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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

A Split Decision for the New Healthy Choice

At Dr. Gourmet, we really are all about the food. (And yes, "We eat it so you don't have to.") This week we reviewed two meals from "the New Healthy Choice" that together are a great example of our focus on great food.

One meal has only 270 calories, but it contains 7 grams of fat, 550 milligrams of sodium, and only 5 grams of fiber. The other has 360 calories, with 5 grams of fat, 500 milligrams of sodium, and a whopping 12 grams of fiber.

Which one do you think we liked better?

Mediterranean PastaThe first meal we tested was the Mediterranean Pasta, which is described as "9 grain orzo pasta and red rice topped with northern beans, sweet apples and cranberries." If you think this sounds a little odd, well, it is. The pasta/rice combination gives the meal a nice texture, the northern beans (some of my favorites) are firm and the onion slices are crunchy. All good.

Yet the apples and cranberries, combined with the cinnamon-flavored sauce, make the whole meal oddly sweet, as though you took your grandma's apple-cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and stirred plain beans, rice and pasta in it. This meal would actually be better if it were prepared specifically to be served cold - as a salad. As a hot meal it tries hard but I found the sweetness off-putting. Thumbs down.

Portabella Marsala PastaThe second meal was the Portabella Marsala Pasta, described as "9 grain pasta with baby portabella mushrooms and marsala wine sauce, topped with fontina cheese." I was prepared for this to be both bad and bland, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pasta holds up to microwaving really well. It's nearly al dente and the mushrooms aren't turned to mush either. The wine sauce isn't cloyingly sweet (as marsala sauce can so easily be) but actually allows you to taste both the mushrooms and the pasta. Wow. This one's pretty good.

So which meal was which? On the basis of the numbers alone, the one I would have expected to like the best, with the 12 grams of fiber and only 500 milligrams of sodium, was the Mediterranean Pasta. The Portabella Marsala Pasta only has 5 grams of fiber and a little more sodium at 550 milligrams. Good numbers, however, don't necessarily mean great food. Have the Portabella Marsala Pasta and eat well - you're still eating pretty healthy.

Reviewed: May 8, 2009