Universal Press Syndicate
Tropicana Coastal Groves Lemonade. Original, Raspberry, and Peach. $2.99 per 64-ounce carton. Also available in 12-ounce size.

Bonnie: Tropicana's new Coastal Groves Lemonade is made without artificial sweeteners or preservatives — in other words, it is 100 percent natural. That's great. What's not great is the lack of nutrition. Oddly, there's no vitamin C in any of these varieties. I say oddly, as a cup of fresh lemon juice contains 187 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C. Even frozen concentrate turned into lemonade contains 16 percent of daily vitamin C per glass.

According to Tropicana, the natural vitamin C is lost in the processing, and since Tropicana couldn't add it back and still call these "natural," it decided not to.

This only goes to prove that there's "natural" and there's "processed natural," and that the really natural is better for you.

Carolyn: Tropicana's Grovestand OJ proved that processed juices can taste close to fresh-squeezed. But this new Coastal Groves Lemonade is the opposite: an all-natural product that tastes fake.

Adding thick, sweet peach juice to lemonade was a bad idea from the start. The Raspberry Lemonade is likewise too heavy in both texture and taste. Even the Original, which is plain lemonade, is too syrupy.

Above all, lemonade should be refreshing. These fill you up like juices, but without (according to Bonnie) the redeeming nutrients of juices.

General Mills Gluten-Free Rice Chex. $2.99 per 12.8-ounce box.

Bonnie: Rice Chex has been on the market for 58 years. We've decided to review it in this new products column because General Mills changed the formula of Rice Chex to make it gluten-free. Now this cereal can be eaten by the more than 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that results in gluten intolerance. Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat but also in some other grains.

To make Rice Chex gluten-free, General Mills replaced the barley malt syrup with molasses. It has also taken the necessary steps to prevent cross contamination of the grains used in making its other cereals with the production of this one. Kudos to General Mills for doing so and allowing those with celiac disease to be able to buy (and eat) a cereal from the more reasonably priced regular cereal section of the supermarket.

Carolyn: This new gluten-free Rice Chex tastes exactly the same as the original formula. So I'll use this occasion to celebrate its merits. Like fellow cereal classics Cheerios and Corn Flakes, Chex is tasty in such a simple, bland way that invites the addition of fruit, sugar or other cereal. And Rice is, in fact, the blandest of Chex's three major basic flavors (along with Corn and Wheat). Yet these three are the most versatile of Chex's flavor variations.

And if you've ever wondered about the checkerboard shape and name, it's because of a family in the hometown of Chex inventor William Danforth that was so poor that the mother made clothes for all the kids out of the same bolt of red-checkered cloth. People could recognize that family's kids anywhere in town. Danforth thought the checkerboard name and logo would give his products a similar kind of recognizable distinctiveness.

Boca in a Bun Chik'n & Swiss. $3.99 per 10.1-ounce box containing of two individually wrapped sandwiches.

Bonnie: Boca now offers a meatless soy-"chicken" patty microwavable sandwich. The "chik'n" patty comes on a whole wheat bun, topped with American-style Swiss cheese — meaning the pasteurized, processed kind.

One sandwich contains a reasonable 350 calories, a hefty 14 grams of total fat (of which 4 is saturated), an impressive 6 grams of fiber and a bit too much sodium (790 milligrams, or a third of the daily recommended limit). It's also an excellent source of protein, calcium and iron. Those nutritionals are pretty comparable to McDonald's McChicken sandwich. The main differences are that Boca is vegetarian and has 4 more grams of fiber.

One caveat: When I cooked it according to the package directions, the cheese exploded, even with the sandwich wrapped in a paper towel. The mediocre taste was improved greatly topped with a spicy chipotle sauce.

Carolyn: The bun is the best thing about this new ready-to-eat Boca fake chicken sandwich. Despite being whole wheat, it's a little sweet, oatmealy and fresh-tasting (perhaps because it uses a rising-dough technology).

But because of the breaded fake chicken patty and Swiss cheese, the sandwich is too dry, and has too many calories and too much fat for something that's supposed to be healthy. I'm betting a lot of that is from the "chicken's" coating.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Chicken doesn't need a coating to taste good and neither does fake chicken. This is more for vegetarians than people looking for a healthy alternative to a fast-food chicken sandwich.


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