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6 Foods To Buy Or Leave on the Shelf

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

As the places I shop get bigger and bigger -- and the shelves and freezers get crammed with more and more new products -- I sometimes feel like a lab rat dutifully scurrying up and down each aisle in hopes there's an end (and maybe a piece of cheese) up ahead.

I'm here to report there is no end in sight to the new (and sometimes "improved") products foist upon us by the food giants, those mega-colossal companies that control the strategic shopping areas of our favorite markets.

I envy those shoppers who can A) make a list and B) stick to it. They somehow ignore the colorful displays that lure us into blind buys... much like the song of the sirens lured ancient sailors onto the rocks.

My wife cringes on those rare occasions when I heroically proclaim, "Honey, relax... I'll do the food shopping tonight!" She knows my list of 5 items will -- much like the Tribbles of Star Trek fame -- magically multiply until I sheepishly limp home with a vanful of overpriced, calorie-rich "goodies."

Adding vitamin-infused sea salt to the wound: I usually forget the most important item I was sent to fetch.

"But honey... don't blue french fries and purple ketchup sound sooooooooo good? Besides, I saved 30 cents with my Weis Club Card!"

If you are anything like me, you can use a little help steering clear of the new products that promise to make you more popular and loved... much like the good-looking models or Waltonesque families who smilingly feast on the foods for the slick TV and magazine ads.

It's time to put your money where the Check-Out Chick's mouth has been. Please don't buy until Becky Billingsley and her family have given it a try. You'll save time, money and perhaps a few weird looks you from your loved ones who refused to indulge your fantasy of a blue french fry dipped in purple ketchup.

Take it away Becky...

Worse Than Almost Anything

Imagine your worst school cafeteria memory. You can relive it!

Boston Market has sunk to a new low with one of the offerings in its new “Dinner for Two!” frozen meals line with Country Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Corn. The thin chicken filets have soggy breading, the corn is just plain old corn, the mashed potatoes are bland and the gravy, well, at least the gravy helps mask the taste of the soggy chicken.

A box with two servings costs $6.99, and each portion has 610 calories (I am not kidding), 27g fat (7 saturated), 60mg cholesterol, 1,970mg sodium, 70mg carbohydrates (8 fiber, 62 sugars) and 23g protein.

Geez Louise, can you believe those numbers? That’s 42 percent of the recommended daily allowance of fat, 82 percent of the sodium RDA and a hefty chunk of sugar.

Sneaky Listing

Old Betty Crocker tried to be sneaky about the nutrition facts of her new Hamburger Helper Cheesy Baked Potato. A quick glance at the table of numbers reveals 3 grams of fat per serving. Based on that some people might toss the $1.85 mix in the shopping cart and think they’ve found a cheap and healthy entrée.

But if you look a little harder, you see that the 3 grams represents the amount of fat in the box’s contents BEFORE you add cooked hamburger and milk. Now you tell me, why in the world would anyone care about the fat grams in the dry mix? Do you know anyone who’s going to snack on dehydrated potatoes and seasoning powder?

The real story, which is in small print, is that the mix makes five servings (1 serving = 1 cup) that each have 15g fat (6 saturated), 60mg cholesterol, 960mg sodium, 28g carbohydrates (4 sugars) and 20g protein.

My family was not thrilled with the taste of the dish -- it’s basically hamburger and potato slices in gravy. Yippee.... yawn.

Too Good For My Own Good

Keebler’s new Fudge Shoppe Mint Crème Clusters taste absolutely fabulous. Imagine a York Peppermint Patty with the addition of a shortbread cookie. Mmmmmm, this makes up for having to try the Boston Market chicken and the Hamburger Helper.

But I have to wean myself. One 3-cookie serving has 190 calories, 11g fat (8 saturated), zero cholesterol, 75mg sodium, 23g carbohydrates (zero fiber, 17 sugars) and 1g protein. My over-too-soon dessert -- which costs $2.89 per box -- has 40 percent of the saturated fat RDA.

Sigh. I knew there had to be a catch.

Check The Facts

You hear about the high fat content of salad dressings, but I was still surprised when I saw the nutrition facts for Maple Grove Farms of Vermont’s new Shiitake Mushroom with Roasted Garlic dressing.

The name sounds healthy, but a 2-tablespoon serving has 16 grams of fat (1 saturated), 230mg sodium, 2g carbohydrates (1 sugar) and zero protein.

It does have a pleasantly zippy vinegar flavor, but I’ll be careful to use less than the recommended serving size. I have found that mixing one tablespoon of dressing with an equal amount of water or juice, and tossing it with two salad portions, satisfies my husband and me. If that mixture is too thin for you, try mixing in a little dab of pepper jelly before tossing.

The dressing costs $2.09 for an 8-ounce bottle with 8 servings.

Beg To Differ

Even though one tablespoon of the new Land O’ Lakes Spreadable Butter has 11 grams of fat, I was willing to overlook that if the company’s claim of being “soft and easy to spread right out of the refrigerator!” is true. But it isn’t.

I tested the butter, which is combined with canola oil, on a grilled cheese sandwich. The butter scoops off with a butter knife in thin curls, but the curls aren’t spreadable right out of the fridge.

An 8-ounce tub costs $1.79 and contains 16 servings (1 serving = 1 tablespoon). A serving has 100 calories, 11g fat (4.5 saturated), 20mg cholesterol, 90mg sodium and zero carbohydrates or protein.

Small Package, Big Content

I found another mint chocolate treat, and this one is even unhealthier than the Keebler cookies. The new Mayfield Dairy Farms Mint Brown Cows taste fine if you like mint ice cream. But these smallish chocolate-coated ice cream bars are definitely not worth the nutritional price.

A box of six 3.3-ounce (98mL) bars costs $2.23, and each bar has 200 calories, 14g fat (10 saturated), 20mg cholesterol, 50mg sodium, 18g carbohydrates (13 sugars) and 3g protein. That’s 52 percent of the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat, and knowing that takes all the pleasure out of the treat for my family.

But hey! Here’s a terrific no-fat alternative: Keebler’s Fudge Shoppe Fudge Pops have, per 2-ounce (57g) serving, 70 calories, zero fat or cholesterol, 75mg sodium, 17g carbohydrates (zero fiber, 15 sugars) and zero protein. The frozen fudge pops cost 96 cents for eight servings.

Becky Billingsley, a.k.a. The Check-Out Chick, is the mother of two, a wife for 21 years and editor of Coastal Carolina Dining magazine. Like most busy moms, she often relies on convenience foods to get meals on the table in a hurry. She worries about whether these items provide proper nutrition and if she sacrifices too much of her grocery budget in exchange for ease of preparation. To find out how your local newspaper can run a weekly version of The Check-Out, click here and visit the companys website.

ME & MY ATKINS

As you regular readers are by now aware, Mr. Bad Food has been following the Atkins Nutritional Approach for the past 4 weeks. I began my journey to wellness at 224 pounds; this past Monday morning I weighed in at 208.

I may have lost just one pound this past week, but I am ecstatic. Why? Well, because I spent part of the week away on business. And while I pretty much stuck to my low-carb Atkins plan (I ordered a bunless cheeseburger for dinner one night), I failed to do a lick of exercise.

Oh, I had great plans when I headed to Florida. I was gonna find the nearest fitness center and I was gonna work up a sweat before I hooked up with friends and had a few drinks. I didn't skip the drinks, but I did blow off the fitness.

But I am happy to announce I am back on track this week. eDiets new fitness pro Raphael Calzadilla has me focused and sore... and it hurts so good! (Yes, you can call me John Yellin' Cramp.)

A recap of my weight loss to date: Week 1, 9 pounds... Week 2, 2 pounds... Week 3, 4 pounds... Week 4, 1 pound. The best part: I am losing weight while enjoying food. I love meat and that makes me an ideal candidate for the Atkins Nutritional Approach.

Be sure to check back next week for another update!

READER FEEDBACK

I feel compelled to comment on your Worst Foods column, and the supercilious, sanctimonious pomposity of some of the contributors. Particularly, I find it offensive when the comments ridicule cherished food traditions of a family or area. Certainly Tennessee Chocolate Mayonnaise cake is to be eaten in small doses, Sugar Cake is a rare treat, probably created when there was little else to cook from, Peanutty Chewy Caramel Bars were for church socials and the Sweet Pea Festival does only come once a year. Perhaps these food critics should loosen up and enjoy the occasional indulgence. My family, deep in the western Kentucky farmland, has a yearly reunion at the old homeplace, with several farm wagons covered with tablecloths and groaning under the load of Aunt Sug’s Carmel Pies, Grandmama’s 3-layer Coconut Cake, everybody’s country ham and homemade biscuits, homemade pickles, gallons of lemonade and iced tea, and every other old recipe you can think of, bacon grease flavoring the green beans/new potatoes and all. Everybody eats until they ache, visits and spreads out all over the lawn until they can go back for seconds of their old favorites. Do we eat like that everyday? Certainly not, but what a glorious feast once a year! My family’s lives are richer for the experience.
P.C., transplanted to Ohio

I have to tell you your articles involving the Atkins Approach have really inspired me. By tomorrow you will see my name listed as a full member to eDiets. I'm 6'3" and 350 pounds and find it hard to deal with what I call "rabbit food" for really long periods of time; and of course fall back into old habits. At the age of 33, I'm fully aware I am entirely too old to be this big and plan on doing something about it. I've actually begun hitting the gym this week starting with cardio and will build from there. Since I'm not going forward with much of the pressure I used to put on myself, eating and exercise are feeling good.
W. Fludd, soon to be Supperman's sidekick

I enjoy reading your Worst Foods column very much! It's very informative and entertaining. One suggestion: please have more of those worst foods stories from the readers! It's not only fun to read, but it put things into perspective. When you read about the unhealthy things people have seen/eaten, it makes you stop and think what you've been eating as well. Keep up the good work!
J.L.

I feel nauseated after reading all of these horror stories. One thing I will never eat again that is available everywhere is Sonic's chili cheese fries. I was eating it one day and had it tipped to the side and when I saw grease run to the side i felt sick.
April

Boy I always get a kick out of reading the Worst Foods stories from other eDieters. Some of the snacks sound pretty good sometimes, but overall I think this column works like aversion therapy for me. I can't help gagging and ughing as I read through. Keep 'em coming!
Alice L.

I just want to thank you for all the horror you share with us. I read the latest a little after breakfast (a low-fat waffle with honey) and it made my stomach churn. And to think that we eat things like fries and baked beans like they form the primary food groups. Keep it going so that every time we think of treating ourselves it's not at the expense of our health.
Kavita

I have avoided reading your column because I am highly suggestable about food indulgences I have not tried. But, I must say none of the Hall of Shame list even tempted me. Maybe I am getting better or possibly more serious than I thought about getting healthy. So, thank you for the challenge and revelations.
Peet

Before your worst food concoctions were really disgusting but this week's article has a lot of foods that sound really delicious: chili cheese fries, hot dog with chili, cheese, Fritos and sour cream. Yum! Please don't print the ones that actually sound good they are making my mouth water. Stick to the pickle juice and mayonnaise on donuts kind of disgusting stuff that will drive most people away from the fridge.
Cathy

I have heard it from all my co-workers for years! They all like to give me grief over the Atkins program. Then as they watched me slim down and feel better than I have in years they began to wonder... is Atkins for them too? I am pleased to report I have quite a few converts in my department. Anyway, I have found Atkins to be the only way to keep my weight under control! I am a carb junkie in rehab :)
Georgia G.

LEAVE 'EM LAUGHING (we hope!)

The following was submitted by Penny O'Brien. If you have a funny or thought-provoking article be sure to send it my way -- the email address follows.

Blame Game
--Author Unknown

Let's see if I understand how the world works lately...

If a man cuts his finger off while slicing salami at work, he blames the restaurant.

If you smoke three packs a day for 40 years and die of lung cancer, your family blames the tobacco company.

If your neighbor crashes into a tree while driving home drunk, he blames the bartender.

If your grandchildren are brats without manners, you blame television.

If your friend is shot by a deranged madman, you blame the gun manufacturer.

And if a crazed person breaks into the cockpit and tries to kill the pilot at 35,000 feet, and the passengers kill him instead, the mother of the crazed deceased blames the airline.

I must have lived too long to understand the world as it is anymore. So, if I die while my old, wrinkled butt is parked in front of this computer, I want you to blame Bill Gates...okay?

Well, until next week, the fridge door is closed. But if you have any questions and/or comments -- or even a tasteful joke or Hall of Shame nominee to share -- feel free to write me, eDiets editor-in-chief John McGran, at john@ediets.com.

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