Pizza is a beloved food for many, but it is also known to be high in calories, especially when loaded with cheese and other toppings. For those watching their waistlines or have dietary restrictions, a common question is whether making pizza without cheese reduces the calorie count.
Does removing cheese make pizza healthier?
The short answer is that yes, removing cheese from pizza does reduce the calorie count. Cheese is one of the main sources of calories, fat, and saturated fat on a pizza. Typical cheeses like mozzarella provide around 80-100 calories per ounce. Removing cheese takes away a significant number of calories.
For example, one slice of a large 14″ cheese pizza contains about 340 calories. If you remove the cheese, that slice now contains around 210 calories instead. So just by removing cheese, the calorie count drops by about 100 calories per slice.
Cheese is also a major source of fat and saturated fat on pizza. Regular mozzarella cheese contains around 6-8 grams of fat per ounce, with around 4.5 grams coming from saturated fat. By removing cheese, you avoid a good portion of the fat and saturated fat as well.
How many calories in pizza without cheese?
The number of calories in pizza without cheese depends on the thickness and size of the crust, type of crust (white, wheat, etc), and any additional toppings. But in general, here are some estimates for calories in a cheese-less slice:
- Thin crust pizza (1/8 slice), no cheese: 110-140 calories
- Regular crust pizza (1/8 slice), no cheese: 130-170 calories
- Thick crust pizza (1/8 slice), no cheese: 160-210 calories
As a comparison, a slice of cheese pizza with a similar crust size would have about 230-340 calories. So you’re looking at a savings of around 100 calories per slice by skipping the cheese.
Keep in mind that these numbers are just estimates and can vary depending on specific brands. But in general, cheese-less pizza comes in at 100-200 calories per average slice, depending on thickness and toppings.
Calories with vegetable toppings
Adding extra vegetable toppings doesn’t substantially increase the calorie count. Most common veggie toppings like mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and olives only have 5-20 calories per serving. So loading up cheese-less pizza with veggies is a great way make it more filling and flavorful without spiking calories.
Calories with meat toppings
Meat toppings will add more calories than vegetables. A serving of pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham or chicken can range from 70-150 calories. So cheese-less pizza piled with meat can end up closer to 300-400 calories per slice. Still less than a loaded cheese pizza, but not as light as veggie-topped pizza without cheese.
Nutrients in cheese-less pizza
Removing cheese also impacts the nutrition profile. Here are some of the key changes:
- Less fat & saturated fat: As mentioned earlier, skipping cheese significantly cuts down total and saturated fat.
- Fewer calories from fat: Only about 35-40% of calories come from fat in cheese-less pizza compared to 45-55% in regular pizza.
- More carbs: The % of calories from carbs goes up to about 50-55% without the fat from cheese.
- Less protein: Cheese is a major protein source, so protein decreases to around 15-20 grams per pizza without it.
- More fiber: The dough makes up more of the pizza, providing 2-4 extra grams of fiber per slice.
- Less calcium: Cheese provides about 300mg calcium per slice, so calcium intake drops significantly.
- Less sodium: Cheese contributes 200-300mg sodium, so sodium decreases but make sure to limit other salty toppings.
The increases in carbs and fiber are beneficial tradeoffs, but you lose some protein, calcium, and other nutrients from the cheese. Adding vegetables can help replace some of those losses.
Health benefits of removing cheese
Eliminating cheese can provide some potential health upsides such as:
- Lower calorie intake for weight management.
- Less total fat and saturated fat for heart health.
- Potentially improved digestive health from less dairy.
- Benefits for those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies.
Research also shows diets higher in plant foods like vegetables and whole grains (which make up more of the pizza without cheese) are associated with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and certain cancers.
That being said, cheese does provide protein, calcium, vitamin A, and other key nutrients. So if you remove cheese, make sure to get those nutrients from other sources like dairy products, legumes, greens, and fortified foods.
Drawbacks of removing cheese
Some downsides or considerations about eliminating cheese include:
- Less protein, an important nutrient for maintaining muscle mass.
- Reduced calcium intake, which is essential for bone health.
- Lower amounts of vitamins A, B12, zinc and phosphorus that are found in cheese.
- Potentially less satisfying due to lower protein and fat.
- Less flavor without the savory, salty, tangy taste of cheese.
There are ways to mitigate some of these drawbacks. Adding a protein source like grilled chicken can help replace some protein. Including spinach, kale or broccoli provides vitamin A, calcium and other nutrients. And using flavorful seasonings and toppings can compensate for the lack of cheese’s rich taste.
Healthy cheese alternatives
For those looking to cut calories but not totally eliminate cheese’s flavor and texture, some healthier substitutions include:
- Low-fat mozzarella: Has only 60 calories per ounce compared to 80 from regular mozzarella.
- Part-skim ricotta: Provides the creamy texture of cheese for about 100 calories an ounce.
- Nutritional yeast: Adds a savory, nutty, cheese-like flavor with only 10 calories a tablespoon.
- Crumbled feta: A little bit of the strong flavor goes a long way. 1 ounce is about 75 calories.
- Goat cheese: Has a distinctive tangy flavor at only 75 calories an ounce.
- Parmesan: A small dusting of the hard Italian cheese adds a lot of flavor for about 20 calories a tablespoon.
Using reduced-fat versions, stronger-flavored cheeses, and small amounts can allow you to get that cheese taste without all the calories of regular cheese.
Tips for making cheese-less pizza
Here are some suggestions to make tasty, satisfying pizza without cheese:
- Use a whole wheat or multigrain crust for more nutrition.
- Brush crust with olive oil and add herbs/spices for flavor.
- Pile on the veggie toppings like mushrooms, peppers, onions, spinach, etc.
- Add a protein source like grilled chicken, sausage, or plant-based crumbles.
- Drizzle with a flavorful sauce like marinara, pesto, or barbecue sauce.
- Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan, feta, or nutritional yeast.
- Get creative with toppings like artichokes, roasted veggies, fresh herbs, etc.
Making pizza without cheese may seem intimidating, but with flavorful ingredients and creative toppings you can make a satisfying pie that’s also better for you.
To visualize the difference in calories and nutrients, here is a nutrition comparison of one slice of large 14″ pizza, with and without cheese:
|1 Slice Cheese Pizza
|1 Slice No Cheese Pizza
As the table illustrates, removing cheese reduces fat, saturated fat, sodium and calories, while increasing carbs and reducing protein and calcium. Adding vegetable toppings and a protein source can help improve the nutrition profile of cheese-less pizza.
Should you remove cheese for weight loss?
Eliminating cheese can support weight loss efforts due to the reduction in calories, fat, and saturated fat:
- Cuts about 100 calories per slice of pizza.
- Avoids around 6 grams of fat per slice.
- Reduces saturated fat intake that can drive weight gain.
- Makes room for more nutrient-dense toppings like veggies.
- Can promote feelings of fullness from higher fiber.
That said, cheese does provide important nutrients like calcium, protein and vitamin A. Removing it entirely may lead to nutrient deficiencies if care isn’t taken to replace those nutrients through other foods.
For the best results, those looking to lose weight could consider reducing but not totally eliminating cheese. Strategies like using part-skim instead of full-fat cheese, limiting cheese to 1-2 servings per week, or using it as a garnish rather than main topping can allow you to get the flavor while still cutting calories.
Removing cheese from pizza substantially reduces its calorie, fat and saturated fat content. A slice of cheese pizza may contain around 340 calories while a cheese-less slice has around 210 calories. The percentage of calories from fat also decreases from 45-55% down to 35-40% without cheese.
The nutrition tradeoffs are increased carbs and fiber and decreased protein and calcium. Adding veggies like spinach can help replace some nutrients, and a protein source like chicken can make up for some lost protein. Cheese-less pizza may also be less satisfying due to less protein and fat.
For the best nutrition and satisfaction, those watching their weight may want to limit but not completely eliminate cheese. Using part-skim cheeses, low-fat replacements and cheese as a garnish can allow you to reduce calories while still getting some of cheese’s key nutrients and that quintessential cheesy pizza flavor.