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Today's offerings are from Life Cuisine, which looks suspiciously like Lean Cuisine - and both are owned by Nestlé. The last time we tasted products from Life Cuisine was almost exactly a year ago (honestly, a coincidence), and both the "gluten free lifestyle" and the "high protein lifestyle" products got negative reviews.
Once again we have representatives from both "lifestyles": a gluten-free Riced Cauliflower Teriyaki Chicken Bowl and a supposedly high protein Southwest Style Beef Taco Bowl.
First up was the Teriyaki Chicken, with 250 calories, 680 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of fiber. Other than the excess salt, on paper this looks like it might be good.
We were confused by the riced cauliflower. Do they not know that rice is gluten-free? Or is this a case of trying to attract those who are avoiding grains for one fad diet or another? The good news is that the cauliflower is cut evenly into rice-sized pieces. We've seen "riced" cauliflower that looked a lot more like someone had taken a hammer to a poor unsuspecting cauliflower rather than a knife. Its texture is like that of slightly underdone rice - almost crunchy but not quite.
The chicken's texture is closer to firm tofu than chicken. That's not a surprise as the "cooked white meat chicken strips" have ten - yes, TEN ingredients alone. The broccoli, carrots, and edamame (soybeans) aren't overcooked, and if you don't mind eating highly-processed chicken-like substances, this could be good.
The problem is the teriyaki sauce. According to the Nutrition Facts on the box, this single serving contains 16 grams of added sugars. That's the equivalent of 4 TEASPOONS of granulated sugar. Go ahead, measure out 4 teaspoons of sugar and eat it.
No thank you. Disgustingly sweet. Proof that "gluten-free" doesn't necessarily mean healthy.
Next up was the "high protein lifestyle" Southwest Style Beef Taco Bowl, with 370 calories, 720 milligrams of sodium, and 3 grams of fiber.
We were glad to see fluffy brown rice in this dish, and the aroma was certainly promising: lots of cumin along with poblanos and red chili pepper, like a good enchilada sauce.
The photo above is before we mixed it all together, and it's probably a good thing that we did, as it ends up looking a bit like the dog's breakfast. Not unusual with taco bowls, so we dug right in.
And took another bite. And another one.
We couldn't figure it out: it's almost mouth-burningly salty, but there's otherwise very little flavor in this dish. The beef is a bit chewy, the rice is fluffy and well cooked, and there's texture from the red bell peppers and poblanos, but "it's just... watery-tasting," said a panelist.
"This should be bursting with flavor and somehow it's not," said another.
Finally: "The scent doesn't correlate with the taste at all."
This might be "high in protein" - ludicrous as the average American consumes far more protein than they need to - and it might be high in Vitamins A and C, but there's no flavor other than salt. Leave both of these on the shelf.
Posted: December 9, 2022