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Dr. Gourmet Goes to Walmart

Last week we reviewed two Veggie Cuisine meals from Lean Cuisine that we bought at Walmart because they don't appear to be available anywhere else. While I was there I noticed the vast assortment of Walmart branded frozen foods (labeled "Great Value") and it dawned on me that here was a frozen foods brand we'd completely missed. Certainly there are some brands that we haven't reviewed many meals from, but that's usually because their sodium levels are so high. The numbers for the Walmart products I looked at, however, seemed to be on a par with other brands we've reviewed, so you'll be seeing Walmart branded products here from time to time in the future.

The first two items I took home for testing are pizzas. This seemed like a good starting point, as it seems like everybody does some form of personal-sized pizza. It's only fair that we test theirs as well. This seemed like a fine idea until I remembered that the vast majority of frozen pizzas are terrible (with a few standout exceptions).

Great Value Lean Cafe Traditional Crust Pepperoni PizzaThe first pizza we tested, appropriately enough, is their Traditional Crust Pepperoni Pizza. This comes in a box that is transformed into a cooking stand for inside your microwave, complete with a silvery box lining that is intended to crisp the underside of the crust. Unfortunately, like a lot of other pizzas, it doesn't work. I suppose that the designation "Traditional Crust" is intended to mean thick crust, and if so, it's certainly accurate. This crust is about a half inch thick and is doughy and chewy. As it cools it becomes even more so, giving your jaw a real workout. The sauce, on the other hand, is good: not too sweet, with a soft tomato flavor and a nice hit of oregano. The pepperoni slices are fairly thick and the cheese is your standard low-moisture mozzarella. This has 360 calories, 640 milligrams of sodium and only 3 grams of fiber. All in all, not much worse than other pizzas we've tried, but certainly no better.

Great Value Lean Cafe Traditional Crust Four Cheese PizzaThe second pizza, Traditional Crust Four Cheese Pizza, has the same crust as the other pizza and the same tomato sauce. It does, however, live up to its name with plenty of cheese - enough that it runs off the edges of the crust. You can easily taste the four kinds of cheese and the oregano sprinkled over the top is a nice touch. I'd rate this one as better than the pepperoni, but only marginally better - once again the thick, doughy crust mars what might otherwise be a pretty good frozen pizza. This pizza has 330 calories, 620 milligrams of sodium and a surprising 7 grams of fiber.

You may recall a news splash not too long ago talking about how Walmart was planning to reduce the levels of sodium in their house branded products. The sodium levels in these pizzas were certainly in line with other pizzas we've reviewed, but it's worth noting that there were three types of salt substitute in these pizzas - my blood pressure's rising just thinking about how high the sodium levels must have been in these pizzas if this is their reduced sodium product.

Two thumbs down for Walmart brand frozen personal pizzas, but again it's worth noting that precious few frozen pizzas are worth eating, which leaves Walmart on a level playing field with other frozen food manufacturers. If you really want pizza for lunch, it's better to make your own with a round of pita bread (here's the recipe). We'll be testing other Walmart frozen meals - but not pizzas - in the future.