizza or save some for later.

For diners looking to lower their refined carbohydrate consumption, Pizza Express offers alternatives such as whole-grain dough upon availability, which provide more dietary fiber than the regular refined bases. Choosing a pizza with a thin base and loading up on vegetable toppings can also help reduce the intake of refined carbs. Additionally, look for menu items that use fresh ingredients and lean proteins instead of those with added sugars or refined grains.

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

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure
  • rapid blood sugar spikes
  • overeating due to low satiation
  • excessive caloric intake leading to weight gain

Possible long-term side effects

  • risk of type 2 diabetes
  • increased body fat
  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • stroke

Ingredients to be aware of

  • saturated fat
  • sodium
  • refined carbohydrates
  • calories from cheese, cured meats, dough, and olive oil


  • protein intake from meat-topped pizzas
  • nutrients from vegetable toppings

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain pizza base
  • vegetable toppings
  • reduced cheese
  • lean proteins
  • tomato-based sauces
  • salads with light dressing
  • water or unsweetened tea to drink

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

KBosh Cauliflower Pizza Crust

  • Only 1 carb per crust
  • Keto-friendly food
  • Gluten-free snack
  • Sugar-free
  • Low in carbohydrates
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-02-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-02-2024

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