Taste Test: Frozen Cheese Pizza

by in Back to School, Grocery Shopping, Taste Test, August 19, 2009

Frozen Pizza
When I was in college, prepping fresh, balanced meals wasn’t exactly a priority. Sometimes quick and cheap won out and that often meant frozen pizza. Newly graduated, I’m thinking healthier these days. Looking for smarter standbys, I recruited my friend, Tracy, to help me sample five “better for you” frozen pizzas. Then, we ran them by Dana and Toby to get the nutritionist perspective.

Note: For an even-steven comparison, we stuck to plain flavors to get the best sense of the big three: crust, sauce and cheese.

Kashi Thin Crust Margherita Pizza
Rating: 4
Nutrition Info: 260 calories; 9 grams of fat (per 1/3 pizza)
Kashi’s frozen line boasts some tricked-out pies (The Caribbean Carnival, for instance, has mango and plantain chunks). This classic version, with a simple cheese-and-tomato topping, hits the spot just fine. Tracy and I both gave a thumbs-up on the sauce’s pronounced herb flavor, an improvement on the blandness of most frozen options. The thin crust gets nice and crispy and even retains its crunch after reheating leftovers. As a meal, the serving is a little light, so we added a salad to round things out.
The Dietitian Says: “This one is the highest in fiber at 4 grams and comes with numerous whole grains, including ones you may have never heard of like triticale.” -Toby

Lean Cuisine Margherita Pizza Wood Fire Style
Rating: 3
Nutrition Info: 340 calories; 7 grams of fat (per 1 single-serving pizza)
Microwave pizza can often be a little, well, soggy. Lean Cuisine’s “wood fire style” pizzas try to make up for that. This one did score points for a crust that got crispy on the bottom, yet remained pleasantly chewy around the outside. The sauce, however, had a packaged taste. The dough also lacked flavor — a sprinkle of fresh herbs would have helped. It was a good-sized portion; with a sliced apple, the pizza made a super-quick lunch.
The Dietitian Says: “This was the highest calorie option, but it was also the lowest in sodium — about 35% lower! Overall, the quality of ingredients aren’t impressive — no whole grains and some sweeteners and additives.” – Dana

Amy’s Cheese Pizza
Rating: 4.5
Nutrition Info: 290 calories; 12 grams of fat (per 1/3 pizza)
This one tasted the most like homemade. The crust was chewy, and the sauce had a fresh tomato flavor. When we pulled it out the box, we worried about the sparse cheese covering. As it cooked, however, the flecks melted and spread into an even, toasty layer. Bonus: no I-ate-too-much-grease feeling when finished.
The Dietitian Says: “This is the organic choice from the bunch. A cool fact about the cheese: it’s made without animal renins (a cheese-making enzyme from the intestines), so this a good choice for dairy-eating vegetarians.” – Toby

Newman’s Own Four Cheese Thin & Crispy Pizza
Rating: 3.5
Nutrition Info: 300 calories; 13 grams of fat (per 1/3 pizza)
When a frozen pizza calls itself “four cheese,” it sets some high expectations. This one delivered. It had a dense layer of grated cheese across the top, but there was so much melty goodness that we could hardly taste the tomato sauce.
The Dietitian Says: “Similar to the Amy’s brand, I could pronounce all this pizza’s ingredients, which is always a good sign. But don’t be fooled by that ‘multigrain’ crust. That’s not the same as whole grain.” – Dana
* This pizza is shown above.

For Special Diets
I have an aunt in Chicago who has a gluten intolerance, which can be a real bummer when you want some authentic, Chicago-style pie. When we go out, she orders an individual pizza with a gluten-free crust for herself. Lucky for her, there are also some gluten-free frozen pizzas in supermarkets. Tracy and I sampled Amy’s Rice Crust Cheese Pizza and were pleasantly surprised. No cardboard here! The crust did get pretty burnt (next time, we won’t cook it as long as the package says) and wasn’t quite the same as regular wheat crust. The sauce’s fresh tomato taste came through, however, and made this a solid choice.

As for vegan pizzas, you’ve got two options: soy “cheeze” or no cheese. I sometimes purchase a cheese-less pizza — one that comes with just the crust and sauce — and add my own cheese. Then, I can control the quantity or drizzle on my faves.

Doctoring Up Your Packaged Pies
Just because we opted for plain cheese pizzas doesn’t mean you can’t experiment. I often add extra sliced veggies — peppers, onions, artichoke hearts, whatever — before the pizza goes in the oven. They add color and freshness, and the extra toppings give the pizza a fiber boost (making it more filling!) without too many extra calories or fat. Fruit is another fun add-on, as are lean meats such as diced chicken breast. Feeling adventurous? Try canned tuna on a roasted veggie pie.

Karen Ostergren is Healthy Eats’ intern and a recent graduate of the University of Missouri. She recently relocated to New York to pursue her journalism career and continue her quest for foods that are healthy, quick and tasty.

TELL US: Do you ever turn to frozen pizza? What’s your favorite?

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Comments (67)

  1. diane W. says:

    Most of these brands we don't even have in the rural midwest :-( First of all our choices where to shop are… Walmart, again :-(

  2. Jack says:

    Amy's Spinach pizza is delicious. I Can hardly tell it's frozen!

  3. Cheryl McDade says:

    Homerun Inn Pizza is wonderful but very difficult to find, it's made in Chicago. The smell is amazing when baking.

  4. Doug says:

    I’m kinda surprised that no one mentioned DiGiorno. I like the four-chesse with rising crust. Very good sauce, nice crust that can be made semi-crispy or softer, and the right amount of cheese. Of course, a little doctoring here and there is often the method here.

  5. Chris says:

    Thank God someone mentioned Home Run Inn. I've lived all over the country no other frozen pizza comes close. I have no doubt that it isn't a "diet friendly" pie. Get off the couch and walk around the block a little bit before and after and it'll be all good.

  6. eve says:

    has anyone tried connie’s pizza? wonderful

  7. MomDar says:

    I love Publix brand Margherita or their White (w/spinach) pizza, very good. For the kids Tombstone is not bad either or even Pepperidge Farm. I love the first two and they also love the spinach one (not everyone in my family likes chopped tomatoes, they love sauce though). I think I'll give it a try making my own pizza at home too.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Frozen pizza is a dinner my whole family can agree on!

  9. The Tone says:

    I usually make my own pizza from a prepared mix I buy in italian section of my market "Betty Crocker" 6.5 oz bag usually under a buck and use 2 of these mixed with a 1/2 cup wheat flour, follow directions with hot water mix,[1/2 cup per bag] let sit 5 min., then knead[usually add more warm water] and sprinkle with wheat flour to shape..I use a pre-oiled cookie sheet, spread dough out to edges of sheet..add spag sauce and toppings, sliced mushrooms,diced green peppers, diced pineapple, sliced hot dogs, lots of grated cheese[several types] diced tomatoes, and black whole olives..add italian seasoning, garlic powder, and into 400 deg oven for 30 min. Take out and let cool 1/2 hour, cut into 4" squares, wrap in wax paper when cool, and freeze. For fast meal when I microwave these later at 2.5 min, I pan fry them last just for a minute or two to crispen the crust..yum! Good fast meal add with salad.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Trader Joe's, Amy's, and Whole Foods all make a frozen pesto pizza with tomato slices that is my absolute favorite frozen pizza. Also, I really can't say one of these is better than the others; they're almost identical in flavor and quality. Just depends on what store I'm at that day.

    Unfortunately I've recently been advised by my doctor to avoid gluten. Does anyone have suggestions for their favorite gluten-free frozen pizzas?

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