Papa John’s Pizza: Mysterious Nutrition

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

I found myself in a pinch and ordering some Papa John’s pizza.

This popular pizza is probably full of white processed flour, but other than that, I thought, “how bad can it be?”

After all, their marketing revolves around claiming they use fresh, all natural ingredients.

Mystery Ingredients

Papa John’s boasts their “family secret recipe” and does not list the ingredients of their pizzas on their website. I scoured the internet for any sign of what the ingredients might be, and here are my only findings:

  • 100% Mozzarella Cheese: At least they are not using a fake cheese or cheese with trans fat.
  • Garlic and Butter Sauce: Steer clear of this as it is full of trans fat. Try ordering pizza sauce instead.
  • Zero Grams Trans Fat Claims: They claim that their products contain zero grams of trans fat, but that doesn’t mean you are ingesting zero grams. By labeling laws in the US, if one serving is less than or equal to 0.5 grams trans fat, they can label their food as “0 g trans fat”.
  • BHA/BHT: All of Papa John’s meats contain this preservative. Internationally, BHA is known as a possible carcinogen, but the US FDA considers it safe.

Thin Crust for Thin Waistline

The number one tip for healthier pizza is to order thin crust. It can save you 60 calories per slice!

1 large slice peperoni regular crust = 330 Calories

1 large slice peperoni thin crust = 270 Calories

Another skinny tip is to order a pizza for one and share it with one other person. Since it will be small, have a large salad as part of your meal.

Avoid Extra Meats and Cheeses

2965-garden-fresh-papa-johns.jpgPizza with multiple cheese toppings or multiple meat toppings is the highest calorie.

Instead look for a veggie pizza–it will be your lightest option usually.

1 large slice of “The Meats” = 370 Calories

1 large slice of “Garden Fresh” = 280 Calories

There is often less cheese used on the vegetable pizzas because all of the toppings take up more space.

An added bonus is that you will intake some much needed vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.

What We Can Conclude

It is best to choose a food or product in which you know the ingredients. Not knowing what something is made of can be a dangerous game.

I rarely get Papa John’s pizza, and I intend to keep it that way. I want to know what I am putting in my body.

Do you ever order Papa John’s?


  1. dude

    Where is the Cinna-Pies??????

    Please bring them back.


  2. Lia

    Papa John’s Garlic Dipping Sauce does have trans fats. All of it’s calories are from fat so I’d leave that stuff alone.

  3. Missy Grogg

    We have a Red Brick Pizza out here in the Central Coast of California..and it has a Whole Grain crust…its awesome..still make it thin, veggie for me, my 12 year old son likes the meats..his workout regimin can accomodate it 🙂

  4. Jason McRoy

    I was just cruising the internet and saw this article. I am getting ready to order a Papa John’s Pizza right now!

    I have one day per week that I eat junk and pizza is my favorite.

    Good data on the ingredients. Thanks.

  5. ted

    Yes, there are tons of healthy pizza ideas, but sometimes I just want a simple peperoni and cheese pizza, grease and all… 🙂

  6. Linda

    Pizza has always been a favorite food of mine. Never tried papa Johns. Trying to make healthier choices I have been getting flatbread pizza from American Flatbread. DELICIOUS

  7. Callie

    I’m surprised how good the pizza is! Never had papa johns myself….

    I usually make my own with Whole Food’s multigrain pizza dough….mmm!

  8. Nicole

    Yum! Great idea. Pesto homemade pizza on a whole wheat dough and lots of vegetables like sun dried tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, etc. can be much more delicious and healthy.

  9. Jim

    Basil, pesto, and feta are other options for a yum homemade pizza.

  10. Sue K.

    I’ve never had a Papa John’s pizza, but do eat Zone pizza crusts. I top them with fresh sliced organic tomatoes, sometimes spinach and mushrooms too, a few sliced Kalamata olives, and then add a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and pop it into the oven for 5 min. When it cones out of the oven I add drizzle of evoo. Delicious!

  11. Lana

    You have never had real authentic pizza then. I would prefer to go to an Italian restaurant and get an authentic Italian pizza. Real pizza is not grease, oil, and fat, unlike all delivery pizza places.

  12. O.

    Thats ok Spectra, I know what it is like to hate foods that everyone else loves…

    I don’t like eggs and don’t like fruit pies (especially apple). I get some funny responses from people sometimes.

  13. Nicole B

    Great advice! I haven’t order Papa John’s in a while but I did always like it!

  14. Spectra

    I don’t like pizza much and I never order it. I guess I’m weird, but I just don’t care for all the grease, oil, and fat that’s in it and I also don’t think it tastes that great. I’ve never had Papa John’s and I don’t intend to try it in the future.

  15. Jim

    Mainstream pizza outlets sell pizzas at such cheap prices, I cannot believe it is possible for them to source healthier ingredients.

    Pizza will always be a high-energy fast food option.

  16. O.

    I believe it was in 2009 that PapaJohn’s tried a whole wheat crust option. But it didn’t last.

    I guess with the economy the way it is they can’t afford to keep menu items that aren’t selling well.

    I used to like Dominos thin crispy pizza with mushrooms and olives when I was dieting.