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Back in April I noted that I regularly walk right past the Weight Watchers frozen food section on the way to their much larger neighbors because their range of offerings was rather smaller than, say, Lean Cuisine. It was a nice surprise to find two completely new - and good - varieties, the Ravioli Florentine and the Cheese Ravioli in a Mushroom Cream Sauce, so when I went looking for options for today's review, I went straight to the Weight Watchers section to see if lightning could strike twice.
When I give talks about eating healthy, and specifically about healthy recipes, one of the ideas I like to emphasize is the idea of calorie density. Foods with higher calorie density will have a greater number of calories for a smaller amount of food: chocolate is a good example of a food with high calorie density. The opposite, of course, is low calorie density: a larger amount of food for fewer calories. Vegetables like broccoli or carrots are great examples of foods with low calorie density. If you take calorie density into account, you can create recipes that are lower in calories but are still satisfying because you don't feel like you're being deprived. Today's items are also pretty good examples of low calorie density: lots of vegetables make the meals larger in volume while the number of total calories remain low.
The Crustless Chicken Pot Pie has chicken dumplings instead of a crust - at least that's how it's described on the box. If I were Weight Watchers I'd rethink that description, as "dumplings" implies fluffy pillows of the size and shape of gnocchi (says our tasting panel). What's actually in the box (and is, oddly enough, labeled as such in the Nutrition Information) is spaetzle, which are more like thick, slightly chewy egg noodles less than an inch in length. Those who are expecting gnocchi-like dumplings will be disappointed on that score, so bear that in mind if you purchase this meal.
That said, this is a lot of food for only 200 calories: easily a dozen or more moderately-sized chicken chunks are mixed with a chicken gravy and a truly impressive amount of vegetables, including sliced carrot rounds, sliced celery, peas, and carrots, all of which are nicely al dente. The chicken is definitely processed - it's rather smooth in texture but for a bit of gristle we found in one piece - but the chunks are juicy and savory and "pretty darn good." The gravy's aroma reminded the panel of "either my grandma's gravy from a mix or the kind from the lunch lady," but they allowed that this was actually good: "It's comfort food, after all."
One caveat on this meal as well as the Creamy Basil Chicken with Broccoli: the calories are low but the sodium levels are relatively high for both meals: for the 200 calories in the Pot Pie there's 580 milligrams of sodium - nearly 3 milligrams of sodium for every calorie. The Creamy Basil Chicken has even fewer calories and more sodium: 180 to 620: almost 3.5 milligrams of sodium to every calorie. That's a very high sodium-to-calorie ratio, so bear that in mind if you are monitoring your sodium and still choosing to eat frozen meals.
The Creamy Basil Chicken with Broccoli has the same chicken as the Pot Pie: processed, but acceptable. While this meal is labeled gluten-free, those with GERD should avoid it as there's quite a bit of pepper in the sauce. It gives the dish "a bit of zing," according to the panel, but was unexpected. A truly generous amount of only slightly overdone broccoli (mostly florets, which is unusual) is dotted with diced red peppers, all in a subtly basil-flavored cream sauce. That sauce starts out a little thin but does thicken up fairly quickly. The panel felt that overall, Weight Watchers could have backed off on the pepper and punched up the basil, but they felt it was still a good, solid dish that (again) those not concerned about their sodium intake might enjoy.
Reviewed: June 17, 2016