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Chain pizza—it’s definitely not good for you. And sometimes it doesn’t even taste good. But occasionally you just crave a greasy guilty pleasure that only the likes of Domino’s can provide. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.

Even Better OptionsThe Best Frozen Pizzas You Can Order OnlineWhen it comes to the quality and ingredients in fast food pizza, we decided to do a little research by taking a look at the nutritional content of a classic, medium-sized cheese pie at each of these four chains: Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, and, of course, our beloved Domino’s.

While none of the quantitative information surprised us (pizza is high in carbs and sodium, duh!), we were surprised by the way in which these chains conveyed this information. Some relied on vague health claims, marketing spin, and the ever-present lure of vine-ripened tomatoes. Others opted for a subtler “no comment” approach. No matter how you slice it, the nutritional hype, or lack thereof, speaks volumes to each brand’s identity. We break it down below. Nutritional information is displayed per slice.

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Papa John’s

Papa John’s

As we’ll see, the nutritional breakdown of the four major pizza players in the United States are fairly comparable. Papa John’s is just as much a carb-y, salt bomb as the rest of its competitors. However of all the chains, it makes some of the boldest claims about the quality of its ingredients. According to their website, their pizza is always made with dough that’s fresh, not frozen, California, vine-ripened tomatoes (wait, don’t all tomatoes grow on vines?!), and high quality, part-skim, mozzarella cheese. Their website also uses the adjective “real” to describe the cheese, which surely is a relief. (We wouldn’t want any of that fake dairy tainting our pie.) Reading a website this extra is exhausting.

Papa John’s also goes a step further and offers up “Papa’s Quality Guarantee,” because if there’s one thing I want my pizza to be graced with, it’s the blessing of a controversial blowhard and default corporate mascot, CEO Papa John Schnatter. On the off chance you don’t enjoy your order, be sure to save the receipt as proof of purchase for a replacement pizza. But chances are if you’re ordering from Papa John’s, your standards aren’t that high to begin with.

Calories 210
Fat 7g
Sugar 3g
Protein 8g
Sodium 520mg



As far as chain pizzerias go, Domino’s has its fair share of loyalists. Even Momofuku founder and culinary contrarian David Chang has vouched for the brand, at least in terms of its nostalgia value. As the biggest pizza brand and sixth-largest fast food brand in the world, they’ve clearly earned a lot of goodwill and, as a result of their size and half-century long history, Domino’s website and promotional materials are a lot less flashy than Papa John’s. They simply don’t need to scream about real cheese or tomatoes from vines, with the desperation of a brand that got dropped by the NFL.

Instead, Domino’s nutritional information opts for subtlety. You can read the ingredient breakdown for any ingredient. It’s completely devoid of context or meaningless descriptors, which after scrolling through endless pages of Papa John’s hype is indeed a sweet relief.

Domino’s does offer one useful nutrition tool, however: the uncharacteristically and goofily named Cal-O-Meter, which one must imagine is a holdover from the ’90s pre-Atkins world when everything was extreme and to the max. Since Domino’s boasts over 34 million different combinations of offerings, the Cal-O-Meter allows you to discover the nutritional information for a customized order. You can input a variation of pizza sizes, crusts, and toppings, and figure out what works best for your dietary needs. It’s actually quite useful for something with such a dumb name.

Calories 210
Fat 8g
Sugar 2g
Protein 9g
Sodium 450mg

Pizza Hut 

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut also has a customizable nutrition tool, though it lacks a dumb name.  Fortunately there is still plenty to mock on their website, as it’s full of a myriad of fun facts that are supposed to convince me that pizza is as healthy as kale and quinoa. Sample text includes: “A complete meal, pizza contains elements of each of the 5 main food groups,” and “our pizzas are rich in energy-boosting complex carbohydrates to fuel your body and brain throughout the day.” I will be sure to keep this in mind as I gear up for my next weekend Netflix binge.

Calories 240
Fat 10g
Sugar 2g
Protein 11g
Sodium 530mg

Little Caesar’s

Little Caesar’s

Little Caesar’s takes the cake (err pie?) for having the highest sodium and calorie count for a basic cheese pizza, though not by much so don’t let that sway your decision. All these slices are on equal footing.

But in terms of marketing hype, Little Caesar’s takes a page from the Papa John’s playbook. Seriously, their nutritional talking points are nearly identical. The dough is fresh! The tomatoes come from vines! The cheese is mozzarella! Didn’t we already establish this? If you’re on the Little Caesar’s website, it’s because you want a quick slice, not rejected GOOP articles. After all, when we order from a chain pizza place, we aren’t expecting artisanal masterpieces. If only corporate America would stop trying to tap into aspirational lifestyle lingo and sell their product for what it really is—a greasy pie that hits the spot in a pinch.

Calories  280
Fat 11g
Sugar 3g
Protein 13g
Sodium 540mg

Related Video: American Pizzas That Aren’t From New York or Chicago

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Header image courtesy of Pizza Hut.

Jessica is a former Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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