Several pizza places are adding whole grains to their menu boards. But does a whole-grain crust make that much difference in the nutritional content of your pizza?
The Papa John's chain added a 100 percent whole-wheat pizza crust to its nationwide menu on Monday. According to the company's nutrition data, a large slice of whole-wheat cheese pizza contains 2 1/2 times the fiber, 10 less calories and 10 less milligrams of sodium than a large slice with the original crust.
Interestingly enough, the whole-wheat crust contains a little more total fat 12 grams than the regular, which has 11 grams. Both have the same amounts of vitamins A and C and iron and calcium. The whole-wheat slice is 290 calories; a regular slice is 300 calories.
A slice of pizza can give you anywhere from 150 calories to 530, depending on the type of pizza and how big your slice is, according to an article by dietitian Karen Collins of the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Some factors to consider when you order (or make) a pizza:
• Crust: "Simply opting for a thin-crust pie can save, on average, from 30-120 calories per slice, compared to thicker hand-tossed crusts," writes Collins.
• Cheese: Besides that gooey melted goodness, cheese provides protein that helps make pizza into a balanced meal. But even part-skim mozzarella is 72 calories per ounce, with more than half of that coming from fat, Collins writes. So ordering "extra cheese" can add an extra 25-30 calories per slice.
She suggests asking for half the usual amount of cheese when ordering, especially if you know the restaurant tends to go heavy on it. She added you probably don't have to do that at Domino's, because the company uses less cheese to start with.
• Toppings: Watch out for high-fat meats such as sausage, ground beef and pepperoni. "These are typically high-calorie choices that contain cholesterol-raising saturated fat," she said. A meat-lovers' special can add an additional 100-150 calories per slice over a plain cheese pizza.
• Veggies: Many of us would like to think of the tomato sauce and a sprinkling of green peppers as a full serving of veggies, but Collins says that's not true. You'd have to eat a couple slices of a two-vegetable-topping pie to equal one serving of vegetables. Her suggestion is to pair your pizza with a side salad; it will also fill you up and keep you from overdoing it on the pizza.
• Portion sizes: Because the diameter of the pie is larger, a slice from a "large" 14-inch pizza contains about 80-120 calories more than a slice from a 12-inch "medium" pie.
• Beware the "healthy halo": Often when people choose a leaner or more "healthy" option, they feel it's a license to eat more of it, explained food psychologist Brian Wansink in his book "Mindless Eating." Even if you've chosen a thin crust and limited the cheese and meat on your pizza, you can still pack on 300-800 calories by grabbing a couple of extra slices. Or you might think since you're eating "light" you can add a side order of breadsticks and dunk them in garlic butter instead of marinara. There goes any calorie savings.• Out of sight, out of mind. Select your portion, then close the box and scoot the box away from you before you start eating. The chances are that a friend or family member will polish off what's left in the box before you get ready for seconds.