Order This, Not That: Papa John’s

by in Dining Out, February 2, 2012
papa johns pizza
Are there any healthy options at this popular pizza chain?

I frequently see commercials for this pizza chain but often wonder if there’s really is anything I can order that won’t bust my waistline. We’ll give you the cheesy facts so you’ll be prepared on your next visit.

Nutrition Info
It can get kind of tricky when reading the nutrition information for Papa John’s. The calories listed for most items will give you the per-serving information. This means that their “Pizza for One,” which serves 4 has the calories listed for a quarter of the pie. The same goes for their sides like chicken wings and breadsticks. The calories listed are for a serving size of 2 wings—though 10 are served in each order. So be sure to take a few minutes to decipher their nutrition breakdown when you sift through their website.

ORDER:
Pizza:
Papa John’s Garden Fresh Pizza is topped with onions, green peppers, portabella mushrooms, black olives and tomatoes. It’s your best bet to get in some veggies since not many other options on the menu offer them. Remember that if you choose the Pizza for One, the nutrition information is given for one quarter of the pie. The calories for ¼ of the Garden Fresh Pizza for One is 180—which means you can still eat half of it for 360 calories. Though if you gobble down the entire Pizza for One, that’ll add up to 720 calories.

Extras:
Add some spice to your pizza with packet of crushed red pepper or Parmesan cheese. The crushed pepper has 5 calories and 0 milligrams sodium and the cheese has 15 calories and 45 milligrams sodium per packet.

NOT:
Pizza:
If you order an extra-large pie of John’s Favorite loaded with pepperoni, sausage and a 6-cheese blend, one slice will set you back 430 calories and 22 grams fat. Sound harmless? Gobble down one-quarter of the pie (2.5 slices) for 1,075 calories and 55 grams fat or half the pie (5 slices) for 2,150 calories and 110 grams fat.

Sides:
It gets tricky trying to decipher the nutrition information for these dishes. The Parmesan breadsticks contain 340 calories and 10 grams fat per 2 breadsticks but one order has 10 breadsticks. The wings have the same issue with 2 BBQ Wings weighing in at 190 calories and 12 grams fat—though there are 10 wings per serving. If you can stop at 2 wings, then more power to you.

Extras:
The Special Garlic dipping sauce that comes with an original crust pizza racks up 150 calories and 17 grams of fat per cup. If you’re a die-hard garlic sauce fan then measure out 4 tablespoons (or 1/4 cup) for 37.5 calories and 4.25 grams of fat.

Although the special seasoning has 5 calories per packet, the sodium is 410 milligrams which is 15% of your recommended daily dose. The pizza already has plenty of sodium—there’s no need to add this much more to your meal.

Dessert:
One medium piece of fruit (like an apple or orange) has 60 calories, so when a serving of Papa John’s Apple Pie rang up at 480 calories I was pretty surprised. Skip it and go for some fresh fruit at home.

TELL US: What do you order at Papa John’s?

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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