February 4th

theresa albert - my friend in food


How Can 2 Pizza Brands be So Different?


My name is Theresa and I am a working mother who sometimes uses packaged foods.

There, I said it. There are times when I feel like I have to declare myself and defend what others may think of my choices. I shouldn’t have to but when you have the “nutritionist” moniker stuck to your name people hold you by some nebulous standard.  It is true that I assess very carefully what I will allow into our home and mouths for the sustenance of our family. In order to get this right as often as possible here is my technique:  I read labels and ask questions.

When McCain came to me and asked me to compare their pizza pockets to the competitor’s pizza pops I kinda shuddered.  I mean, it’s still a snack food, right? But if there is something different between one and the other I want to know about it. I want to be able to say yes to something that my kid wants, that will save me time and make sure she gets some real food to support her through her hours of study and dance that follow hours of school. If that “something” is tasty and she can quickly prepare it independently, we both win.  I am able to entrust the snack task to her and she is less likely to eat the chips that the other kids bring and wash it down with sugar water.  Minor mothering catastrophe averted. (Veggies and dip are always front and centre in our fridge to go with whatever snack she has.)

These are the key factors I found when comparing:


McCain Pizza Pockets 

Pillsbury Pizza Pops

Pepperoni Variety Pepperoni Variety
Baked Fried
Real cheese Cheese is not listed as an ingredient
Source of fibre                  Not a source of fibre
230 Calories 260 Calories
430 mg Sodium 620 mg sodium


This is why those things matter:

  • In Ace Your Health, I outline why consuming fried food should be avoided. In general fried foods contain higher levels of fat and are higher in calories.


  • The difference between the cheese in these products is like night and day. Simply put, one contains real cheese and the other does not. While the McCain product is made with real cheese, one cannot be sure what the cheese like substance in Pops is made out of. When discussing food for my child, that is just not OK.


  • I read labels looking for the presence of something good and/or the absence of something bad. One doesn’t make up for the other but it can influence my decision when directly comparing two products.
    • Each McCain Pizza Pocket contains 2 grams of good fibre ( North American kids currently get about half of the recommended 19-25 grams per day, we need all the help we can get). Much of this fibre comes from the presence of flaxseeds (that are undetectable to the child’s eye or tongue, btw) which also add some much need good fats.
    • Consuming fewer calories and less salt when I do choose packaged food is high on the priority list. We choose whole foods over packaged foods when possible and are careful to limit to the best packages we can find and use them in moderation.

In the final analysis, I am comfortable with the occasional McCain Pizza Pocket. The competitor…no way. It is important to note that McCain did pay for the cost of my time to assess, write and discuss this topic.  They paid for my time. My nutrition knowledge, love and opinions were not for sale.

ps-some kid named Charlie is on a mission to convince his mom too let him eat Pizza Pockets…take a look…


Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

I love food, try to watch my weight, know more than I want to about healthy living (sometimes I wish I knew less so I wouldn’t feel so guilty when I stumble), am a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife who worries and scurries the meals onto the table. It is for all these reasons that I completed my nutrition, RNCP designation, wrote my book, hosted my Food Network show, consult with food companies to urge them to get it right (or at least better), constantly write about it, research it, all of this so I can cut through the nutrition and food “news” clutter. Happy to share with friends!


12 Responses

    September 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm Reply

    Cheese is not listed as an ingredient in a pizza product? That’s weird.

    Lin Hunt
    September 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm Reply

    Interesting. Always a great reminder to read labels-
    calories, fat, sugar, sodium etc.
    It would have be even better if you did not take any money from
    McCain. While the information is true and unbiased taking
    money leaves a bit of a bad taste and is paid publicity for McCain.
    It is have been great to be like Consumer Reports- no money accepted
    for product review.
    Maybe add a non paid segment – comparing soups etc.

    September 16, 2011 at 8:53 am Reply

    Appreciate your info on pizza, I tend to like McCain. Thanks

    October 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm Reply

    I am glad you took the time to compare these products and though pizza pockets might not be for every day use, I agree the occasional mccains would not hurt… As for being paid for your time, I do not think people can expect you to go out and evaluate stuff just for the fun of it… At least you put it right in the article and I think your “expertise backing” proves your opinions are not paid for…

    October 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm Reply

    I’m assuming this should read “620 **sodium** in the list for pizza pops not calories.

      Theresa Albert
      October 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm Reply

      Right you are! Thanks. 620 mg. Now corrected.

    October 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm Reply

    I was surpised anout the indredients in the pizza pockets. I looked for the ingredients on line and couldn’t believe it. I had to check a box in the store the next time I went!

    BUT there are definitely some things that are bothering me about this review.

    First, it’s not that there is any dishonesty, is just kind of seems like a word play saying ‘it’s a source of fibre’.. Yes, it is a source of fibre, but really, 2 g is not really a significant source of fibre in my opinion to even mention.

    Secondly, to be fair, the sodium levels. For a child under nine, that amount (440mg)of sodium is about 35% of their daily recomended intake!

    According to the McCain website, the amount of sodium in the pepperoni variety is 440mg (not 430, sorry, I know it’s not that significant – the deluxe version has 430mg) and if you look at the other varieties, the sodium can be as high as 490 in the three cheese variety.

    Thanks for the heads up!

      Theresa Albert
      October 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm Reply

      Fair enough. They have added flax seed to the crust to improve one food that typically would not have any fibre. I strongly encourage and support other, more typical sources of fibre but look for the highest sources available when I choose packages. Whole grain breads, brown rice, fruits and vegetables are the foundation that makes up the bulk of our fibre. (we also add chia to everything we can!)

      As for the sodium, pizza is not an easy item to remove sodium from! It is in cheese, sauce, crust, meat, toppings… When my daughter built a whole grain pizza bagel at home with homemade tomato sauce and cheese, I estimated the sodium as she worked. It was about the same. What I found was that, no matter how you slice it, one of the foods kids love is high in salt. When we do indulge in packaged foods we make sure that they are served with veggies or salad.

      Loving the conversation! Thought it was only me who would dig and dig and dig….curiosity gets me out of bed in the am. Obviously you too!

    October 8, 2011 at 1:15 am Reply

    Theresa – my trust in you knows no limits. And my desire to feed my crew of six easily, yet with health in mind…..well, thanks for giving honest information. This busy mama thanks you!

    October 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm Reply

    I love your wise and sensible approach to food and nutrition. Three cheers to McCain’s for their progressive approach to making their line of foods healthier. If we all show our support maybe more companies will listen to their consumers. I’m joining the movement!

    October 11, 2011 at 11:45 am Reply

    It’s thanks to you that my kids eat kale, so I’m glad to see that something they’re already eating is getting your approval. I can’t believe the differences between these two products. With four kids, I buy a lot of this type of food, so now I’ll make sure I buy the right one. And I won’t even have to tell them to Shut Up & Eat. Okay, maybe still to shut up….

    October 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm Reply

    Quote: “When my daughter built a whole grain pizza bagel at home with homemade tomato sauce and cheese, I estimated the sodium as she worked. It was about the same. What I found was that, no matter how you slice it, one of the foods kids love is high in salt.”

    Good point! I’m really looking at ways to reduce sodium around here. Seems everything everyone loves, is so loaded with sodium! Even canned tomatoes! (Why??? I don’t add salt to my canned tomatoes!)

    Over all, it was a good point of attention as I did figure they were all the same and pizza pops being around the longest, and the brand I was most familliar with, it was just what I grabbed. I’ll take real cheese over cheese like substance, and a few added grams of fibre over nothing, any day!

    Quote: “Loving the conversation! Thought it was only me who would dig and dig and dig….curiosity gets me out of bed in the am. Obviously you too!”

    Ditto! At least you were into it! I can’t say it’s a side of me that has always been appreciated. For some reason people tend to take things so personally!
    I’ve been a philosophy major the last four years! The “art of critical thinking” has been ingrained in me!

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