June 10, 2009 in Food

Healthy Choice entrees earn mixed reviews

By Correspondent

Be choosy when choosing among the new Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers Entrees.

Food panel members loved one, were lukewarm on another and hated the final dish during a recent tasting of the shelf-stable meals.

The dishes come with pasta sauce and rice or noodles in a microwaveable container that doubles as a strainer. Cook the grains or pasta and strain, stir in the sauce and lunch is served.

The Ziti with Meat Sauce got a hearty thumbs-up from tasters, while the Sweet and Sour Chicken meal scored just a whiff better than inedible. The Szechwan Beef with Asian was tolerable, but nothing to brag about.

Let’s start with the good: Most panel members liked the ziti and sauce.

“Tastes homemade, maybe better,” raved Lindi Messenger. “Nice firm macaroni in a flavorful marinara style meat sauce. The meat in this sauce has a great texture and tastes freshly prepared.”

Vicki Deschaine agreed: “I’d add a dash of parmesan cheese to this for an almost-home-cooked meal.”

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the pasta dish.

“This is a decent prepared dinner. But really, how hard could it be to make this yourself?” Tina Johnson asked. “Al dente pasta with a slightly spicy red sauce with tasty meat.”

Skip Hubbard wasn’t impressed. “Average, garden-variety pasta and tomato sauce,” he said.

Next came the ugly part of our tasting: Szechwan Beef with Asian Style Noodles

“Slippery sweet noodles with mystery meat and mushy pseudo-vegetables. Only fair, and not cheap,” said Andy Hoye.

Larry Inman won’t be rushing out to buy any, either. “Not a flavor that appeals to me. Oily and a little mushy,” he said.

That’s when things got ugly. The Healthy Choice Sweet and Sour Chicken scored just one and a half stars on our five-star scale.

“I’m assuming this is some version of sweet and sour,” said Jenny Whittaker.

Hubbard had a guess: “Sweet and sour yuck.”

Andy Hoye thought it was strange. “Odd smell, odd color, odd taste, odd meat … all very odd,” he said.

Messenger said it didn’t even look good: “Unappetizing eye appeal. Rice floating in watery liquid with bits of color – pineapple, red and green pepper. Bits of meat lack flavor and firmness and the veggies are mushy.”

Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers also are available in Southwestern Style Chicken, Rotini and Zesty Marinara Sauce and Sesame Teriyaki Chicken.

Approach with caution.

Healthy Choice Szechwan Beef with Asian Style Noodles

Price: $3.99 per 6.95-ounce meal

Nutrition per serving: 370 calories, 6 grams fat (2 grams saturated, 14 percent fat calories), 14 grams protein, 65 grams carbohydrate, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams dietary fiber, 600 milligrams sodium.

Taste: • • 1/2

Value: • • 1/2

Comments: “Way too sweet for an entree – maybe dessert? The veggies are soft and the meat is a funky color.” – Tina Johnson

“Nice blend of sweetness to spiciness. Noodles were cooked just right, but the veggies were mushy and the little bits of meat were unidentifiable. A bit oily, but nice flavor.”– Lindi Messenger

“Sweet, spicy sauce mixed with noodles and processed meat product. A few red pepper pieces scattered throughout.” – Jenny Whittaker

Healthy Choice Ziti with Meat Sauce

Price: $3.99 per 6.95-ounce meal

Nutrition per serving: 340 calories, 6 grams fat (2 grams saturated, 6 percent fat calories), 15 grams protein, 65 grams carbohydrate, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams dietary fiber, 600 milligrams sodium.

Taste: • • • 1/2

Value: • • • 1/2

Comments: “Could use some spices, mainly salt. Tastes spicy, but like plain tomato sauce. Nice firm pieces of meat, needs something to jazz it up.” – Nancy Robinson

“Sauce saves the day. Nice tangy flavor.” – Larry Inman

“The sauce is spicy and flavorful. For a quick snack, I think the kids would like this.” – Peggy Kazanis

Healthy Choice Sweet and Sour Chicken

Price: $3.99 per 7.65-ounce meal

Nutrition per serving: 390 calories, 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated, 7 percent fat calories), 12 grams protein, 78 grams carbohydrate, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams dietary fiber, 400 milligrams sodium.

Taste: • 1/2

Value: • 1/2

Comments: “Doesn’t look too good but tastes OK, kind of bland but could use some help. It’s edible. I’d bring one to lunch.” – Nancy Robinson

“Ick. Who thinks up this stuff? There is enough sugar in this to keep your kid hopped up way past bed time.” – Tina Johnson

“Only taste that comes through is the pineapple. Meat is bulk only, other items add nothing.” – Larry Inman

“Tastes like a rice and chemical dish with a sweet sauce.” – Peggy Kazanis

Products sampled by The Spokesman-Review’s reader food panel are prepared according to package directions. Panelists are not aware of a product’s brand name or price until after they have tasted it. Products are rated from one to five stars for taste and for value, based on quality compared to price.

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