Is Papa John's Garden Fresh Pizza Actually Healthy?

For years, "healthy pizza" felt like somewhat of an oxymoron. However, restaurants have recently become more open to offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options of the classic comfort food. Plus, with Americans caring more than ever about what's in their food, it makes sense that chain restaurants are working to offer more nutritious options.

Popular American pizza chains, including Domino's and California Pizza Kitchen, have taken aim at audiences looking for healthier menu choices. The Domino's menu offers two salad options, while CPK has an option on its website for customers to view only vegetarian or gluten-free selections.

Papa John's, another popular chain, isn't quite up to speed. The closest this chain comes to a salad is its Garden Fresh Pizza, which offers plenty of fresh vegetables on a standard pie. But can we actually consider this pizza option to be a healthy choice? It ultimately depends on portion control.

Here's what to know about Papa John's Garden Fresh Pizza

This pizza is essentially Papa John's only menu item that can be considered healthy. According to the Papa John's website, the pizza contains peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives, and tomatoes, plus mozzarella cheese. However, just because it contains plenty of vegetables, doesn't mean it's a good idea to vacuum up the whole pie — it's important to consider the nutrition facts.

Each slice of a large pizza contains 280 calories and 9 grams of fat. Brit + Co suggests eating no more than two slices, mostly due to the pizza's sodium content; each slice contains 660 milligrams of salt. For perspective, the American Heart Association recommends ideally no more than 1,500 milligrams per day to avoid heart disease. This means that two slices would put you almost at that limit. The best way to cut back on sodium is by ordering the pizza on thin crust rather than standard crust, which lands each slice at 210 calories and 460 milligrams of sodium, though you'll pick up an extra 1 gram of fat.

If you want to indulge in this Papa John's pizza, you can find solace in knowing you're consuming a decent amount of vegetables. However, keep in mind that sodium and certain fats can be dangerous to your health; if you're ordering a large pizza, stick to no more than two slices.