Deep pan, stuffed crust or frozen supermarket pizzas – particularly budget options – may be a healthier alternative to thin-based or fresh varieties for health-conscious consumers, according to consumer watchdog Which?
In its new report 'Pizzas Exposed', Which? analysed 162 tomato and pepperoni pizzas sold in major UK supermarkets and takeaways during December 2010, and some surprising results showed that thin pizzas were often higher in fat and saturates than deep-pan and stuffed crust versions.
For instance, based on 100g servings, Tesco’s Italian Romana Margherita, with an ‘ultra-thin’ base, contained twice as much fat (13.7g) and saturates (6.7g) per 100g serving than its budget Trattoria Verdi Deep Pan Cheese line (6.4g, 3.2g).
Takeaway less fat?
Another unexpected finding was that supermarket pizzas are not always healthier than takeaway options. One example cited by Which? was Dr Oetker’s Chicago Town Edge to Edge Thin & Crispy Californian Cheese: this contained more fat and saturates per gram (15.9g; 8.8g) than equivalent Domino’s and Pizza Hut varieties.
Which? also discovered that some pizza brands could contain up to three times more fat and salt than others with the same topping type, where Tesco’s fresh full-on-flavour Cheese Feast Deep Crust Pizza contained 14g of saturated fat per 100g.
Intriguingly – given that frozen budget foods are commonly thought of as more unhealthy than premium fresh offerings – Sainsbury’s Fresh Basics Cheese & Tomato pizza (which uses the same topping) only contained 5g of saturated fat per 100g.
Suggested portion sizes ‘unrealistic’
Which? also slammed an “enormous and often unrealistic” range of portion sizes and front-of-pack nutrition labelling schemes, even from the same manufacturer, that it says complicated its comparative analysis.
Goodfella’s and Chicago Town were named by Which? as amongst the “worst offenders” for portion size, with most of the products examined under these brands – along with some own-label supermarket pizzas – promoting “unlikely” portion sizes of a quarter of the whole pizza.
Which? is also pushing for the UK government to endorese voluntary traffic light labelling, despite a lack of support across all EU member states. Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive, said: “We want clear, front of pack labelling, including traffic-light colours, and consistent portion sizes so that people can easily compare like for like.”
“You can’t expect people to stand poring over pizza labels in the supermarket to see which one has more fat or salt in it.”
Budget best for waistline?
So which pizzas should health-savvy UK shoppers be loading up their baskets with?
On a 100g serving basis, Which? tipped Asda’s frozen Takeaway Style Margherita and The Co-operative’s frozen Simply Value Cheese and Tomato Pizza as good low fat, saturated fat and salt options, while Morrison’s frozen Value Cheese and Tomato Pizza scored well with low calorie, saturated fat and salt levels.
Tesco topped the list for worst offenders calorie-wise, with fresh Full on Flavour Cheese Feast Deep Crust (310 kcal) and Pepperoni (330 kcal) varieties; Dr Oetker’s Edge Thin & Crispy California Cheese (15.9g fat, 8.8g saturates), and Sainsbury’s Thin & Crispy Pepperoni (17.6g fat, 7.7g saturates) poor overall performers.
Said Which? “Our research highlights the breadth of companies that make pizzas – and so actions need to apply across the board if they are going to help our everyday choices. The range of fat, saturated fat and salt levels also highlights the fact that more manufacturers could reduce levels of these nutrients.”