6 New Convenience Foods - Convenience Or
eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource
With the busy lives people lead nowadays,
convenience foods are flying off grocery store shelves. But are consumers
paying too high a price, in terms of money and health, for quick and easy food?
Here, about once a month, well check out grocery products and let you know if
theyre worth your money.
Against the laws of nature
with all the blue food on store shelves these days? Its not even a nice,
natural purplish blueberry blue -- there are screaming neon blue gelatins,
puddings, cereals and cookie fillings. And now, Im sorry to report there are
blue French fries.
And thats not all. In addition to the
Kool Blue variety, Ore Idas new line of Funky Fries (the name is
accurate, because they sure are funky) offers Sour Cream & Jive, Crunchy
Rings, Cinna-Stiks and Cocoa Crispers.
Chocolate French fries. Really.
The first time I spotted these in the
grocery store, the boys refused to try them. It took a week of wheedling before
theyd agree to sample Funky Fries.
We paid $2 each for the blue ones and the
chocolate. A non-resealable bag has about seven 17-piece servings.
I was confused about the chocolate ones.
Are they a side dish, dessert or snack? We decided to cook both flavors as a
mid-morning snack, after our basketball practice when were all
I baked one serving of each kind
(theyre not meant to be fried) and called in the boys.
The blue ones were surprisingly crispy and
actually tasted good. They even stayed crispy after cooling off.
The chocolate ones were just as yucky as we
feared, and Hubby wouldnt even try them. His comment was,
Gross! He was right -- theyre too sweet and have an intense
But even though we thought the blue fries
were tasty, none of us want to eat them again. For one thing, we want our fries
to be golden brown. The other reason well avoid them is the nutrition
information. Even though these fries are baked, their calorie and fat values
Heres how they breakdown, per
Kool Blue: 250 calories, 15 grams of fat
(24 percent of the daily allowance based on a 2,000-calorie diet, and 2.5 of
them are saturated), zero cholesterol, 540 milligrams sodium (22 percent of the
daily allowance), 20 grams carbohydrate (1 fiber, less than 1 sugars) and 2
Cocoa Crispers: 300 calories, 16 grams fat
(2.5 saturated), zero cholesterol, 360 milligrams sodium, 31 grams carbohydrate
(2 fiber, 19 sugars) and 1 gram protein.
Compare these to store brand Grade A
Fancy Crinkle Cut French Fried Potatoes, which per baked 18-piece serving
have 130 calories, 4 grams of fat (1 saturated), zero cholesterol, 320
milligrams sodium, 21 grams carbohydrate (2 fiber, zero sugars) and 2 grams
My final word: I think some people might be
lulled into thinking Funky Fries is a healthy snack because its based on
potatoes. The nutrition info speaks for itself. Im also wondering to whom
they would appeal. Toddlers maybe?
Interesting bit of trivia: McCain Foods,
which makes the store brand of French fries I bought, also makes Ore-Ida French
fries that are sold commercially, such as to cafeterias and restaurants. But
its Heinz that makes the Ore-Ida Funky Fries.
We checked out three of the four varieties
of the new Dinner Starters from Louis Rich. For about $4, you get a plate-size
box containing about a cup of large diced grilled chicken breast and a plastic
packet of sauce: Teriyaki, Sweet & Sour, Four Cheese or Alfredo. You
provide your own rice or pasta.
I'd say we all tried them but our younger
son is anti-sauce, so he ate plain grilled chicken and brown rice. Turns out he
was the smart one in the family.
These meal kits are extremely easy to
prepare. Simply mix the chicken and sauce, then warm in the microwave or in a
saucepan on the stove. While its suggested that the Four Cheese flavor be
served over pasta, I served it, the Teriyaki and the Sweet & Sour over
brown rice. Each box says it has about three 1/2-cup servings, which is
reasonable if youre also having a couple of other side dishes.
As for taste, our older son inhaled all of
the teriyaki after Hubby and I each had a few bites. We all liked that one. The
12-year-old and I thought the sweet and sour was way too sweet, but Hubby said
it was all right. And while our son shunned the cheesy sauce, Hubby
and I liked that one the best.
It figures. That one is the most fat-laden,
and we all know that Fat = Taste. Sigh...
The nutrition numbers per 1/2-cup serving
are discouraging: Four Cheese: 300 calories (210 from fat), 23 grams fat (12
saturated), 95 milligrams cholesterol, 1,060 milligrams sodium, 3 grams
carbohydrate (2 sugars) and 21 grams protein.
Teriyaki: 220 calories (25 from fat), 3
grams fat, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 1,390 milligrams sodium, 20 grams
carbohydrate (16 sugars) and 16 grams protein.
Sweet & Sour: 190 calories (25 from
fat), 3 grams fat, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 830 milligrams sodium, 26 grams
carbohydrate (20 sugars) and 15 grams protein.
This is definitely a case of trading
healthy nutrition for convenience. The cheese version has almost two-thirds of
the daily allowance of saturated fat and 44 percent of the sodium. The teriyaki
is low in fat, but has 58 percent of the daily allowance of sodium. Our least
favorite flavor, the sweet and sour, still has 35 percent of the sodium
Its almost as easy to grill my own
chicken, then mix orange juice, soy sauce (just enough to cut the sweetness),
corn starch, ginger and garlic to make my own sweet and sour sauce. Its
certainly much healthier.
disgusting snack? Try Bordens new 3-D Cheese chunks, which cost about $1.25 for
These are nickel-size cheese bits in the
shapes of sports balls that come in American, Pizza or Nacho flavors. The
package says theyre Soft & Chewy, but the boys and I think
theyre so rubbery they really could be miniature soccer balls.
Whats worse, each 14-piece serving
has 90 calories (50 from fat), 6 grams of fat (3.5 saturated), 18 milligrams
cholesterol, 400 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrate (0 fiber, less than 1
sugars) and 4 grams protein.
While the boys and I couldnt imagine
anyone making it through a 14-piece serving, one Sunday afternoon Hubby ate
half a bag while watching NASCAR.
Not bad, he said, reaching for
another handful and munching his way through the race.
I couldnt bear to watch.
You'll Scooby Roo the day
on the wave of Scooby Mania, Keebler has a limited edition of Scooby Mini
Sandwich Cookies. Think mini Oreos, only not as tasty. This version is harder
and crunchier than the old cream-filled sandwich cookie icon.
I never could figure out the appeal of
miniature Oreos, anyway: Theyre too hard to dunk.
The nutrition information isnt
encouraging, either. A $2 box has about eight 7-cookie servings, and each
serving has 140 calories (50 from fat), 5 grams fat (1 saturated), zero
cholesterol, 90 milligrams sodium, 21 grams carbohydrate (less than 1 of fiber,
12 sugars) and 1 gram protein.
My experience in eating miniature cookies
is to reach into the box and pull out a handful, which would equal about one
serving. Do I stop at one handful? Usually not, and I imagine most other people
who eat them dont either. Its easy to mindlessly eat a few handfuls
because theyre so little, and then realize too late that it was a triple
The boys didnt care much for these
Scooby snacks. Almost six weeks after I bought a box, half of it remained.
When I married Hubby 20 years ago, I
promised him two things: I would not have any product selling parties at our
home (i.e. Tupperware or Mary Kay cosmetics), and I would not serve him
Helper meals, such as Hamburger Helper.
We broke the second rule, for the sake of
research, to check out Betty Crockers new Homestyle Chicken & Mashed
Potatoes Chicken Helper. I knew better than to even try and serve it to the
boys they had lean burgers, peas and applesauce that night. Hubby and I were
For about $1.50 you get a box with packets
of dry gravy mix and seasoned instant mashed potatoes. You provide four
boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks, that are sautéed in butter.
When the outside of the chicken turns white, add water, milk and the gravy mix
While the chicken is cooking, mix boiling
water, milk and butter with the potato flakes. In a few minutes the entree is
ready, the idea being to serve the potatoes with the chicken and gravy on
The box is supposed to contain six 1-cup
servings, but Hubby and I easily ate all of the potatoes. About half the gravy
was left over, so we each ate a serving and a half of that.
Our verdict: so-so. Its nothing
wed care to eat again. It was too salty and excessively starchy.
Each prepared half-cup serving has 9 grams
fat (2 saturated), 50 milligrams cholesterol, 790 milligrams sodium, 24 grams
carbohydrate (2 sugars) and 20 grams protein.
Messing with tradition
Loyal readers already know my feelings
about tinkering with junk food icons. Leave em alone, I say!
My family thinks Nabisco made a huge
mistake with its new Double Delight Oreos. The chocolate cookie parts are the
same, but the filling is half peanut butter, half chocolate creme.
The boys wouldnt even try them, so
you might think about asking your children about their initial impressions
before spending around $3.50 for 24 cookies. Hubby and I gave them a shot: I
kind of like the peanut butter filling, but think the chocolate creme is way
too sweet. Hubby simply didnt care for them at all. Were going to
give away the rest of the package.
The nutrition info gives us even more
reason to give Double Delights a pass: One 2-cookie serving has 140 calories, 7
grams of fat (1.5 saturated), zero cholesterol, 150 milligrams sodium, 20 grams
carbohydrate (1 fiber, 12 sugars) and 2 grams protein.
Becky Billingsley, a.k.a. The Check-Out
Chick, is the mother of two, a wife for 20 years and a food writer. 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
Looking for a few tasteful jokes you can
share with family and friends? Well, you're in luck... we've got the latest of
the greatest sent in by readers. Enjoy!
My friend Rosalia passed along a few
funnies that slightly tarnish the aura of Golden-Agers. Please don't get angry
-- eDiets loves seniors! :o)
A man was telling his neighbor, "I just
bought a new hearing aid. It cost me $4,000, but it's state of the
"Really?" answered the neighbor. "What kind
Joke 2: As a senior citizen was
driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's
voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a
car going the wrong way on Interstate 280. Please be careful!"
"It's not just one car," said Herman. "It's
hundreds of them!"
Marjorie Healey calls this her all-time
Question: What do you get when you cross
a hundred deer and a hundred pigs?
Answer: Two hundred sows and bucks.
Jessica Clark caps off this week's column
Three men are waiting outside the
delivery room with the hospital chaplain as the nurse comes out and calls, "Mr.
Smith, congratulations you have twins!" Mr. Smith replies, "That's so funny
because I work for the Minnesota Twins."
Shortly thereafter another nurse comes out
and announces "Mr. Jones, congratulations you have triplets!" Mr. Jones
replies, "Wow, that's kind of amazing the last guy worked for the Twins and had
twins -- I had triplets and I work for Triple A."
Just then the third gentleman turns ghostly
white and begins sweating, as he darts for the door the chaplain stops him and
says, "Son, your wife is in having your child why are you leaving like this?"
The gentleman replies "The first guy had twins and works for the Twins... the
second works for Triple A and had triplets... I work for 7-Eleven."
Until next week, the kitchen is closed. But
if you have any questions and/or comments, feel free to write me, eDiets
editor-in-chief John McGran at firstname.lastname@example.org.