Takeaway Food Week: Pizza

Pizza is the most sociable takeaway option and highly customisable, but there are risks involved even if you don’t make obviously stupid choices like asking for extra cheese to be injected into the crust. Takeaway Food Week grabs a pizza cutter and looks at how to get the most value for your pizza dollar without totally sacrificing your health.Pictures by Ben White

Let’s start with an obvious fact: eating an entire pizza is a really bad idea. I’m not standing in judgement — I’ve done that many times in my life and I can’t swear I won’t do it again at some point — but in kilojoule terms, you really need to stop after two or three slices, as we’ll establish below.

There’s two arguably distinct segments in the local pizza market: mass market chains such as Domino’s (520+), Pizza Hut (350+ stores) and Eagle Boys (335+), and smaller independent restaurants. Our nutritional figures below draw from the mass market, but don’t presume that your local Italian pizzeria is massively different in kilojoule terms, even though it will almost certainly taste better and offer you more personalised service.

How can I make this healthier? The most basic pizza (with minimal cheese and vegetables as a topping) will run to around 600Kj for a slice (assuming, for rough purposes, eight slices to a pizza). At the pan crust and lots of meat end of the spectrum, a figure like 1200Kj is not uncommon. Presuming a daily intake of around 9000Kj (which is what I aim at, but I’m taller than a lot of people), I’d want no more than three or four slices if I’m working with the usual three meals a day. And that’s fine: it just means sticking to an absolute maximum ratio of one pizza per two people.

Whether or not that pizza also blows out your fat totals depends on the toppings. Obviously, if you choose vegetables you’re going to get a healthier result than if you pile the cheese on high and want ten different types of salami and some sour cream to boot.

Salt is a definite risk — it’s hard to find a pizza with less than 300mg of sodium per slice, which means if you had three slices you’re well on the way towards your total daily numbers. But the key message is moderation. A few slices of pizza is not problematic as an occasional meal, especially if you avoid mega extra amounts of cheese and pan fried crusts and processed meats and super-salty sauces.

We’ve linked to the nutrition guides available for major franchises below if you want to hunt down a particular pizza, but bear in mind that the listings won’t cover every possible variation on offer:

How can I save money? Given the relatively high kilojoule count involved in any pizza, there’s definitely a case to be made for spending a little more and getting exactly the pizza you want from the Italian restaurant down the street rather than just going with a “corporate pizza”. For roughly half the people in Lifehacker’s corporate HQ, that’s the preferred approach, in which case the only advice we have to offer is to find a good local pizza joint and enjoy it.

If you are using one of the major chains, there are three obvious strategies to pursue if you’re after the cheapest deal possible:

  • Find a coupon. Chances are your mailbox already gets inundated with discount vouchers for your local pizza chain, but an even better solution is to hit Retail Me Not and search out a coupon deal.
  • Pick it up yourself rather than getting it delivered. You can routinely get pick-up pizzas for $6 or so, and potentially for even less if you hunt down some coupons.
  • Resist customisation. Adding a single extra ingredient will often greatly increase the cost. And try and avoid ordering side dishes — you aren’t going to need them filling-wise.

What’s your approach to making the most of pizza? Share your slice of ideas in the comments.

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