Supermarket Sampler: Take a pass on the new Crystal Light Pure

Published: Tuesday, June 21 2011 3:11 p.m. MDT

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Crystal Light Pure. Mixed Berry, Tropical Blend, Lemonade, Grape, and Strawberry Kiwi. $3.29 per 2.17-ounce box containing seven packets.

Bonnie: Opening up the box containing this new Crystal Light Pure gave me a good laugh. Pure? Who do they think they're kidding? Pure would be sugar, not a blend of sugar and stevia — the current fashionable sweetener rebaudioside A, extracted from the South American eponymous herb.

Remember saccharine, aspartame, acesulfame K and sucralose? Those who indulge in them seem to forget that most of these previously government-approved sweeteners were eventually linked to adverse health issues.

Crystal Light Pure contains "no artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives, with only 15 calories per serving." Well, all-natural sugar is only 16 calories a teaspoon. So I'll skip these — and just sip on my truly pure plain or sparkling water while waiting for news that research has linked stevia-based sweeteners to some problem.

Carolyn: I am traditional Crystal Light's target demographic. That is, I don't care what's in my food and drink so long as it tastes good. And if it tastes good and contains fewer calories than usual? All the better.

I am not the target demo for this new Crystal Light Pure, a similar powder mix made from all-natural ingredients and, in two cases, enhanced with electrolytes. That's because Pure costs about a third more than traditional Crystal Light, has three times the calories and doesn't taste as sweet (probably because, although the stevia used in Crystal Light Pure is as sweet as the artificial aspartame and Ace-K in traditional Crystal Light, Pure is also partially sweetened by the not-as-sweet, all-natural sugar).

Who would want these? is the question. Not serious natural foodies or nutritional nuts like Bonnie, who want their fruit drinks squeezed from an orange or pressed from grapes, rather than sprung from some factory-packed powder.

No, these would be appealing only to people who like the convenience and calorie savings of a diet drink but feel uneasy about artificial ingredients. I can't imagine this is a lot of people. So if it sounds like you, buy these soon.

Barilla Piccolini Rich in Fiber-White Pasta. Mini Rotini, Mini Conchiglie (Shells) and Mini Penne. $1.89 per 13.25-ounce box.

Bonnie: Barilla's new Piccolini pastas cook quickly and are rich in fiber and whole grains. Sounds good, but is it really?

OK, let's consider those attributes. Piccolini pastas do cook in only seven minutes, but so do other pastas, from angel hair to orzo. These three Piccolini shapes are fiber-rich with 6 grams per 2-ounce serving, but Barilla Plus, Trader Joe's, LifeStream and other whole-wheat pastas have about the same or more.

As for whole grains, I'm glad Barilla took my advice to put some in Piccolini. But I have to laugh at the box's boasting of 30 percent of the daily recommended intake, which would mean 1 full serving, or 18 grams whole grains. I'm laughing because the hard-to-read gold lettering below that claim mentions that that's in a 100-gram portion. A standard pasta serving is 2 ounces, or 56 grams. That's about half a serving of whole grains.

What makes these worth mentioning is a taste and texture more like regular pasta, thereby making Piccolini easier to get your family to eat.

Carolyn: There's just no pleasing you, Bonnie. Now that Barilla is making Piccolinis with your recommended half a serving of whole grains, you're grousing about the box advertising!

I actually think these better-for-you Piccolinis are a good compromise, especially for families with older kids (and adult junk-foodies!) who might be willing to tolerate a little bitter aftertaste for a little better nutrition. These would be especially good to try at a dinner where you're covering up the pasta and that aftertaste with a very flavorful sauce.

I also like that Barilla is offering these as an additional option rather than a replacement for its existing line of cute-as-a-button, regular white Piccolini Mini pastas that are almost impossible not to like.

Kellogg's Eggo FiberPlus Waffles. Buttermilk Plus Calcium, and Chocolate Chip Plus Antioxidants. $3.99 per 9.8-ounce box containing eight waffles.

Bonnie: I liked Kellogg's FiberPlus Bars so much that it won this column's Golden Shopping Cart award for best new product of 2009 and was featured as an outstanding product on my blog, BiteoftheBest.com. These two waffles are the latest additions to the FiberPlus line.

The bars are tasty and nutritious, the waffles much less so with their main ingredient of white flour. They also contain artificial flavor and artificial colors, specifically yellow No. 5 and No. 6.

Both the Dark Chocolate Almond bars and the waffles are rich in fiber, with 9 grams per serving. The bars also have half a serving of whole grains; the waffles have none.

In short, there's nothing worthy of an award here. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend these for breakfast. Kellogg's own Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles with a half-serving of whole grains would be better.

Carolyn: The FiberPlus Bars that Bonnie just referenced got my Golden Shopping Cart vote because of their great chocolaty taste. These new FiberPlus Eggo Chocolate Chip Waffles continue in that delicious tradition. The chips in them are high-quality dark chocolate.

The extra fiber comes from oats, which shows up as an aftertaste in both these waffle varieties (even more in the chocolate-less Buttermilk than in the Chocolate Chip variety I favor). But I like the taste of oats. If you don't, just pour on the butter and syrup — you'll hardly notice.

For fiber-loading, these waffles sure beat a dish of lima beans or a big bowl of All-Bran.

Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. She has a blog, www.biteofthebest.com, about products she recommends; follow her on Twitter: @BonnieBOTB.

Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book" (Running Press). Each week they critique three new food items.

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