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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Weight Watchers Smart Ones

Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata and Three Cheese Ziti Marinara

This week we have two from Weight Watchers Smart Ones' "Classic Favorites." Overall, Weight Watchers' frozen meals have a pretty good track record from us in terms of thumbs up versus thumbs down. So why does their bright red packaging seem so... depressing?

Weight Watchers Smart Ones Lemon Herb Chicken PiccataThe first meal we tried this week was the Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata. It's billed as "grilled white meat chicken in a tangy lemon sauce with rice and spring vegetables." And it is that, but I'm dubious as to why they named it "piccata." In cooking parlance, "piccata" means that the meat has been pounded - Veal Piccata is a classic example.

There's a reasonable amount of overcooked white rice here with the julienned carrots that are almost mushy. The frenched green beans retain their crunch, however, and the chicken chunks are tender, but the whole meal is curiously bland.

Yes, the bright yellow, gooey sauce tastes of lemon, but there's really no other flavor to it at all. No other herbs or flavorings that I could detect - and I tried hard to find some. The meal has reasonable numbers at 230 calories, 540 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of fiber, but if all that can recommend it in terms of flavor is that it's... inoffensive... we can't justify telling you to eat it when there are so much better products that are available from Weight Watchers. Leave this one on the shelf and get one with some flavor, like the Tuna Noodle Gratin or the Pasta with Ricotta and Spinach.

Weight Watchers Smart Ones Three Cheese Ziti MarinaraThe Three Cheese Ziti Marinara box looked oddly familiar, so I checked our records and discovered that we had reviewed this one a couple of years ago. Well, the numbers had changed, however, to 300 calories versus the older 320 calories, and the sodium had been slightly reduced, from 590 milligrams to 580, so it seemed worthwhile to revisit it as we've done with other meals. This is, however, essentially the same product: overcooked, mushy tubes of pasta in a surprisingly good marinara sauce with good tomato and oregano flavors. (See? Weight Watchers does know how to use herbs in their foods.)

There's a fairly generous amount of cheese included in this one, making it nearly the definition of comfort food: savory, mushy, and there at least seems like a lot of it. This is the sort of thing your kids would love - just be sure to serve it with a side salad to round out the meal.

Reviewed: July 1, 2011