Suggested Retail Price: $2.50
Amid the clutter of the frozen food section, entrées by the natural-foods company Kashi really stand out against their garishly colored peers. Their packages feature plentiful white space, elegant graphic design, and lush photos framed by Zen-style circles of paint. They also display the following “haiku”:
Seven whole grain meals
Awaken all my senses
Warm and delightful
After stabbing my eyes out with a cocktail fork, I located the microwave by feeling my way along the kitchen counter. I then sampled three of Kashi’s nine available entrées. And I’m glad I did. Most frozen meals I’ve tried tend to stick to an uncanny spectrum ranging from Stouffer’s (generally heavy as the dickens and terrible for you) to Weight Watchers (good for you but bland and soggy). Kashi entrées, however, have engaging texture; bright, thoughtful flavor contrasts; and agreeable lightness.
The Lemongrass Coconut Chicken packs a lot of flavor into an entertaining combination of chicken, broccoli florets, carrots, and sugar snap peas, served over a whole-grain pilaf starring red quinoa. The vegetables are mediocre (not soggy, though not very good), but the moist, tender chicken has a distinctly lemongrass-infused taste, and the pilaf practically pops with robust texture and a nutty flavor.
The Southwest Style Chicken is equally successful, in large part because it also relies upon a tasty whole-grain pilaf. Distinct notes of cumin and lime play nicely off the chicken and the flavor of (slightly over) roasted tomatoes.
Chicken Pasta Pomodoro was a comparative disappointment, featuring an anemic and almost irrelevant tomato, garlic, and basil sauce. That said, it ranked as edible, putting it at around the 60th percentile for nuke ’n’ puke meals.
Seven whole-grain meals
Really solid, overall
Don’t commercialize haiku, because not only does it degrade the art form, it appeals only to superficial boneheads
By: Promise, Dannon, Yoplait
Suggested Retail Price: Promise Activ SuperShots, $3.99 for four 3.3-ounce shots; Dannon Activia, $2.47 for four 4-ounce containers; Yo-Plus, $2.58 for four 4-ounce containers
Yogurts promising superboosted health benefits are all over the place, so it seems as though we’re overdue for a latitudinal survey of how some of these products stack up, taste-wise. I’ve rated the three products individually, below. The stars for taste and marketing, above, represent an average of all the products.
I started with Promise Activ SuperShots’s peach flavor, a yogurt beverage “with natural plant sterols … clinically proven to help remove cholesterol … as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.” Each box comprises four individual “shot” containers. If you’ve ever enjoyed the smooth, yogurty goodness of a mango lassi, you’ll probably dig Promise Activ. Although it has a chalkiness faintly redolent of Pepto-Bismol, the yogurt/peach flavor dominates, and the whole shot goes down smoothly. It’s neither oversweet nor overtart. Four stars for taste and marketing.
Next up: peach-flavored Dannon Activia, featuring the award-winning comedy stylings of Bifidus RegularisTM, the U.S. trade name for a “probiotic” bacteria that aids digestion. It’s hard to be thrilled with the downward-blasting-arrow-on-naked-tummy logo—as close as you can come to illustrating a bowel movement as a street-sign-ready icon—but there is an audience for this stuff. On the tail of the Promise Activ shot, the Dannon tastes almost candylike; fructose syrup is ingredient number two, and sugar is ingredient number four, so go figure. Tiny chunks of peach add textural amusement and some natural fruit flavor. But they have to fight hard to be heard over all the sweeteners. Two stars for taste and two for marketing.
Ready to “naturally regulate [your] digestive health”? Pick up some peach-flavored Yo-Plus, from Yoplait, and get your intestines on. Although it tastes as sweet as Dannon Activia (sugar is the second ingredient here), Yo-Plus has the marked advantage of boasting a crisp citrus note. It’s actually a bit tart, making the sweetness of the peach (and tiny peach bits) more interesting. Three stars each for taste and marketing.