A Nutritionist’s Guide To Pizza Express

A Nutritionist’s Guide To Pizza Express

We love Pizza Express a much as the next person for a midweek meal – but not everything on its menu will be good for you. To find out which ones are worth ditching altogether, the healthy swaps you can make, and the dishes that are best for you, we asked two nutritionists to analyse some of the restaurant chain’s most popular options.
Photography: @PIZZAEXPRESS

Calzone Verdure

Verdict: If you’re looking for a healthier pizza option, a calzone may not be the most obvious choice, but this dish is actually one of the highest in fibre on the Pizza Express menu, Yasmin tells us. “This is down to the amount and variety of vegetables it features, including aubergines, mixed peppers and spinach. It’s also fairly low in saturated fat, but still high in carbs and sugar. The protein content is lower than many other pizzas containing meat or eggs, but if you’re looking for a pizza with added nutrients, this may be the one to order.” Rating: 6/10

Dough Balls

Verdict: A Pizza Express classic, but don’t go overboard, says nutritionist Sophie Trotman. “Dough balls are made from white, refined flour, which can cause blood sugar spikes and dips. If you order these, make use of the accompanying butter to add fat, which will reduce blood sugar spikes and troughs. Overall, these aren’t nutritious, but at least they aren’t overly processed.”

Rating: 3/10

Mushroom and Truffle Romana

Verdict: This pizza may be meat-free, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wise option on the health front. With bechamel sauce, two types of cheese and truffle oil, it contains nearly 60g of fat, of which 22g is saturates, as well as 5g of salt. “This pizza contains a lot of dairy, which can be hard on your digestive system, and unlike other vegetarian pizza options it barely contains any vegetables. This means it’s lower in fibre, vitamins and minerals,” says Sophie.

Rating: 3/10

Caprese and Prosciutto Salad

Verdict: For a lower-carb option, the experts say this salad is one to try. “The tomatoes, olives, roasted peppers, mixed leaves, basil and pine nuts are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. However, it loses a couple of points for the prosciutto ham, as processed meat has been linked to health problems like heart and bowel disease,” says Sophie. Nonetheless, with just 6g of carbs and a good amount of fat, it will keep you full, predicts Yasmin. 

Rating: 8/10

Leggera La Reine

Verdict: “The pizzas in the Leggera range are all under 600 calories, and are therefore lower in carbs, fat, salt and sugar. The middle of the pizza is replaced with colourful salad leaves, making it a sensible choice if you’re looking for a pizza fix without the hit,” says Yasmin. “This pizza is also made with wholemeal flour, making it higher in fibre and nutrients.” The addition of ham, mushrooms and mozzarella increases the protein content, meaning it will keep you fuller for longer.

Rating: 8/10

Padana Romana

Verdict: “This pizza comes with red onion chutney which is surprisingly high in sugar. As a result, this pizza contains more than your daily recommended intake of sugar,” says Yasmin. “However, it’s made with wholemeal flour and goat’s cheese, which up the protein and fibre content – this will slow the energy release, but at over 1,100 calories, it’s still a pretty indulgent choice.” If this is your go-to, all is not lost. “Goat’s cheese can be rich in probiotics, and onion is also packed with prebiotics, both of which can help support the gut,” Sophie adds.

Rating: 4/10

Garlic King Prawns

Verdict: “This is one of the more nutritious starters on the menu,” says nutritional therapist Yasmin Alexander. “It contains 16g of protein per serving, and is lower in calories than other items on the menu.” The addition of tomatoes, roasted peppers, onion and chilli also boosts the antioxidant content, adds Sophie. “Red onion is a prebiotic, meaning it acts as a food for the good bacteria in your gut, helping to keep everything in balance.” 

Rating: 8/10

Pollo Ad Astra Romana

Verdict: While the Romana pizzas may look bigger, it’s helpful to know the bases contain the same number of calories, Sophie tells us. “The Romana bases are made from the same dough as the classic pizzas. You do, therefore, get more topping, which can increase the calories.” With over 1,100 calories and 140g of carbs, this is a big hit for one meal, adds Yasmin. “It also contains a whopping 5g of salt, and regular consumption of salt-rich foods can lead to high blood pressure. The only plus is that it has red peppers and red onions, which contain vitamins.”

Rating: 3/10

Halloumi Bites

Verdict: The experts agree these cheesy bites should be enjoyed in moderation. “They’re likely fried in inflammatory seed oils, and halloumi itself is relatively high in sodium, which can increase blood sugar and water retention,” says Sophie. “However, halloumi is a source of protein and calcium – two things many of us don’t eat enough of – and by being rich in fat and protein, they may decrease the likelihood of overeating during the rest of your meal.”

Rating:  5/10

Fiorentina Classic Pizza

Verdict: “With close to 1,000 calories per pizza, this is a rich option,” says Yasmin. “However, it does contain 50g of protein and 10g of fibre, so it’s not all bad. Both the protein and fibre will help slow the release of the carbs into the bloodstream, providing long-lasting energy.” Sophie, meanwhile, is a fan of the toppings on this pizza. “Two types of cheese provide good amounts of calcium, protein and iodine. The free-range egg also contains choline, a nutrient that helps with brain function. Spinach, tomato, garlic oil and black olives boost the plant diversity of this dish, which is great for gut health. Most of us struggle to eat enough dark leafy veg, so it’s great to see spinach included here.”

Rating: 6/10

Choose The Right Protein: “Be mindful that pepperoni and toppings like hot spiced beef increase the calorie and salt content significantly. Chicken or a free-range egg is a leaner alternative and will still fill you up.” – Sophie

Opt For A Colourful Pizza: “It may sound obvious, but a white-looking pizza (such as the Mushroom and Truffle or Four Cheese pizzas) will be lower in antioxidants. They also tend to be higher in fat and may be more taxing on the digestive system.  In general, the more colourful the pizza, the more nutritious it is.” – Sophie

Switch Up Your Base: “If you can, opt for a base made with wholemeal flour, which contains more fibre and helps slow the release of sugar into the blood. If you struggle to digest gluten, you can also swap a regular base for a gluten-free one, and there’s a gluten-free version of the Dough Balls, too.” – Yasmin

Consider A Leggera: “If you are trying to be healthy, the Leggera pizzas are a good option. This way, you can still enjoy your pizza but you’ll also get a serving of salad to add more nutrients and buffer the load from the pizza.” – Yasmin 

For more information, visit PizzaExpress.com, SophieTrotmanNutrition.com and NutritionByYasmin.com.

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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