Cheap Treats and Eats

by Charles Platkin, PhD

With all the pennies saved and coupons clipped across the country each day, one has to wonder — what if Americans were as cost-conscious about “spending” their calories as they are about spending their hard-earned dollars? Like it our not, every one of us has a finite number of calories in our body’s budget for the day. So how can we make sure we’re getting the most for our money — calorie-wise?

The answer is to look for Calorie Bargains, which does not mean buying more food for less money. Calorie Bargains are foods that are relatively low in calories but still taste great and satisfy our strongest temptations, and we use them to substitute for “higher-priced” foods we normally eat (otherwise we’d be adding calories and gaining weight). Here are a few from readers and some from my own repertoire.

Vitalicious MultiBran VitaMuffins and Vitalicious Deep Chocolate VitaTops
(1 muffin, 4 ounces) 200 calories, 0g fat, 24g carbs, 8g fiber, 720mg sodium
(1 top, 2 ounces) 100 calories, 1.5g fat, 25g carbs, 6g fiber, 230mg sodium

Have you gone to Dunkin’ Donuts and ordered a “healthy” Honey Bran Raisin Muffin? If so, you may be surprised to learn that one muffin has 490 calories. Even fat-free muffins can be diet disasters. They’re typically only a few calories lower than the regular versions, plus they often disappoint on taste.

But a company based in New York City has come up with a great all-natural product that has less than half the calories of a regular muffin, is packed with fiber and tastes great. They come in a variety of flavors, but of all of them we tasted, we loved the MultiBran and the Deep Chocolate versions best. The muffins weigh 4 ounces, which is perfect for portion control. And because they’re so filling (because of the fiber), you really can’t eat too many, so you can avoid any serious diet damage. The company even sells muffin tops that weigh only 2 ounces and fit perfectly into a toaster. Not only that, but if you happen to miss your daily multivitamin, you’re covered, because the muffins are jam-packed with vitamins. The only thing we didn’t like about these muffins was the name — it sounded like they wouldn’t taste good, but we were pleasantly surprised.

Although they’re available in 2,000 supermarkets, we had trouble finding them. But they are available online at, or by phone at 877-VITA-877. Compare these to some other muffins:

  • Au Bon Pain Raisin Bran Muffin (6 ounces) 530 calories, 13g fat, 100g carbs, 12g fiber
  • Au Bon Pain Lowfat Chocolate Cake Muffin (4.15 ounces) 320 calories, 2g fat, 74g carbs, 4g fiber
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Reduced Fat Blueberry Muffin (5 ounces) 450 calories, 13.0g fat, 74g carbs, 2g fiber

Low Fat Kettle Krisps Hickory Barbeque Chips
(1 ounce) 110 calories, 1.5g fat, 22g carbs

Although I’m not much of a chip lover, these really grew on me after a while. Kettle Chips is a company that takes pride in its ingredients, using no artificial flavors or coloring and no hydrogenated oils. Compared with regular chips, Low Fat Kettle Krisps have 40 fewer calories. If you wouldn’t ordinarily eat any chips, pretzels or other snack food, I wouldn’t start eating these. But if you’re looking for a substitution, they are a good deal. Because they’re not always available in supermarkets, we located a couple of online retailers that carry them: and

  • Lay’s KC Masterpiece Barbecue (1 ounce) 150 calories, 10g fat, 15g carbs
  • Simply Naked Pita Chips (1 ounce) 130 calories, 4g fat, 18g carbs
  • Baked Lay’s KC Masterpiece Barbecue (1 ounce) 120 calories, 3g fat, 22g carbs

Silhouette Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches
Vanilla, 130 calories, 2g fat, 23g carbs

They call them sandwiches, but I refer to them as saucers (because they’re round). Readers rave about these sandwiches. They are filling (you will only eat one), tasty and low in calories — what more can you ask? I tasted them a number of times and thought they were pretty good, but everyone I gave samples to thought they were great. One thing to keep in mind, however — these are not made of all natural/wholesome ingredients. In fact, the cookie part contains trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup.

Charles’ Chicken
277 calories, 3.5g fat, 15.5g carbs

OK, here it is — my favorite recipe:

4 (3-ounce) boneless chicken breasts, pounded paper thin (375 calories, 4g fat, 0g carbs)
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (110 calories, 1.5g fat, 20g carbs)
Pam or other cooking oil spray
Onion flakes
Garlic powder
1/2 cup Healthy Choice Garlic & Herb Sauce (50 calories, 0g fat, 11g carbs)
2 tablespoons Kraft grated Parmesan cheese (20 calories, 1.5g fat, 0g carbs)

Total cooking time: 10 minutes

Pound the chicken breasts as thin as you can get them — basically paper thin (if you’ve ever heard of the product Steak-Umm, think that thin). You’ll be surprised how large a 3- to 4-ounce pounded chicken breast can get. How thin they are is critical, because it reduces the cooking time and the amount of cooking spray you need — plus, it makes the portion size look bigger. You can even ask your supermarket or butcher to pound them for you. They may charge a bit extra, but it’s worth it.

Coat the pounded breasts lightly with the bread crumbs. Lightly spray a 12-inch frying pan with the cooking spray and turn the heat to high. Give a quick spray to the tops of chicken breasts and cook, sprayed side up, for three to five minutes. Look for the “up” side to start turning white. Turn the burner off, flip the chicken over, cover the pan, and let the chicken steam-cook for another five or six minutes. This makes the meat tender, ensures moistness and enhances the flavor. Season with salt, pepper, onion flakes and garlic powder to taste. Drizzle with the sauce and top with the Parmesan cheese.

Makes two servings.

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