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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Lean Cuisine

Tortilla Crusted Fish and 'Protein Kick' Ricotta Cheese & Spinach Ravioli

Tortilla Crusted Fish from Lean Cuisine

It's still hard to find frozen convenience meals that include seafood. Dishes with shellfish - usually shrimp - are far easier to find than fish dishes, and even then there are precious few of either. Lean Cuisine, for example, has just 1 fish dish currently listed on its website and 2 shrimp dishes. We can't say we've tested every seafood dish Lean Cuisine has made in the last 10-15 years, but we have records of 8 different dishes that we've reviewed.

So we thought it worthwhile to revisit the only fish dish they now continue to make, which we last reviewed in 2019: the Tortilla Crusted Fish.

Tortilla Crusted Fish from Lean Cuisine, after cooking

Today this dish has 320 calories, 440 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of fiber, while three years ago it had 310 calories and 480 milligrams of sodium, with the same amount of fiber.

Less sodium in a dish that was already low in sodium? That's unheard-of.

This is still a half-inch-thick filet of Alaskan Pollock crusted with savory cornmeal. Sure, it would be great if the breading were crunchy, but that's unlikely to happen in a microwave, and there are no conventional oven directions on the package.

The fish is flaky - not overcooked by any means - and is rather tasty, with a gentle fish flavor. This is accompanied by rather overcooked white rice (brown rice would hold up so much better) that's served with crunchy diced poblano and red bell peppers in a cheesy sauce with hints of sour cream.

From the description it sounds very much like what we tasted in 2019, but today the panel judged it "excellent" and said they wouldn't mind eating it regularly.

Is it that much better than before, or have the convenience meals we've tasted in the last three years been that bad?

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Hot Pocket

Next up is from a new product line: "Protein Kick." The line is so new that this particular product, the Ricotta Cheese & Spinach Ravioli, doesn't even appear on Lean Cuisine's website.

This whole line appears to be cashing in on the high protein craze. Only one "Protein Kick" product appears on the website as of press time: a Pepperoni Pizza with 21 grams of protein that is prominently labeled "excellent source of protein". Four more varieties found through an Internet search also tout their protein content, from 15 to 21 grams of protein per meal.

Today's ravioli only has 10 grams of protein to go with its 250 calories, 660 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of fiber. Oddly enough, this appears to be identical to the Ricotta Cheese & Spinach Ravioli from their "Lean Cuisine Features" line.

Ah, marketing.

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Hot Pocket, after cooking

This includes six ravioli a little larger than silver dollars (perhaps two inches?) across. The pasta is rather softer than we would like, and they're filled with a mix of ricotta and chopped spinach that may fill out the individual raviole to a quarter-inch thickness.

The problem with this dish is the sauce. The dish has 10 grams of total sugar to go with its 10 grams of protein, and 4 grams of that is added sugar. That means that in addition to the teaspoon of sugar in the other ingredients, such as tomatoes or perhaps cheeses, there's a full teaspoon of sugar added to this single serving - in the form of brown sugar (yes, it's right there in the ingredients list).

The tasting panel didn't quite gag. "Is this ravioli?... or candy?" a panelist asked. It's sweet. Incredibly sweet. Disgustingly sweet. To add insult to injury, this dish also includes calcium chloride, a salt substitute, which adds a nauseating metallic flavor to the dish. Sweet and metallic? Leave this on the shelf. Yuck.

Have the fish instead.

Posted: November 18, 2022