Review: Healthy Choice Café SteamersPosted on Nov 15th 2010 1:00PM by Keri Glassman
Healthy Choice Café Steamers offer a variety of new restaurant-style entrées that can be pulled from the freezer on short notice. The Lemon Garlic Chicken & Shrimp steamer contains 13 grams of whole grains and 16 grams of protein for a portioned controlled meal of only 260 calories. Lemon, garlic, chicken, shrimp, veggies, steam... All words that conjure health to me. The label reads "fresh taste unlocked by steam" and "Mediterranean inspired" with no preservatives. Is this meal the next best thing to having your own personal healthy chef around or is it Too Good To Be Food?
What's in It:
Cooked whole grain pasta (water, whole grain wheat flour [UltraGrain], wheat semolina, egg white), water, chicken tenderloins (chicken tenderloin, water, olive oil, contains 2% of less of: isolated soy protein product [isolated soy protein, modified food starch, cornstarch, carrageenan, soy lecithin], dextrose, salt, potassium and sodium phosphates, potassium chloride, paprika, flavoring, caramel color), spinach, cooked shrimp, onions, diced tomatoes, broccoli, red pepper, salted chablis, garlic (contains high maltose corn syrup, salt), contains 2% or less of: butter, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice concentrate, modified food starch, chicken base (chicken meat and natural chicken juices, salt, chicken fat, sugar, hydrolyzed [corn and wheat gluten, soy] protein, dried whey, maltodextrin, yeast extract, natural flavoring, disodium insinuate and disodium guanylate, natural extractives of turmeric and annatto), sugar, Italian seasoning (sea salt, garlic, dehydrated onion, spices, red bell pepper, soybean oil), salt, spice, sodium phosphate.
The ingredient list begins with whole grain pasta that is made of water and a patented whole grain wheat flour named UltraGrain. UltraGrain is designed to look and taste like white flour but is high in fiber similar to whole grain wheat flour - an okay tactic to sneak in some fiber for picky eaters who enjoy white pasta. Then comes wheat semolina, a natural source of whole grain fiber. Egg whites proceed next for added lean protein in the pasta.
Water is next - can't get enough of that! Then comes chicken tenderloins which is a great source of lean protein. This chicken contains water, and then olive oil (I guess this is where the Mediterranean comes in). The next chicken ingredient is isolated soy protein product. This is a highly processed food that is devoid of many quality proteins and isoflavones found in whole soy protein products. Modified food starch, corn starch, carrageenan, soy lecithin and dextrose are next. Although they are "safe" food additives derived from natural sources, such as wheat, corn, seaweed, and soybeans, a red flag is raised high here -- this is a highly processed product.
The next three ingredients are salt, potassium and sodium phosphates, and potassium chloride. All three are used as food stabilizers and flavor enhancers. Potassium compounds are substituted for salt to lower the sodium content. I'd prefer to simply see less sodium and more spices for flavoring.
Paprika and flavoring are the next ingredients. Hurray for paprika, which adds flavor and an antioxidant boost. "Flavoring" however is slightly suspicious as we do not know exactly what that is. Following is caramel color. Why can't food stay the color it is meant to be?
There's a bit of good news next! The next set of ingredients are real foods: spinach, cooked shrimp, onions, diced tomatoes, broccoli, and red pepper. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidant power, oh my! The cooked shrimp is full of protein and important minerals such as zinc, iron, selenium, and iodine. Salted chablis is just white wine that is seasoned with salt, which is a "fancier" alternative to stock.
Garlic, one of my favorite ingredients for its anti-cancer and heart protective benefits, comes next. But wait, it also comes with its own side of high maltose corn syrup and salt, added to prevent bacterial growth and prolong shelf life. So, the garlic needs its own preservative? Garlic is a natural preservative, which makes high maltose corn syrup unnecessary.
The following ingredients are in small amounts (2% or less) and make up the sauce: butter, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice concentrate, modified food starch, and chicken base. Extra virgin olive oil means healthy fats, so check mark here. Another check for lemon juice concentrate, which provides a small vitamin C boost. Modified food starch is used to thicken the sauce, but what's the chicken base? It's made of chicken meat and natural chicken juices, salt, chicken fat, sugar, hydrolyzed [corn and wheat gluten, soy] protein, dried whey, maltodextrin, yeast extract, natural flavoring, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, and natural extractives of turmeric and annatto.
Chicken base should have a warning: this is a highly processed version of seasoned chicken broth! Hydrolyzed protein uses a processing method that results in potentially harmful chemicals such as the toxic MSG. Disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate create the taste of umami and is an inexpensive flavor enhancer. Next comes, turmeric, a natural food coloring and a known antioxidant superhero. Followed by annatto, another natural food coloring derived from achiote seeds.
The final ingredients are sugar, Italian seasoning (sea salt, garlic, dehydrated onion, spices, red bell pepper, soybean oil), salt, spice, and sodium phosphate. These add an antioxidant and flavor boost but why more sugar and salt at all?
If a portion controlled meal with a bit of "real" food is all you are looking for then Healthy Choice Café Steamers Lemon Garlic Chicken & Shrimp may be a solution to a busy day where you may normally dive head first into leftover Chinese food containers.
Ready-made, healthy portion controlled meals are hard to come across so Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers seems like a good catch, but there are many unnecessary hidden ingredients that do not get a passing grade with me. There is also a health hazard with microwaving in plastic containers. Studies have shown that microwaving plastic containers can leach toxic chemicals into our food, making me even more wary about this choice and making it Too Good to be Food.
A Bell and Evans pre-cooked chicken breast with Cascadian Farm's organic veggies can be heated up in the same amount of time. Drizzle 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with spices such as tumeric, oregano, and pepper and voila! You have a tasty, mediterranean-inspired, fast, easy, portion controlled, "cleaner" meal!
Fat: 6 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 45 mg
Sodium: 600 mg
Potassium: 350 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 35 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Sugar: 4 g
Protein: 16 g
Nationally recognized nutrition expert and published author of "The O2 Diet," Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City. For years, Keri has been a leader in advancing a "whole person" approach to health and wellness. She has dedicated her career to creating services and promoting education through her Nutritious Life brand. You can be friends with Keri on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.
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