The Fresh Slice Pizza Scam
I am a huge fan of Fresh Slice Pizza. Huge doesn’t quite come close to my addiction. Obviously, they know me by name in the store. Some weeks I will eat there 3 or 4 times. It isn’t the pizza so much as the hot sauce on the pizza. I love that stuff. I think they use Frank’s Red Hot, but I don’t know for sure. Regardless, a slice of cheese pizza slathered in the hot sauce is heaven for me.
Here is the problem. Behind the counter they have this picture.
It is a calorie comparison of a few food items with Fresh Slice clearly being the better choice. A slice of Fresh Slice Pizza is clearly a better choice than any of these other food choices!! Even better than Subway!
Fresh Slice Is Healthier than the Alternatives
Wait a minute… better than Subway. Let’s start there. First and foremost, they chose the 6″ Meatball Marinara… This clearly isn’t the best sub choice at Subway. As well, it weighs almost 300 grams and according to the Fresh Slice website, a slice of Pepperoni pizza only weighs 110 grams. Clearly we aren’t comparing the same thing here. As well, the Subway site claims it is only 480 calories, not the 580 this chart shows, and only 18 grams of fat, not the 23.
I can’t read the small print in the sign, but they may have added cheese and sauce to the sub to bring up the calories, but that is remarkably disingenuous if you ask me.
In any case, the point is, you can’t compare a 110 gram food item with a 300 gram food item. If you compare them both at 300 grams of food, you end up with 300 grams of fresh slice pizza being 925 calories!! The calorie density of this pizza is amazing! I talk about calorie density and its importance in my book, You Are Not A Fit Person. The best way to think about it is in terms of what will fill you up. 1 slice of pizza is not likely to be a fulfilling meal, but a 6″ meatball sub is very likely to be fulfilling.
Another issue is why pick the meatball sub. That is just meatballs on bread. Not a great food choice. If I was going to be comparing a sub from subway I would probably pick a 6″ Turkey Sub on Wheat with Cheese and Ranch dressing, plus a bunch of veggies. That is 450 calories with 20 grams from fat. That is a pretty good meal too. If you wanted it to actually be healthy you could ask them to scoop out some of the bread. They do that by the way and it actually makes Subway an excellent choice to eat healthy.
The Big Mac is off as well. They used the US numbers for the Big Mac not the Canadian numbers. I don’t know why they are different, but the Canadian Big Mac has 520 calories not 540. Fresh Slice is a Canadian company, so they shouldn’t use US numbers. Even a Big Mac is the weight equivalent of almost 2 slices of Fresh Slice. That means that a Big Mac is a better food choice than the equivalent amount of Fresh Slice!!
I knew that pizza wasn’t good for me, but I never imagined that it was as bad as it is. This is across the board by the way. Not in any way limited to Fresh Slice. Pizza is terrible. If you eat it, limit it to 1 slice and big salad.
The 6″Supreme Lovers Pizza weighs in at 260 grams of food. More than double Fresh Slice. If you ate 260 grams of Deluxe Fresh Slice pizza, it would come in at 720 calories which is 50 more calories than the Pizza Hut pizza.
Calorie density is one of the most important aspects of food when we are seeking healthy alternatives. It is best exemplified by those 100 calorie snack packages with 4 pretzels in them. There is no way that is going to fill someone up. No normal person will just eat one. In general, the less fit of us, love food and like to feel full. When we don’t feel full things go wrong. If I fail to eat a meal when I should and I have the option for poor food choices, I go crazy. I am not in my right mind. That is why I always say, ‘Friends don’t let friends eat hungry’. Being hungry almost guarantees that I am going to mess up my eating.
This idea of offering smaller portion sizes or comparing foods that are of different sizes is an old scam and it is a serious problem. That is why I developed the concept of food density. From You Are Not A Fit Person:
Probably the most important concept in nutrition is the concept
of calorie density. This subject is very common sense and that is
probably why it doesn’t typically get the mention that it deserves.
Some foods have more calories per gram (or per weight or mass
or density) than others. Some foods are nutrient rich, others are
not. To calculate a food’s calorie density just take the number
of calories in a food and divide it by its weight in grams.
The reason we do this is so we can compare apples to apples. What is healthier, a Big Mac or a McDonalds Chicken Caesar? A Chicken Caesar has more fat and it has more calories than a Big Mac. I have heard numerous people say you would be better off eating a Big Mac. Is this true? No.
A Big Mac weighs 209 grams and has 520 calories. A Caesar salad with grilled chicken and Asiago Caesar dressing weighs 283 grams and has 579 calories. Still, looking at these numbers it wouldn’t be clear which is better, but if I divide the calories by the grams I get 2.01 for the salad and 2.49 for the Big Mac. There is a chart in the book (shown below):
According to my recommendations, you shouldn’t be eating foods with a calorie density over 2.10. That is the black zone. The grey zone is eat with moderation and the white zone is a good choice to eat. It would be in the black and the salad would be in the grey, which is probably not a bad place to land for a meal from McDonalds. In fact, a salad would fill you up, but a Big Mac probably wouldn’t. Mind you, this is just based on calorie density. In the book we go into the refined carbohydrates for the foods as well, and that is very important. On that basis in addition, the Big Mac would lose.
So, subtle differences can be calculated when you use the food density calculations. When you use this to calculate the calorie density of a slice of Fresh Slice pepperoni pizza (which according to the website, weighs in at 111 grams) you end up with a staggering 3.05 cal/g. The average cheese pizza comes in at 2.90! The highest density food I know is cooking oil and it comes in at 8.8 cal/g. 3.05 puts the pizza up there with french fries!
The pizza does terribly on the refined carb scale as well.
In fact, as I said, all pizza is bad. The following is a list of calorie densities of a handful of pepperoni pizzas from different stores:
- Pizza Hut 3.07
- Fresh Slice 3.05
- Dominos 2.63
- Papa Murphy’s 2.56
- Pizza Pizza 2.24
Other than the fact that there is no independent verification for the calories and size of these pizzas (with the partial exception of Fresh Slice), you can see that Fresh Slice isn’t even a relatively healthy pizza to choose!! I have my doubts about Pizza Pizza slipping to 2.24 with their pepperoni pizza by the way, and I am calling bullshit on that. On the other hand, you need a degree in mathematics to calculate the calories in a slice of pizza at Dominos. Their nutrition page is a joke. They are trying to hide the calories in a slice of pizza like that was the lost ark of covenant!
Why I know that Fresh Slice is Bad for you
All of this is sort of beside the point. Yes it is a scam to be calling your food healthy when it isn’t. They even sell this pizza to school kids as part of a fresh lunch program. This in and of itself doesn’t bother me, but it does when they try to package it up as healthy. They say it is healthy right there on the website. They even point to it exceeding BC’s nutrition standards. I went through the nutrition standards and they are embarrassing by the way. For shame BC!
In any case, What triggered me to the problems with Fresh Slice was when both Dan and I tested our blood sugar after eating 3 slices of pizza each. It came back ridiculously high! Why 3 slices? Because 2 don’t quite fill me up and they certainly don’t fill Dan up.
For me, that is as bad or worse than the 3 and a half glazed donuts! For Dan it was much worse! That is by far and away the highest reading we have gotten from Dan. In terms of overall food, it was the equivalent of eating a meatball sub at Subway, yet it caused our blood sugar to hit dangerously high levels! The thing is, now that we have calibrated our blood sugar to different foods, we know a lot about what we are eating by the response of our blood sugar.
It took me 3 hours to get back into a normal blood sugar zone. I immediately knew this couldn’t be a healthy choice, so I decided to check out the nutritional information on the website.
Dan and I were looking this over and immediately started to see the problems. Why would a cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, and Hawaiian all have the same number of fat grams. This is highly unlikely. Odd even. It becomes impossible when you notice that they all have different amounts of calories from fat. A gram of fat is 9 calories, so the numbers are off for the pepperoni and Hawaiian pizzas. As well, why would the Veggie pizza have more fat than a pepperoni?! This chart is crazy. It also reports totally different numbers of calories per slice than the one behind the counter, the one performed by the lab. It mostly under-reports the calories except in the case of the clearly hated veggie pizza. They are off by 42 calories per slice for the pepperoni pizza.
This is just the beginning though. If you take the number of grams of carbohydrates (57), fats (10) and proteins (38) for the Hawaiian Pizza (the one that Dan ate) and multiply them by 4, 9 and 4, respectively you get a total of 470 calories per slice! That is insane! Each slice would be more calories than a meal should be and one slice just isn’t enough food!
Dan also wanted me to point out that there was no way that the few pieces of ham and pineapple on his pizza weighed 34 grams (weight of Hawaiian pizza – cheese pizza). I wasn’t too worried about this, but he kept stressing that he did not get 34 grams of toppings.
As soon as you doubt the nutrition table for Fresh Slice, you see the problems throughout. Their measuring unit is g/100g ?!?! What does this even mean? They have 2 measurements for energy, one about 6 times larger than the other. Why? At first I thought it was per pizza, but they slice their pizza into 8ths… Do they mean 0.173 grams of Vitamin A and not 173 grams? What is the column ‘Detection Units’ and why are only 2 numbers in it? This looks like it was done by a 6th grader who got bored halfway through the project.
The disturbing part is that they claim that they exceed the BC Standards and are currently sold in BC Schools even though it would be impossible to know what the nutritional value of their food is! I don’t want to take away the kids Pizza day or anything, I am not a monster, but this seems obscene. Even given the ridiculous standards that the BC Government uses to determine if a food is healthy, and given that somehow pizza can exceed these standards, it is still bizarre to see that no one has noticed the inconsistencies with the nutritional chart! It really is no wonder we are losing this battle on obesity.
By the way, I tried measuring my blood sugar after just 2 slices of Fresh Slice pizza. It isn’t a filling meal, but it is a reasonable amount of pizza. I came in with a 10.2 at just over an hour!