Can Uno’s Gluten Free Pizza Satisfy a Pizza Lover?

May 29th, 2009

Uno's Gluten Free PizzaIt’s not easy being a pizza lover who doesn’t tolerate gluten well. Fortunately, I’m not the only one and gluten free pizza is getting better and becoming more popular.

I recently tried Uno’s gluten free pizza for the first time and am excited to share my thoughts about how it tasted and if there’s room for it in a healthy diet.

Can Gluten Free Pizza Be Healthy?

As much as I enjoy pizza, I couldn’t possibly say that it’s a healthy food without having a guilty conscience. Even if it’s gluten free, the crust is still made out of refined carbohydrates and there’s often a considerable amount of sugar in the tomato sauce. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are two of the most popular and notorious ingredients in the modern diet and cause much of the poor health that is so prevalent today. Furthermore, many people have difficulty digesting dairy, and even without the gluten, any type of pizza that contains cheese is a potential cause for concern.

Despite these unhealthy aspects of pizza, most people can still enjoy it in moderation. Thanks to places like Uno’s that make gluten free pizza, it can even be enjoyed by people who would suffer uncomfortable consequences from eating regular pizza. However, it’s important to realize that many grain based gluten free foods, including pizza, still contain sugar and refined carbohydrates and are still unhealthy.

Not Your Average Personal Pizza

Uno’s gluten free pizza comes in 8 slices, and although it’s bigger than a typical personal size pizza, I’d estimate that it’s intended to be a meal for one person. I finished the whole pizza with no problem, and although I still had an appetite for more, it was enough to satisfy me. Whenever I eat pizza, I often have the endless appetite that’s commonly caused by eating processed food, so it was probably best for me to stop anyway.

A Unique Taste

In general, I thought that Uno’s gluten free pizza had a dry taste to it, but in a good way. This was the case with both the crust and the cheese. I’d expect this from a gluten free crust, but I was quite surprised by the mozzarella cheese not being greasy at all. Although the crust and the cheese had a noticeably unique taste, I enjoyed it and certainly didn’t feel as if I were eating a poor tasting gluten free alternative.

The only complaint I had is that the pizza didn’t have quite enough sauce for my liking. I assume this varies based on the person making it, but even if doesn’t, I don’t think it’s a big deal as it would be easy enough to request in advance that the pizza be made with extra sauce.

Overall, Uno’s gluten free pizza is no comparison to regular pizza, but I don’t think anyone expects it to be. I definitely enjoyed it and think that the benefit of avoiding gluten sensitivity symptoms is well worth the sacrifice in taste, especially since the sacrifice was only a matter of it tasting different rather than it tasting bad. In fact, what I enjoyed most about this gluten free pizza was avoiding the hours of extreme bloating that I normally experience with regular pizza.

A Few Questionable Ingredients

Even though Uno’s gluten free pizza is a food that should only be enjoyed in moderation, it’s still important to know what it’s made of. Here are the ingredients from Uno’s website:

Gluten free pizza crust: Rice flour, filtered water, tapioca starch, potato starch, organic extra virgin olive oil, vegetable shortening (canola oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil), sugar

Contains less than 2% of the following: Yest, salt, eggs, gelatin, natural flavor, organic defatted soy flour, egg whites, leavening (sodium aluminum phosphate, baking soda), soy lecithin, xanthan gym, gum arabic, organic guar gym

Low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese (pasteurized part skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), pasta sauce Uno (tomato puree, tomato, carrot, olive oil, salt, onion, garlic, sugar, spices, sugar, citric acid), romano cheese grated (pasteurized sheeps milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, anti-caking agent).

Some of these ingredients are a bit reminiscent of the toxic mess found in KFC’s grilled chicken. However, as far as I know, Uno’s gluten free pizza isn’t being marketed with the same misleading intent that portrays KFC’s grilled chicken as a healthy food. For this reason, I’m not going to bother picking the ingredients apart one by one.

There are quite a number of ingredients in this pizza and that’s something I don’t like. More ingredients means more potential for trouble. However, I’m quite impressed that olive oil is included and that a few of the ingredients are organic. We already know that this pizza contains sugar and refined carbohydrates which is to be expected. Aside from this, here are a few ingredients in particular that I’m not happy to see.

Soy

Despite the marketing that has misled people into thinking that soy is a health food, it’s really not. It contains substances that mimic estrogen in the human body, interfere with protein digestion, and block mineral absorption. It’s also become common for people to have sensitivities to it. Although one of the soy based ingredients in this pizza is organic, the second one is not. Non organic soy is very likely to be genetically engineered and heavily sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.

Hydrogenated Oil

The good news here is that this oil isn’t partially hydrogenated which would make it a trans fat. Even though fully hydrogenated oil doesn’t impose the same risks as trans fats, it’s still an unnatural and highly processed fat that is much more likely to cause malfunction than natural saturated fat. In addition, the vegetable oils and rice used in this pizza likely mean that it has much more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. However, this is partially offset by the omega-3 content of the olive oil and would be more of a concern if this pizza were consumed on a regular basis.

Sodium Aluminum Phosphate

Sodium aluminum phosphate is a leavening agent which means that it’s used to help dough expand and soften. The aluminum is mostly what makes this a questionable ingredient. Aluminum is a heavy metal that can become quite toxic if it accumulates in your body to high enough levels. It’s associated with osteoporosis, memory issues, anemia, decreased liver and kidney function, speech disturbances, and most notably, Alzheimer’s disease.

Egg

Eggs are an excellent source of nutrition, but are obviously not a common ingredient in pizza. The reason why I’m pointing this out is because many people are sensitive to eggs. This pizza is specifically intended for people who have problems with gluten, and as such, are more likely to have other sensitivities as well. While dairy is of particular concern, everyone knows that pizza is made with cheese. Eggs can be just as problematic as dairy, but are far less likely to be anticipated as an ingredient.

The sensitivity risks associated with dairy and eggs are especially applicable to people who have only recently discovered their sensitivity to gluten.

A Better Alternative

While this pizza is probably far healthier than many of the other comfort foods that people commonly eat, there’s still room for improvement. If you’re willing to put in some work, you should be able to enjoy pizza a little more frequently by carefully selecting your own ingredients and making it yourself. As more people become aware of gluten sensitivity, gluten free pizza dough is becoming more widely available and can usually be found in local health food stores.

Another important reason to consider making your own gluten free pizza is that you’ll reduce the risk of cross contamination. Any time you order gluten free food from a restaurant that also serves food with gluten, there’s always a chance of some gluten getting into your meal if the restaurant staff isn’t careful.

I completely understand that the enjoyment of eating out at a restaurant is a big part of occasionally indulging in unhealthy food. If this is the case for you, then perhaps you can alternate between making your own pizza and going out for it.

This article is part of Fight Back Fridays

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