Nowadays you can find a cauliflower substitute for what seems like every carb-containing food. One of the first available swaps we saw was cauliflower pizza crust in place of regular or whole-wheat crust and then came cauliflower rice, buns, English muffins, soft pretzels, nuggets and more. Geared at lowering carbs and calories, these swaps seem to be used more than the original. But is one really better than the other? Let's look at the original cauliflower swap—pizza crust—next to whole-wheat dough and see how they compare.
If you plan to make your crust at home, try our easy recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Crust (pictured above). Or for convenience, pick up a pre-made crust from the store. For this purpose, let's look at a standard store-bought example, like Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pizza Crust. Keep in mind that brands differ in how they make their version of this low-carb crust, so the ingredient list and nutrition totals can vary. Check the label when shopping to be sure of what you're buying, especially if you're going with this option because of a gluten allergy or intolerance.
0 grams fat
17 grams carbohydrates
1 gram fiber
1 gram protein
220 mg sodium
Ingredients include: Cauliflower, corn flour, water, cornstarch, potato starch, olive oil, salt
Pictured recipe: Easy Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
Here at EatingWell, we opt for whole-wheat pizza crust more often for the extra fiber it provides. One pound of dough—the standard amount sold in the grocery store and used at restaurants to make a pie—typically serves 8, so let's go with that for our comparison. If you look at the nutrition label, you'll notice that whole-wheat pizza dough isn't made primarily with whole-wheat flour but a combination of flours. Our example here uses whole-wheat flour and enriched flour, which is refined or white flour that adds back nutrients that get stripped during processing—niacin, iron, thiamin, riboflavin and folic acid—to keep things healthy, while keeping the texture from being too dense.
1 gram fat
27 grams carbohydrates
2 grams fiber
4 grams protein
And the ingredients include: Enriched unbleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid), water, whole-wheat flour, salt, soybean oil, sugar, yeast.
It depends. Per serving, cauliflower crust is lower in everything—calories, carbs, protein, fat, fiber and sodium—with the biggest difference being calories, carbs and protein. It's also a smaller serving (1.8 ounces per serving) when compared to the regular pizza crust (2 ounces per serving), so don't be surprised when your slice isn't as large. If you're looking to eat fewer calories and carbs, go gluten free or simply eat more veggies, then cauliflower crust is for you. But don't think that a slice of this crust means you met your veggie quota for the day nor does it mean you can go crazy with the toppings. For the size of the slice and the starches that are added in to hold everything together, there's not that much cauliflower in pre-made crusts. On the other hand, if you're willing to make your own, our Cauliflower Pizza Crust recipes delivers close to a cup of cauliflower per serving.
If you're eating fewer calories and carbs in hopes of losing weight, you may actually be better off with the whole-wheat crust. The downfall of the cauliflower crust is that it's low in fiber and protein, both of which play a key role in weight loss by helping to keep you feeling full and satisfied after a meal. The whole-wheat crust delivers a few extra grams of protein and fiber, and while it's also higher in calories (50 calories more), that's not necessarily a bad thing. Those extra calories can help to give your slice more staying power so you actually feel satisfied with your slice (or slices). If the mention of sugar in the ingredient list alarms you, don't worry—it's a small amount that's needed for the yeast to work. If you want to make your own dough, our recipe for Easy Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough keeps it simple and has more a tad more protein and fiber per serving than the store-bought option.
Pizza can certainly be a healthy choice, whatever crust you choose. What can matter more are the toppings you use, especially if you're looking to keep calories or carbs low. Add lots of veggies, just the right amount of cheese, go light on the sliced meats and there you have it. In the end, if pizza is something you're only having from time to time, go with the crust and flavor combo that speaks to you the most and enjoy it without the guilt.