Dulce de Leche Cheerios Cereal. $3.99 per 12-ounce box.
Bonnie: As America's Latin population grows, so does the number of food products featuring the classic Latin American caramelized-milk flavor of dulce de leche. There's Dulce de Leche Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream, Skinny Cow Low-Fat Ice Cream Cups, Talenti Gelato, Girl Scout cookies and Starbucks latte and Frappuccinos. Those more or less go with dulce de leche's sweet flavor. But Cheerios? I don't think so.
Although a 1-cup serving has only 6 grams of sugar, or 3 grams less than Honey Nut Cheerios, Dulce de Leche Cheerios tastes sickly sweet — more like a dessert than a way to start the day. I'd recommend this only for extreme sweet tooths.
One positive note: This variety of Cheerios contains 19 grams whole grains, or a bit less than half the 48 grams recommended daily (though regular and Multi Grain Cheerios both have even more).
Carolyn: Cheerios is a non-sugary cereal with a puffy texture and round shape that contains and tastes mostly of oats. Like most of the other 11 Cheerios line extensions, this latest one is sugary and doesn't taste like oats, but it is round and puffy. In other words, it has only a few of the attributes that make the original such a classic (and not the most important attributes, either).
This also has a crunchy texture, and a taste that reminded me more of maple sugar than of dulce de leche. So I wouldn't recommend this new cereal to people who like regular Cheerios or dulce de leche. But people still in mourning over the loss of the old French Toast Crunch and Eggo Maple Syrup cereals will find this reason to rejoice.
Healthy Choice Modern Classics Complete Meals. Lemon Garlic Chicken, Four Cheese Tortellini, Sundried Tomato and Chicken Alfredo, Herb Crusted Fish, Beef and Broccoli, and Sweet & Spicy Asian Style Chicken. $2.75 to $3.50 per 10.2- to 12-ounce boxes.
Bonnie: "Enjoy a fresh take on the classics," boast these new Healthy Choice Modern Classics boxes. What makes them fresh and modern is that they're healthier: white rice and pasta have been replaced with whole grains, and they also contain more veggies. These changes boost the nutrients, fiber and grams of whole grains in each entree.
All but the Herb Crusted Fish contain at least one of the 2 1/2 cups of veggies the government recommends we get daily. The Sweet & Spicy Asian Style Chicken and Beef and Broccoli tip the whole-grain scale at 34 and 31 grams respectively — or about two of the three recommended daily servings. The Four Cheese Tortellini has the most fiber at 9 grams; the rest serve up a decent 5 to 6 grams.
But as good as these are nutritionally, tastewise they're mediocre. At least, that's what someone who only eats frozen meals for this column thinks. I believe Carolyn is a much more experienced eater of frozen dinners.
Carolyn: Right you are, Bonnie. I eat a frozen entree for dinner at least every other night, and Healthy Choice is one of my go-to brands — but usually for its Cafe Steamers bowl sub-line rather than its less-flavorful, rectangular Complete Meals, of which these six new Modern Classics are an expansion. I agree with Bonnie that these are no great shakes.
The Herb Crusted Fish is a slightly less tasty and lemony version of the existing Lemon Pepper Fish dinner. The Sweet & Spicy Asian Style Chicken is like mediocre Chinese takeout, though it does, to its credit, pack some heat. Blandness is the big problem with the majority.
In fact, the Lemon Garlic Chicken is the only flavor good and interesting enough to become a regular part of my frozen entree rotation.
Besides that variety, the best thing about these is the dessert omission. It's not that I don't want dessert; I just want something better than the fruit compotes in Healthy Choice's other, older Complete Meals.
Friendship Fit to Go Cottage Cheese. 4 Percent California Style, 1 Percent Lowfat, and 1 Percent Lowfat With Pineapple. $1.50 per 5-ounce cup.
Bonnie: Friendship single-serve cottage cheese is a product I can get excited about. It's made from real ingredients, is good for you and — in this new single-serve container — is as convenient for on-the-go eating as yogurt.
Cottage cheese is a soft white cheese made of milk curds. I love it plain or topped with veggies or fruit. The 1 Percent Lowfat With Pineapple variety has just the right amount of sweetness.
Like the milk it's made from, Fit to Go is protein-rich (15 to 20 grams) and a good source of calcium. I prefer the 1 percent versions for heart health, as those two varieties have only 1 gram saturated fat of 1 to 1.5 grams total fat, compared to the 4 Percent California Style with 4 grams saturated fat and 7 grams total.
Carolyn: How can the same milk that is responsible for delicious ice cream, butter and cheese also yield something as unappealing as cottage cheese? I will leave that question to the food scientists. My job is to evaluate this new to-go version from Friendship. This cottage cheese unfortunately doesn't taste any better than other brands I've tried.
Friendship is also not unique in offering cottage cheese in single-serve containers. (Breakstone's had them for years.) But Friendship's cups are uniquely strong and resealable. I recommend you buy a few, remove the cottage cheese, and use them to bring something to work or school that you might actually want to eat.
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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