Food Fight!: Pasta vs. Pizza
They're in a serious tie for tastiness -- but which is healthier, a bowl of spaghetti or few slices of pizza? Find out which cheesy, carb-y wonder has the most redeeming value in this (tomato-spattered) showdown between pasta and pie!
With 400-plus calories a slice (more if you go heavy on the pepperoni or cheese), two or three slices can add up to eating close to half the daily recommended average of 2,000 calories. Pizzeria slices also tend to have a hefty amount of artery-clogging saturated fat and sodium.
Supermarket frozen pizzas can go either way. Some traditional brands are also high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. They are also usually made with a white-flour crust and contain a laundry list of preservatives. That said, it's getting easier to find healthier frozen pizzas (take a look how these various brands stacked up in a recent taste test).
Opting to make pizza from scratch can help home cooks control the ingredients and up the nutritional value. Add whole grains (by choosing whole-wheat pizza dough), add vegetables (by piling on favorites like mushrooms, peppers and onions) and include a touch of good cheese. Serve with a side salad or cup of soup for a nicely balanced meal.
When ordering pasta at a restaurant, the calories are almost always out of control. A dinner order of fettuccine alfredo at The Olive Garden can rack up 1,220 calories and 1,350 milligrams of sodium (and that's without the salad and bread sticks). Creamy sauces and mounds of cheese can make any pasta dish less than healthy.
As usual, making your own is probably the best bet, since you can choose the ingredients and add-ins. Although pasta has been getting shunned from almost every new diet plan and has a bad rep, choosing whole-grain varieties is in line with the USDA's dietary guideline to make half of any grains you eat whole grains. If wheat isn't your thing, many pasta alternatives can be found on store shelves. These noodles are usually made from grains or legumes, including quinoa, soy, brown rice and beans.
No matter which pasta you choose, the portions need to stay in check. One cup of cooked spaghetti has 220 calories, but many people serve themselves 3 or 4 cups in one meal. By bulking up smaller pasta portions with grilled chicken, veggies and fresh herbs -- and using ingredients like cheese, cream and oil sparingly -- it's more than possible to build a well-balanced pasta meal.
Healthy Eats Winner: When it comes to ease of controlling portions and toppings -- both in restaurants and at home -- pizza is the champ.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day. See Toby's full bio »