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We saw them in our local grocery store: a new product line from Healthy Choice called "Healthy Choice Zero Bowls."
According to the Healthy Choice website, this line has "0 preservatives - 0 artificial colors - 0 artificial flavors - 0g added sugar" that were "inspired by and created for those who are looking for healthy, low carb lifestyle meals that deliver restaurant-level flavor."
While I can certainly applaud the lack of added sugars, I won't even bother to remark on the "low carb lifestyle" claim. "Restaurant-level flavor"? Let's find out.
This week we began our tasting with the Carne Asada, which has just 200 calories with 440mg sodium and 6 grams of fiber.
Looks pretty good, doesn't it? It certainly smells good, with a savory, spicy ancho chili scent. There are lots of colorful vegetables: yellow squash, red tomato and a whole lot of green from bell peppers to kale and spinach.
But to echo an old commercial: "Where's the beef?"
According to the ingredients list, "seasoned braised beef" is the #1 ingredient, meaning it is the largest ingredient by weight. My wife quipped, "It must be by weight because it sure as heck isn't by volume." We dug around in the bowl and found that the "seasoned braised beef" is cut into pieces less than 1/2 inch square and have all the texture of rubber bands.
A closer look at the vegetables is just as disappointing. While the yellow squash is sweet and fairly tender, the greens are very finely shredded and just end up overcooked. The green bell pepper and tomatoes are no better.
The sauce is the real highlight of the meal, where (for once) the scent is borne out in the flavor. Unfortunately, it's not enough to make this "restaurant-level flavor". Our verdict? Meh.
After that disappointment, the Tomato Basil Chicken should have been better: chicken, pasta, and plenty of vegetables, including asparagus and zucchini, in a tomato basil sauce?
What you really get is tons of zucchini, a few scattered bits of chicken (the white chunks in the middle and lower right and left of the picture), chopped tomatoes, and the smallest penne pasta I have ever seen - some of which were inedibly dried out due to the lack of moisture in the dish.
The package claims that the dish is topped with mozzarella, but we found none. Nor did we find any asparagus tips - just pieces of stalk. The flavor of the tomato sauce is faint at best, with no real flavor or herbs or spices of any kind. In fact the overall scent is almost chemical.
It's unfortunate, as both meals were great ideas. They just weren't well thought out or executed. Perhaps Healthy Choice could stop coming up with catchy new product lines and focus on making meals that taste good.
Posted: June 11, 2021