A Nutritionist’s Guide to Healthy Eating at California Pizza Kitchen

Photo: Getty Images/Inti St. Clair
With over 200 locations spread out across 32 states—and 13 countries—California Pizza Kitchen has expanded far beyond the the Golden State. You'll even find the franchise in airports like Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, and Honolulu. Unlike most other popular pizza chains, the California Pizza Kitchen menu proves the brand is pretty up on the health trends—they even have cauliflower crust and spiralized zucchini noodles. (Must be those healthy California roots.)

While the whole menu isn't health focused—this is still a pizza joint we're talking about—the company's efforts make it relatively easy to stick to a healthy eating plan like the Mediterranean diet, ketogenic diet, or Whole30. But to prevent you from menu overload next time you go out to eat (so many options, so little time!), I enlisted the help of registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD. Here, she shares her top picks at CPK for these three popular eating plans. Consider your homework done.

How to stick to a healthy eating plan at California Pizza Kitchen.

Mediterranean diet

Menu picks: Cedar Plank Salmon; Zucchini Pasta Shrimp Scampi; California Veggie Pizza

What an RD says: The Mediterranean diet prioritizes omega-3-rich seafood over red meat, which is why Palinski-Wade is such a fan of the chain's Cedar Plank Salmon. "With the Cedar Plank Salmon, you're getting protein and healthy fats from the salmon and fiber from the spinach and white corn," she says. But if you're in the mood for pasta, she says you can still get plenty of protein from the shrimp in the Zucchini Pasta Shrimp Scampi, along with a good amount of fiber from the zucchini.

Craving pizza? No sweat—Palinski-Wade says there's a Med diet-friendly option on the menu. "I would go for the California Veggie because of all the amazing vegetables on there," she says. "It has broccoli, eggplant, tomato, and corn. It's the best one for the Mediterranean diet," she says. To up the nutrition factor, she says you can switch out the crust for a gluten-free cauliflower crust—an option for every pizza on the CPK menu.

Order tweaks: None needed.

Side dish recommendations: If you want to round out your meal with a little something on the side, Palinski-Wade recommends going for the Roasted Veggie Salad. She says it doesn't have enough protein for it to be considered a full meal, but getting it as a side is a great way to get some extra vegetables.

Ketogenic diet

Menu picks: Roasted Veggie Salad with grilled chicken; Roasted Garlic Chicken + Seasonal Vegetables

What an RD says: "Looking at the salads, the Roasted Veggie Salad is the best one for keto if you add a protein," Palinski-Wade says, noting that the grilled chicken is a good source of the nutrient while the avocado delivers on the healthy fats front. Not in the mood for salad? She says the Roasted Garlic Chicken + Seasonal Vegetables is also a keto-approved option. "It's made with a lemon-garlic sauce, which is likely butter based, but that's okay when you're keto!" she says.

Wait, why isn't a cauliflower crust pizza on the menu—aren't those low carb? Usually yes, but Palinski-Wade says CPK's crust has a catch. "If you were to make cauliflower crust at home, you can make it with just egg, cheese, and cauliflower, but California Pizza Kitchen's cauli-crust is cauliflower blended with rice flour, which makes it not conducive to a keto or Whole30 diet," she says.

Order tweaks: Heads up: There's added sugar hiding in the vinaigrette for the Roasted Veggie Salad, so Palinski-Wade recommends switching it out for olive oil instead, a good source of healthy fats. "I'd also hold the corn, because it's a carb-y vegetable," she says. If you're getting the Garlic Chicken, Palinski-Wade says to ask to sub the fingerling potatoes for extra steamed veggies since potatoes are a no-go for keto eaters.

Side dish recommendations: The Lettuce Wraps offer up another low-carb way to get some extra veggies. Just go easy on the soy sauce to keep it low sodium.


Menu picks: Cedar Plank Salmon

What an RD says: The Cedar Plank Salmon scores again, with a few order tweaks (see below). "It has protein and lots of veggies, which is definitely great," Palinski-Wade says. Alas, nothing else on the menu makes the cut.

Order tweaks: Since dairy isn't allowed on Whole30, Palinski-Wade points out that you'll have to nix the feta that comes in the succotash. There's also legumes in the succotash, another no-no. "I'd ask to see if you can get a side of steamed vegetables instead," she recommends.

Side dish recommendations: While the Asparagus + Arugula Salad doesn't have enough protein or healthy fats to make a good meal on its own, it does work as a nice side dish. "Just ask for no Parmesan cheese and for olive oil instead of the vinaigrette, which will have added sugar," Palinski-Wade says.

If you want to eat in instead of going out, try this keto-friendly recipe and these Whole30-approved ones.

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