Universal Press Syndicate

Jell-O Singles Instant Pudding Mix. Chocolate, Sugar-Free Chocolate, Vanilla, and Sugar-Free Vanilla. $1.99 per 1.37-ounce to 5.5-ounce box containing six packets.

Bonnie: Having looked at the ingredient list of these new single-serve pudding mixes, I approached them with trepidation. I stirred a packet of each flavor into a half-cup milk for 1 1/2 minutes as instructed, and then put the timer on five minutes so they could thicken. They did. But I didn't enjoy their gritty, artificial chemical flavor.

What a waste of good milk.

Carolyn: Kraft is taking the idea of single-serve powder tubes that was so successful with the Crystal Light drink mix over to its Jell-O Pudding dessert mixes. Jell-O Singles are boxes containing sticks of Jell-O instant pudding powder that you mix with milk to make a single serving of pudding in five minutes.

It's a great idea for single folks who might not want to make a whole box of pudding or worry about a six-serving, refrigerated kind going bad.

Unfortunately, the product isn't as great as the idea. None of the four set very well in the specified five minutes (or even when left in the refrigerator longer). The consistency is close to uncooked cake mix. The regular vanilla also tastes a lot like that. The one that sets the best — the regular chocolate — tastes the worst.

The Sugar-Free Vanilla is the best of a bad lot. I'd still recommend it only to pudding lovers to keep in their cupboards for pudding emergencies. Everyone else should wait for this product to undergo the reformulation it badly needs.

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Santa Cruz Organic Ice Tea. Lemon, Peppermint, Raspberry, and Mango. $2.79 to $3.29 per 32-ounce bottle.

Bonnie: I like my iced tea unsweetened. So I reluctantly poured one of these teas into a glass to taste-test it. I was pleasantly surprised at how lightly these green, white and black tea combinations were sweetened (although they are still too sweet for me). One 8-ounce glass contains 60 calories, with 14 grams of fruit sugar from juice concentrates. It's also worth noting that they're made in a model "green" facility.

Kudos to Santa Cruz for that, and for making these not-too-sweet, organic iced teas.

Carolyn: Organic juice-maker Santa Cruz is getting into Honest and Tazo territory with these organic iced teas. Like the ones from Honest, these new teas are organic and have less sugar and more tea taste than traditional Lipton or Nestle iced teas. But cane sugar and the 10 percent fruit juice give these twice the calories per ounce of Honest.

You might think that would make these taste a lot better. Maybe, but they still contain way too little sugar and fruit flavor for a Crystal Light tea drinker like me. I'd say these are for Honest or Tazo consumers who'd like just a bit more sweetness and prefer these quart bottles to the industry-standard pints.

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Fisher Culinary Touch Salad Toppings. Toasted Slivered Almonds, Almond Cranberry Blend, and Walnut Raisin Blend. $4.99 per 5-ounce to 6-ounce resealable pouch.

Bonnie: I like most of the things about these new salad toppings. One is simply good-for-you almonds, while the others are a blend of nuts (almonds or walnuts) and dried fruit (cranberries or raisins). Nuts, as you may have heard, are heart-friendly. Current research shows that eating an ounce (about a handful) a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering your LDL (or "bad") blood cholesterol. And both nuts and dried fruit are chock-full of vitamins and minerals.

So what's not to like? The $5-a-bag price tag, which translates to $13 to $16 a pound. For that money — especially in this economy — you can buy a pound of dried fruit and a pound of nuts to make your own salad toppings and still have some money left for the other salad ingredients.

Carolyn: Fisher Culinary Touch Salad Toppings isn't a new product so much as a new idea on how to use old nuts. Even as an idea this isn't so new — I knew that nuts and fruits made good salad toppings prior to this.

I would recommend these Fisher toppings only to people with money who like these particular fruit-nut combinations and the convenience of buying them already mixed together. Separate bags of store-brand dried fruits and nuts would be cheaper and more versatile.


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