Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pizza Pizza! "Diet" Pizza Tasting

I have always said that pizza was my favorite food. Growing up, my mother cooked our family dinner ever night except Sunday. Sunday was pizza night. We ordered from national pizza chains mostly.

It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I tried gourmet pizza with fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce and hand-sliced pepperoni. I formed preferences about pizza, turning my nose up at Totonno’s soggy crust and arguing that Lombardi’s and Grimaldi’s were by far ideal.

I became a pizza snob. I’m still a pizza snob. I can proudly say I’ve not yet been drunk enough to eat a Jumbo Slice.

The problem with my pizza fetish is that I have a figure to maintain, and thus, I’ve become victim to frozen “diet” pizzas. In talking to my other female friends, I realized we all have “diet” pizza preferences. Who knew frozen “diet” pizzas were such great sellers?

I decided to host a mini-focus group of 25-29 year old men and women, 3 of each, without children and from diverse areas across America. Professions and pizza preferences were greatly varied. It was a rainy three day weekend, what else were going to do?

Here were my rules in purchasing the pizzas. They had to be under 410 calories and 15g of fat per serving. The servings had to be enough to reasonably compose an actual meal. Exceptions were made for one pizza that was extraordinarily inexpensive and one that was sold at Whole Foods with the label “All Natural. Wholesome. Delicious.” If the box suggested a microwavable option, I used a microwave to cook the pizza. This was met with displeasure from the group. I argued that not all the pizzas offered directions for this form of cooking. If the manufacturers didn’t want us to microwave their product, they shouldn’t suggest it. No one was told the type of pizza or calorie and fat content until the conclusion of the tasting.

7 of us attempted to eat a sample of 16 pizzas. The store had at least 20 more options from which to choose. I had 4 more in my freezer, but we were too full to make an unbiased review. In my opinion, this was the best sampling of the varieties. I shopped at Whole Foods and SFW.

The low-calorie and low-fat options included Healthy Choice Pepperoni French Bread Pizza (approved by the American Heart Association as stated on the box;, Smart Ones by Weight Watchers Four Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza; Lean Cuisine Deep Dish Margherita, Traditional Four Cheese, and Deep Dish Spinach and Mushroom; South Beach Diet Harvest Wheat Crunch Four Cheese Pizza and Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Pizza (produced by Kraft); and Health is Wealth Mexican Style Pizza, Mini Pizza Bagels, and Pizza Munchees.

Additionally, we tried Tony’s Cheese Pizza for One which was almost half the price of most of the “diet” pizzas costing a frugal $1.67 at SFW. Kosher Macabee Cheese Bagel Pizzas possessed only 150 calories and 5g of fat per bagel. Ellio’s Microwave Cheese Pizza surprisingly contained less calories and fat then many of the diet pizzas with only 380 calories and 10g of fat per pizza. DiGiorno’s Four Crust Pizza was rated the best pizza by iVillage.com in their taste test of frozen pizzas (non-diet) so I decided to put it in the mix as well. Despite popular notions, one serving had only 270 calories and 9g of fat. Lastly, I chose to include Linda McCartney’s Stone-Fired Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Pizza, because it was sold at Whole Foods as wholesome, all-natural, and delicious. It was also more than double the fat of the DiGiorno Pizza at 17g per serving.

Our results? We used a four-star system. Pizzas were rated on sauce, crust, toppings, cheese and overall taste.

Surprisingly or not, the two pizzas that scored best were the microwaved Smart Ones Pepperoni Pizza and the Lean Cuisine Deep Dish Spinach and Mushroom Pizza. The oven-cooked DiGiorno’s Four Cheese Pizza and microwaved Tony’s Cheese Pizza’s fell just behind each of these “diet” pizzas. The Smart Ones scored highest for its pepperoni topping, sauce, and cheese. The Lean Cuisine did not contain tomato sauce. It scored well in crust and toppings, especially since tasters found the ingredients to appear “fresh.”

The lowest rated pizzas were both Health is Wealth. The fat-free soy cheese on the Health is Wealth Mini Pizza Bagels may have only been 150 calories and 0g of fat, but tasters thought the top looked like Play-Doh and found the cheese to taste like rubber. The Health is Wealth Pizza Munchees were also low in calories and fat with only 180 calories and 5g of fat. However, they were described to taste like “egg rolls with tomato paste inside.” No one finished more than a bite of either of these pizzas.

The Health is Wealth Mexican Style Pizza, both South Beach Diet Pizzas, and the Linda McCartney’s Stone-Fired Crust Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Pizza tied as the second-lowest rated pizzas. The Health and Wealth pizza had too many toppings for the tasters. The South Beach Diet pizzas scored very low in cheese and crust. The smell of the Linda McCartney pizza disturbed tasters.

Our tasters eat pizza once a week on average. We have all learned that low-calories, low-fat, and microwave cooking do not necessarily create a bad pizza. At one point, a taster remarked that he couldn’t believe any executive had let the South Beach Diet name be placed on such a monstrous product. Perhaps the focus group had not properly tasted the options for sale. Against the hyped DiGiorno pizza, the Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine pizzas arrived from the microwave victorious.


  • At September 05, 2006, Blogger Angelina said…

    this is most excellent.

    I'm a digiorno girl, but maybe I'll switch it up to the lean cuisine based on your findings.


  • At September 05, 2006, Blogger Irish Red said…

    oh my goodness! Never been drunk enough for a jumbo slice?? You can no longer claim to be a DC resident!!!

    DUDE! I insist you go out this weekend and partake in the adams morgan tradition that IS the Jumbo Slice!!!


Post a Comment

<< Home