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Taster's Choice: Low-calorie frozen meals

Serving size One meal One meal One meal One meal
Calories 310 260 210 300
Fat/fiber 7g / 5g 7g / 1g 4.5g / 4g 4g / 4g
Sugars/sodium 5g / 690mg 3g / 720mg 2g / 560mg 3g / 660mg
Carbs/protein 39g / 23g 36g / 12g 25g / 17g 39g / 28g


Many of us don't have to look past the scale to remember how much fun we had on the holiday party circuit. We're back on our diets and eating low-calorie, low-fat meals. Luckily for us, grocery store freezers are packed with calorie-counted convenience foods. A couple of companies are even offering steam-in-the-bag versions for simpler preparation. This week, our tasters sampled four chicken Alfredo pasta meals from popular frozen meal makers. Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score

(out of 100)
Lean Cuisine

Chicken

Alfredo

61
Michelina's

Lean Gourmet Chicken Alfredo Florentine 56

Healthy Choice Chicken Alfredo 46Weight Watchers

Smart Ones

Chicken

and

Broccoli

Alfredo

35
Judges'

comments
Freshness was the key to the success of this frozen meal. Judges were impressed with the crisp florets of broccoli and the texture of the chicken. "It's not rubbery," said one. The dish had a strong garlic flavor along with flecks of carrots and yellow pepper. The penne pasta was firm and the sauce was well-proportioned with a mild taste. "This would be especially good for a workday lunch at your desk," said one panelist.Judges raved about the flavor of the sauce in Michelina's frozen dish. "The sauce is light, fresh and super friendly," said one judge. "This has an actual Alfredo flavor, creamy sauce and flecks of spinach," said another. "The only downfall is the pasta is too soft," complained one panelist. A couple winced at the cubed shape of the chicken, although they said the flavor was pleasing. "The diced chicken just reminds me of high school lunch," said one.Healthy Choice's frozen meal was very heavy on spinach and loaded with herbs. Still, judges said they were disappointed in the taste. "It's got roasted tomato and sliced white meat chicken, but it lacks strong flavor," said one.The pasta in this dish was very firm and the broccoli was fresh enough for our judges. However, they all complained about the overall meal. One said the chicken had nice grill marks, but very dry texture. Another said the cheese tasted fake. "Nothing says Alfredo about this," said one panelist. "It would be easy to diet on this menu," added another.
Would

they buy?
Two of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$2.50 for a 10.5-ounce pouch from Walmart.$1 for an 8-ounce tray from Walmart.$1.78 for an 8.5-ounce tray from Walmart.$3.18 for an 11.7-ounce pouch from Walmart.


Panelists: Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Clinique of Plastic Surgery in St. Petersburg; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to jkeeler@tampabay.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

Taster's Choice: Low-calorie frozen meals 01/10/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 3:30am]
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