Bonnie: Every once in a while a new product comes along that makes you wonder why someone didn't think of it before, such as these new Fruit Inspirations from Weight Watchers. Considering that 91 percent of women say they're not getting enough fruit, it was a good idea for Weight Watchers to add a half-serving of fruit to these entrees.
Oddly, there wasn't a single orange (or any of the big, white sesame seeds), as was so nicely shown in the box's cover photo, in my tray of Orange Sesame Chicken. It must have been a fluke, as mandarin oranges are listed (at the end of the sixth line of its 12-line list of ingredients), and the other varieties did contain visible fruit.
Both chicken entrees are flavorful, though they would have been more nutritious made with whole-grain brown rice and whole-wheat orzo. The turkey and beef entrees are like bad cafeteria food.I still commend the concept, one that Weight Watchers frozen-entree competitors would do well to copy. Are you listening, Stouffer's?
Carolyn: I wonder what kind of five-star restaurant cuisine Bonnie must be eating every evening to call Smart Ones Fruit Inspirations Cranberry Turkey and Pineapple Beef Teriyaki entrees "bad cafeteria" fare. Better to get advice about frozen entrees from someone who eats them virtually every evening, as I do. And I say all four of these Fruit Inspirations are delicious, if not quite as innovative as Weight Watchers and Bonnie would have you believe.
All the healthy frozen dinner-makers offer turkey and cranberry dinners, and Lean Cuisine Cafe Classics' zesty Orange Beef Asian entree was one of my very favorite frozen dinners until Stouffer's stupidly discontinued it. But with these Fruit Inspirations, the fruit stars as much (if not more than) their sugar. In the Pineapple Beef Teriyaki, for instance, the pineapple's sweetness is undercut by a hint of spicy heat. The protein in all the entrees, though not abundant, is of high quality and comes in good-size chunks.The veggie-rice accompaniments are admittedly more ordinary. But the fruit and protein combos are tasty enough to put these on the select list of frozen entrees that I would buy and eat again and again.
Special K Bliss Bars. Raspberry and Orange. $3.49 per box containing six 0.77-ounce bars.
Bonnie: The press materials that came with Special K Bliss say that these bars are a sensible snack that tastes "exciting and irresistible." I say, who are they kidding?
Yes, one Special K Bliss Bar has only 90 calories and 2 grams of fat. But its flavor isn't good enough to be worth even that tiny indulgence. I had to laugh as I read the ingredient list. There are none of the raspberries or oranges illustrated prominently on the labels. Instead, there are orange- or raspberry-flavored fruit pieces. Actually, it's apple puree with orange juice for the orange, and glucose with raspberry puree, oat fiber, palm kernel oil, rice starch and other stuff for the raspberry.If you really want a sensible snack that is exciting and irresistible, nibble instead on some nutritious, fresh juicy oranges or raspberries alongside some high-quality dark chocolate.
Carolyn: Kellogg's is giving Terry's Chocolate Orange and raspberry-filled dark-chocolate indulgence to a cereal bar snack. At least, that's the expectation created by the Bliss name and package pictures of chocolate-covered raspberries or orange slices.Unfortunately, these bars' chocolate base comes through mainly as generic sweetness, and these taste like dried, fruit-flavored Rice Krispies Treats instead. They're somewhat tasty, very convenient and only 90 calories, but "bliss" is a big stretch.
Sweet Fiber All Natural Sweetener. $6.99 per 1.75-ounce box containing 50 single-serve packets or $8.99 per 8.8-ounce canister containing 250 servings.
Bonnie: The newest zero-calorie sugar substitute to hit supermarkets is Sweet Fiber. It contains luo han guo, a fruit extract nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar, and inulin as its fiber.
Inulin, you might recall, is the in-vogue natural extract from chicory roots that's currently used to add fiber to cheese (Kraft LiveActive), yogurt (Yoplait Yo-Plus), snack bars (Fiber One Chewy Bars), smoothies (Stonyfield Farm Light) and chocolate (Hershey's Whole Bean), among other things.
One packet of this new Sweet Fiber is supposed to be equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sugar, and three packets provides the same amount of soluble fiber found in a bowl of oatmeal. Sweet Fiber can also be used in baking in a ratio of 1 part Sweet Fiber to 2 parts sugar (if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 1/3 cup of Sweet Fiber and 2/3 cup of sugar).
Before potentially wasting perfectly good butter, eggs and flour in a baked good, I opted to first try Sweet Fiber in freshly brewed tea. I almost gagged. But to be fair, I can't abide the aftertaste of any sugar substitute.On the positive side are the fiber in Sweet Fiber and the fact that luo han guo has no known negative health implications. So if you use sugar substitutes and can afford the 14 cents a packet, you might want to give Sweet Fiber a try.
Carolyn: Sweet Fiber is literally sweetened fiber, although I'm sure its makers are hoping consumers will also take the "sweet" in the name as a figurative term of endearment.
The possibility of taking the name this way ended the first time I put this in coffee alongside a cup sweetened with old-fashioned saccharin. Not only is Sweet Fiber not as sweet as Sweet 'N Low, it also has a more pronounced and objectionable aftertaste.But the idea of a zero-calorie sweetener that simultaneously delivers health-giving fiber is a great one that I'm hoping the makers of the better-tasting Sweet 'N Low, Equal or Splenda will steal.
Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat" (Quirk). Each week they critique three new food items. For previous columns, visit www.supermarketsampler.com, and for more food info and chances to win free products, visit www.biteofthebest.com. © Universal Press Syndicate