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America has some of the world’s saltiest pizza - here’s 5 tips for a healthier slice

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Pizza – it’s a fixture of the American diet, with about 1 in 8 Americans eating it on a given day.


If you’re familiar with the Salty Six, you know that pizza is one of the top three foods that contribute to the sodium we eat. For kids, it’s the number one food that contributes to the sodium they’re taking in.

open pizza delivery box

A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about a survey from the U.K.-based group World Action on Salt and Health that looked at a sample of popular foods worldwide and found a big difference in sodium levels of the same foods from the same brands - but sold in different countries. That survey didn’t include pizza, but their new survey does. It looked at 565 pizzas from 54 brands across 11 countries, including the United States.

Here's a sample of what it found:

  • Out of the 565 pizzas surveyed, the #1 saltiest pizza was in the U.S.
  • In 5 out of 8 popular types of pizza sold from “takeaways” (carry-out locations), the U.S. pizzas had the most salt.
  • Some pizzas sold in the U.S. have up to 3 times MORE salt than the same pizzas sold by the same companies in other countries.
  • There wasn’t a certain country that consistently had the saltiest pizza in the survey, so the variation in salt levels isn’t necessarily because of country-specific differences in people’s taste preferences.
  • For more information about the brands of pizza surveyed and the levels of salt they had, visit this World Action on Salt and Health  or the Center for Science in the Public Interest about the pizza survey.

Why should we get more salt in our pizzas sold in the U.S. than in other countries?

If the pizza can be made with less salt in other places, why don’t we have the same choices here? This is encouragement that there is still room for progress in reducing the sodium in America’s food supply so we can at least get closer to the lower levels in some countries. I hope it makes you even more motivated to help the American Heart Association advocate for these changes in the food we buy.

In the meantime, here are 5 tips for a pizza with a less salty impact:

  1. Choose thin crust instead of thick crusts (like deep-dish) or stuffed crust. In most cases, choosing thin means you’ll get fewer calories and less sodium from the crust.
  2. Lighten up the cheese. (Ask for half the normal amount - you can make up for it with extra veggies on top!) and choose cheeses that tend to be lower in sodium, like goat or mozzarella.
  3. Load up the veggies. Tomato, mushrooms, onion, broccoli, peppers - pretty much anything goes! It will make your plate more colorful too.
  4. Moderate your meats. Popular pizza meats – including sausage, pepperoni, and ham – are typically high in sodium. If you must have meat, choose one favorite and skip the rest.
  5. Pick the right portion. Stick to 2 slices and round out your meal with a side of salad and fruit.

Like to cook? Try the American Heart Association’s recipe for Classic Margherita Pizza with Whole-Wheat Crust.

What do you think about the fact that some of our pizzas have so much more salt than the same pizzas in other countries? Does it make you more likely to want to ask U.S. food companies to do more to cut back on the salt they’re putting in your food?