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. Zella Subich says:

    Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is great, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Taste Test: Frozen Cheese Pizza | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog .

  2. Oh my, Ellio's! As a child of the Midatlantic region, I remember that pizza well. It's not too healthy (tons of sodium and no good-for-you grains), but my grandmother used to cut it up into small pieces and share them as after-school snacks.

  3. Kristine says:

    That's so funny- that's the only brand my kids will eat :)

  4. kev says:

    I sure hope your employer (Palermos) paid you for positing this commercial . I will look to see if it is available locally but I don't think I'll have them shipped. Next time try not to sound like the media relations director.
    PS the link does NOT work, so maybe they should not have paid you after all.

  5. Mark says:

    At least in San Diego, CA, the Palermos Ultra Thin Margherita is available in a 3-pack at Costco.

  6. Dax Schaefer says:

    Wow, I am so happy to see that dedication to one of my products; I am the actual Chef who designed the Palermo's Primo Thin line you are talking about. I do agree with Kev it sounds a lot like a Commercial, but I do love to hear your comments (and we do get tons of them all the time that sound just like yours, we call them love letters)! I am a CIA trained Chef who worked in very high end restaurants until I made the jump to manufacturing 7 years ago, and with that said I am really proud of what we have done here at Palermo's. We use great ingredients and just focus on the flavor, were not going to win the battle of making the most pizzas, but we can make the best tasting ones! I designed the pizzas to taste great and a very clean ingredient statement, and we have many all natural varieties in the Primo Thin line. oh and you had the website wrong it is http://www.palermospizza.com. If you like frozen pizzas that taste like they came from a pizzeria please check us out!

    On a side note I stubbled onto this because I love this website!!!

  7. Sarah says:

    I was looking for someone who said Mystic Pizza! Soooooo good!

  8. guest says:

    rude rude rude

  9. Guest says:

    This is a great pizza! I live in Phoenix and when I buy frozen pizza, Palermos is the only one that I will now buy. I love the fact it cooks up in 10 minutes or less! The taste is really good and doesn't have that fake frozen pizza taste. I would love to try the breakfast pizza but have not noticed it in the grocery store that I shop. I will have to look for it the next time!

  10. tricia says:

    I have to agree. I've tried several frozen pizza's of late, and the California Pizza is by far the best!

  11. Bette says:

    I love these too!!

  12. Kathie says:

    I agree, doctored up with you choice of toppings, including a bit more cheese-WOW! Perfect frozen Pizza to do your own thing with.

  13. Kathie says:

    I agree, see Lissa 2 weeks ago and my response

  14. Janet S. says:

    I agree. Red Barron is the best frozen pizza I've tried. Tombstone is good too, but Red Barron is better. I doctor it up with more red and green bell peppers, red onion slices, black olives and more mushrooms. I take off the pepperoni that comes on it and replace it with turkey pepperoni. I also add jalopenos (fresh, not jarred). I sometimes add extra mozzarella. The sauce is so tasty that I wish I could buy just the sauce!

  15. candace b says:

    The same here in AZ. The only frozen pizza my grandchildren will eat is Safeways Ultra thin four cheese pizza. It's pretty darn good.

  16. Kate says:

    I whole-heartedly agree! I just tried it the other day and I was blown away! Amy's Pesto pizza is also extremely tasty…

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