Is it OK to have pizza once a week?

Pizza is one of the most popular foods around the world. With its delicious combination of bread, sauce, cheese and toppings, it’s easy to see why so many people love eating pizza. At the same time, pizza is often criticized for being unhealthy due to its high calories, fat and sodium content. This leads many people to wonder: Is it OK to eat pizza once a week?

The Nutritional Value of Pizza

To answer this question, we first need to look at the typical nutritional value of pizza:

1 slice of cheese pizza (106g) Calories Fat Carbs Protein Sodium
Plain thin crust 285 12g 30g 12g 510mg
Hand-tossed crust 341 14g 38g 15g 833mg
Deep dish crust 362 18g 36g 15g 871mg

As you can see, one slice of pizza can contain anywhere from 285-362 calories, 12-18g fat, 30-38g carbs, 12-15g protein and 510-871mg sodium. While the exact amounts vary depending on the crust style and toppings, all varieties of pizza tend to be high in calories, fat, refined carbs and sodium compared to many other foods.

Pizza as Part of a Balanced Diet

Does this mean pizza has no place in a healthy diet? Not necessarily. Many nutrition experts say pizza can be incorporated into a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods. The key is moderation and ensuring your overall eating pattern is diverse and full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fats.

When eating pizza in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, a single slice 1-2 times per week is unlikely to negatively impact your health. However, frequently eating multiple slices in one sitting can make it difficult to stay within recommended limits for calories, fat, carbs and sodium.

Here are some tips for enjoying pizza in a healthy way:

  • Stick to 1-2 slices of thin crust pizza per meal.
  • Load up on veggie toppings like peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach.
  • Pair pizza with a salad for added nutrients.
  • Avoid meat-lovers and extra cheese pizzas which can be very high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Watch your portion of the entire meal – avoid large sides like fries, wings, breadsticks, etc.
  • Split a personal pizza instead of eating a whole large pie.
  • Opt for whole wheat crust when possible.

As long as you practice portion control and make room for it in your overall eating pattern, enjoying a slice of pizza 1-2 times per week can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Weekly Pizza

What are some potential benefits and drawbacks of eating pizza once a week?

Potential Benefits:

  • Provides satisfaction of a food you enjoy.
  • Can be a convienent meal option.
  • Offers opportunity for bonding and social connections.
  • When loaded with veggies, provides nutrients like lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin A.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • High in calories which can lead to weight gain if portions are too large.
  • Typically low in fiber and dense in refined carbs.
  • Often high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • May displace consumption of more nutritious foods.
  • Can become an unhealthy habit if eaten too frequently.

As you can see, there are good reasons for and against eating pizza each week. As long as your total diet is balanced, a weekly slice is unlikely to cause harm. But if pizza starts replacing healthier foods, it could become problematic over time.

How Pizza Impacts Health Markers

To take a closer look at the health effects of regular pizza consumption, let’s examine what the research says about how pizza impacts key health markers:


Several studies have associated frequent pizza consumption with higher body weight and risk of obesity. One study in Italy found that eating pizza more than 1 time per week was linked to a greater likelihood of being overweight or obese. Another study found each additional serving of pizza eaten per week increased obesity risk by 5%. The high calories of pizza can contribute to overweight when eaten in large quantities.

Blood Sugar

The refined carbohydrates in pizza can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar when eaten in large amounts. One study found eating pizza more than 1 time per week was associated with insulin resistance. The combination of refined grains and high fat is thought to be responsible for these effects.


Some research indicates that frequent pizza eating may increase inflammation. One study found higher markers of inflammation in men who ate pizza more than 1 time per week compared to those who ate it less often. The saturated fat and sodium content of pizza are two compounds that can drive up inflammation.

Nutrient Status

Since pizza is not a nutrient-dense food, regularly eating it in place of more nutritious options may impact vitamin and mineral status over time. Research has linked high pizza intake to lower levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables.

Gut Health

Some studies suggest regular pizza consumption may adversely impact gut health by reducing good bacteria. Researchers think this effect may be linked to the high fat and salt content. Over time, this can potentially impact digestion and immunity.

So while moderate pizza intake is likely fine for most healthy individuals, frequent consumption does appear to have drawbacks for several key health markers like weight, blood sugar, inflammation and nutritional status.

Who Should Limit Pizza Intake?

While enjoying an occasional slice of pizza may be harmless for many people, there are some individuals who may benefit from limiting intake to less than once a week:

  • Those with diabetes or pre-diabetes should be mindful of pizza’s effect on blood sugar and insulin.
  • People with high blood pressure or heart disease need to watch sodium levels which tend to be very high in pizza.
  • Anyone who is overweight would be wise to limit high calorie options like pizza that can contribute to excess pounds.
  • Individuals with digestive conditions like IBS or inflammatory issues may wish to limit intake of foods that could exacerbate symptoms.
  • Older adults should be cautious with pizza’s saturated fat and sodium content which can increase health risks.
  • Kids and teens who are still developing nutrition habits can easily overdo pizza and displace healthier foods.

For people with chronic conditions, cutting back to just a couple slices per month may be prudent. Focusing on more nutritious choices will provide greater benefits.

Healthier Pizza Alternatives

For those who wish to keep enjoying pizza while limiting its less healthy attributes, there are some simple ways to make pizza a bit healthier:

  • Choose thin whole wheat crust instead of thick or deep dish.
  • Load up with extra veggies as toppings instead of extra cheese.
  • Opt for lighter sauce options like white sauce instead of red sauce.
  • Avoid pepperoni, sausage and other processed meats as toppings.
  • Make pizza at home from healthier ingredients like whole grain crusts and low-fat mozzarella cheese.
  • Try cauliflower crust or zucchini crust pizzas for added nutrients.
  • Mix up pizza toppings by adding greens, plant proteins and fresh herbs.

There are also many tasty pizza alternatives that provide the satisfaction of pizza in a more nutritious package:

  • Veggie flatbreads or Mediterranean veggie pitas
  • Thin crust pizza Margherita made with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil
  • Veggie sandwiches with melted low-fat cheese
  • Turkey pepperoni pizza on thin whole wheat crust with lots of veggies
  • Portobello mushroom pizza with tomato sauce and vegetables

Being creative with pizza toppings and crusts or exploring equally delicious pizza alternatives can allow you to eat pizza-like foods while boosting nutrition.

The Bottom Line

So what’s the final verdict on eating pizza once a week? According to most nutrition experts, enjoying a slice or two of pizza 1-2 times weekly can be part of a healthy diet so long as your overall eating pattern is focused on nutritious whole foods. When eating pizza in moderation, balance it out by also eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, fiber-rich grains, and healthy fats from foods like nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

For most healthy individuals, the negative effects of occasional pizza eating will likely be small. But if you tend to overdo portions or eat pizza instead of more wholesome foods, it could potentially bump you into less than optimal territory for health over the long run.

While weekly pizza is OK for many, people with conditions like diabetes or heart disease require more caution and may wish to limit intake to just a few times per month. Kids and adolescents should also limit pizza so it doesn’t displace healthier childhood eating habits.

Overall, feel free to enjoy a slice or two of pizza 1-2 times per week as long as you balance it out with plenty of nourishing foods the rest of the week. This allows you to get the best of both worlds – the delicious satisfaction of pizza plus the nutrient density of a varied diet.

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