Valerie Phillips: New products offer some help for diet season

Published: Wednesday, March 26 2008 12:14 a.m. MDT

For those who are getting a jump on swimsuit season, here are some of the new "diet" products on the market:

Bacon Salt: This is a zero-calorie, vegetarian, kosher seasoning. You can perk up eggs, baked potatoes, grilled meats, salads, vegetables and so on without adding real bacon. I sprinkled some in a potato-corn chowder and on popcorn, and it gave both of them a nice smoky bacon-ish flavor. But it's also very salty. I'd use it instead of, rather than along with, the usual salt called for in a recipe. Bacon Salt sells for $3.99-$4.99 per 2 1/2-ounce jar and is available in Dan's, Maceio's, Lin's and Dick's supermarkets in Utah.

PlumSmart Light is a low-calorie version of PlumSmart plum juice. In the "olden days," we would call it prune juice. But a few years ago prune marketers began referring to prunes as "dried plums," thinking it would give the product more cachet. In this drink, SunSweet also watered down the juice and sweetened it with Splenda, or sucralose. Fiber, chamomile and ginger were also added.

An 8-ounce glass contains 35 percent juice, 60 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Prune juice has a reputation for "digestive health," and after trying the sample bottle, I can vouch that this watered-down version still has a lot of system-cleaning properties. It comes in 48-ounce bottles ... and a little really does go a long way.

Weight Watchers cheeses are similar in fat and calories to other low-fat cheeses on the market, but they cost a little more in the grocery store that I checked. The cheddar contains the same amount of fat and calories as Kraft's 2 percent milk. One ounce is 90 calories, with 50 of them fat.

The string cheese portions are a tad smaller than the usual one-ounce log. They're each 24 ounces and 50 calories, with 25 of it coming from fat. A regular 1-ounce (28 1/2 gram) string cheese is 80 calories with 54 calories from fat (6 grams of fat).

The company also has light cream cheese with fiber added. However, the 1 gram of fiber per serving is a drop in the bucket compared to the 25-30 grams of fiber you should get each day.

Two advantages to these products are portion and "points" control. On the Weight Watchers Flex plan, foods are assigned a point value. The dieter has a budget of points to accrue each day. All of these cheese products are labeled with either one or two Weight Watchers points, and many are packaged in individual portions.

It's helpful to see amounts in pre-portioned packets to train yourself not to overdo it. According the the Weight Watchers plan, one 1-inch cube of regular cheese equals three points. How many people slice themselves a huge chunk of cheese and then tell themselves they've only had a little slice?

The Meal Measure is a gadget that helps accurately measure portion sizes. It's a round, molded device placed on the center of your plate.

It has several cut-out circles for half-cup and full-cup measures. When you're done spooning in the food, you lift up the gadget and you've got a perfect-portioned meal. Unfortunately, it doesn't slap your hand when you're dipping into a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream. It retails for $14.95 and is available online at mealmeasure.com.

Kraft Light Ranch contains 80 calories, 60 of them from fat, in a 2-tablespoon serving. That's quite a reduction from the 148 calories (140 calories from fat) in the company's regular ranch dressing. As a bonus, the label boasts it has no artificial preservatives.


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com