Even More Calorie Bargains

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Miss Meringue Vanilla Meringue Cookies
13 cookies: 35 calories, 0g fat, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g protein

A lot of people had been bugging me to include these as a calorie bargain, but I was hesitant because I hadn’t tasted them, and, frankly, they didn’t seem very appetizing — cookies made from egg whites? I finally broke down when I saw a variety made with Splenda, which meant that, in addition to very little fat, they also had no sugar. Worth a try, right? I was surprised. The first one tasted okay, but after a few more of both the vanilla and chocolate versions, I was hooked. And with so few calories (only 35 calories for 13 vanilla cookies and 40 calories for the chocolate), they were a guilt-free indulgence.

If you have a sweet tooth, these are a pretty good alternative. Crisp when bitten and creamy when chewed, Miss Meringue cookies have no fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or lactose. Choose from vanilla, chocolate, and dulce de leche flavors. And if you want to venture into the ones made with sugar, I highly recommend the mini chocolate chip; even at 10 calories per cookie, they beat Fig Newtons, which have 50 calories each.

Smucker’s Sugar Free Red Raspberry Preserves
1 tablespoon: 10 calories, 0g fat, 5g carbs

I was completely impressed with this product’s fresh, sweet taste. Now you can wake up looking forward to your breakfast toast and jam without the guilt. There are only 10 calories per serving (40 calories less than regular jam) and five grams of carbs. They keep the calories down by using a carbohydrate called polydextrose, which has only one to two calories per gram. The choice is definitely a no-brainer, so dump the sugared jam and pick up this sugar free version. Try any of the varieties: apricot, boysenberry, concord grape, orange, seedless blackberry, or strawberry, all with equal calories.

Kraft Singles Fat Free American Cheese
1 slice: 30 calories, 0g fat, 2g carbs

From my assistant to my readers, everyone raves about Kraft’s fat-free cheese. At about half the calories of regular cheese, it’s the perfect solution for those grilled cheese cravings, and if you’re on the South Beach or Atkins Diet — well, this is a great way to get in your protein and calcium minus all that saturated fat. The taste is very close to the real thing. If you melt a slice on grilled chicken or mac ‘n cheese, you won’t even notice the difference.

Progresso Vegetable Classics Vegetable Soup
1 cup: 80 calories, 0.5g fat, 16g carbs, 940mg

Recent studies show that filling your hungry stomach with soup before a meal can help you lose weight, so why not keep your pantry well stocked with Progresso’s vegetable soup? It’s quick, hassle-free, and ready-made so you won’t spend half an hour scratching your head as you decide what to have for dinner. With a meager 160 calories, having the contents of the entire can will leave you more than satisfied. Compare that to other canned soups like Progresso’s split pea, which has approximately 340 calories per can. As with most prepared foods, watch out for the sodium content, which is a bit steep.

Jolly Time Yellow Pop Corn
5 cups (popped): 100 calories, 1g fat, 24g carbs, 6g fiber, 0mg sodium, 4g protein

Smart Balance Low Fat Low Sodium Microwave Popcorn
5 cups (popped): 120 calories, 2g fat, 24g carbs, 5g fiber, 80mg sodium, 4g protein

I’m still amazed at how few calories there are in popcorn. I’d always assumed it was a no-no, but that was probably because of all the oil and butter in movie popcorn. But popcorn is a perfect snack whether you’re watching your favorite TV show or just looking for something to munch on — it gives the appearance of loads of food yet is still low in calories. And if you use yellow corn, it has plenty of fiber, which also has health benefits.

Jolly Time Yellow Pop Corn is simply a bag of unpopped kernels you can make in a hot air-popper. Or if, like me, you don’t love air-popped corn and don’t mind the hassle (or occasionally burnt popcorn), pop yours on the stovetop. Put the kernels in a deep pot, coat them with Pam or cooking spray, cover, and pop. “Make sure to occasionally release the steam by slightly opening the cover, and be careful not to burn yourself,” advises Tom Elsen, vice president of marketing for Jolly Time. He also recommends shaking the pot throughout the process — the shaking spreads the heat and allows the unpopped corn to pop.

Smart Balance tastes great, is low in sodium, has absolutely no trans fat (which is important because almost all microwave popcorn does), and offers a microwave-friendly, fast and easy solution for late night munchies that will leave you satiated — five cups is more than enough for any individual, no matter how much you love popcorn. But if you do eat the entire bag, assume you’re eating about 260 calories (because of the unpopped kernels).

Popsicle JELL-O Pudding Pops
1.75 fl. oz.: 90 calories, 3g fat, 16g carbs

Some readers have suggested freezing JELL-O Pudding Cups. Maybe the people at JELL-O heard about that because they’ve just reintroduced JELL-O Pudding Pops. These tasty, portion-controlled pops are a terrific low-fat alternative to ice cream. With only 90 calories per pop, you’ll want to keep a stash in the freezer. But be sure you’re not tempted to have more than one, or else you’ll be defeating the purpose.

Connie’s Organic Tomato Chips
1 oz (20-25 chips): 100 calories, 1.5g fat, 18g carbs, 5g fiber, 680 mg sodium, 4g protein

I had heard about these chips, but I didn’t know what they were. Turns out they’re gourmet air-dried tomatoes with organic spices and sea salt. Since I’m not a tomato lover, I thought this would be a tasty way for me to get the benefits of tomatoes (fiber, vitamins, etc.).

These delicious chips can add flavor to salads, omelets, or sandwiches, and they also make for great munchies (FYI: they are not hard like potato chips). The only downside is that they can be high in sodium if you eat an entire ounce. Also, they are not readily available at all local supermarkets. If you’re a lucky New Yorker, you can get them at Zabar’s. If you’re a Missoula, Montana native, pass by Woerden’s Market, Osco, Good Food Store, or Rattle Snake Garden for a few bags. But if you live in any of the other 48 states, your best bet is to order Connie’s chips online at www.rattlesnakecreekvineyard.com. The retail price of each bag is about $8 plus the shipping and handling — they are a bit costly, but a bag will last a long time.

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