Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Walden Farms "Calorie Free" Food Review

Yes, I said "Calorie Free". Not "Fat free", or, "Sugar free" - "Calorie Free", and according to the Walden Farms website, they've been selling "Calorie Free" foods since 1972.

And they have lots of options.

From, "Flavored Chocolate Syrup", to "Peanut Spread", to "Alfredo Pasta Sauce", to "Chipotle Ranch Dressing", there's a zero-calorie condiment for every occasion.

So what's in 'em?

Here are the ingredients for the "Peanut Spread",

"Triple Filtered Purified Water, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Natural Fresh Roasted Peanut Flavoring, Natural Peanut Extract, Peanut Flour, Caramel Color, Sucralose, Sodium Benzoate"
(You know, for when double-filtered purified water just won't do.)

Clearly Walden Farms is marketing these towards folks worried about calories, and given that I count mine, I was certainly curious what these jars of chemical alchemy tasted like, and so was our office's dietitian Mark.

We both tried the Peanut Spread, Marshmallow Dip and the Raspberry Fruit Spread, while Mark also sampled the Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.

Here are Mark's thoughts, "
I first tried the fruit spread on its own (about a tablespoon’s worth) at room temperature. It was extremely sweet and left a stale-sweet aftertaste that didn’t go away until I munched on some almonds about 30 minutes later. Texture-wise, it looked like any other jelly and it had a maroon colour, which was a little off-putting. I decided to give it another shot over the weekend, this time after it had been refrigerated and on toast with peanut butter. I scooped two tablespoons onto some whole-grain toast and topped it with two tablespoons of natural peanut butter. It didn’t taste any better – still too sweet and it had a lingering, stale aftertaste. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this product as it simply does not taste as good as other jams or jellies.

What pairs well with jam? Peanut butter, of course. I consider myself a pb connoisseur. From natural to chunky, Jiffy to Kraft, I’ve tried them all. With no peanuts in sight, I was curious as to how Walden Farms would pull it off. Opening the jar reveals a butterscotch-coloured gelatin-like substance. I sampled a small amount on the end of a knife. The taste: think super-salty play-doh. And, like the raspberry spread, the taste lingers long after you’ve swallowed. I can’t say that this is the worst peanut butter I’ve ever had because it’s not peanut butter. But it does rank as one of the worst things I have ever tasted.

And lastly the salad dressing. When I eat salads, I like to have a lot of dressing. But dressing is often quite high in calories, so I was excited to try Walden Farms' calorie-free buttermilk ranch dressing. Could I finally douse my salad in dressing without worrying about the calories? Sadly, no. I added it to a salad comprised of lettuce, tomato, green peppers and plain croutons. It poured like traditional dressing and had the standard white-opaque colour of ranch dressing. Where it failed is in the flavour department. I struggle with how to describe the flavour – it tastes like ranch dressing, just really bad ranch dressing. The flavour is flat and it has a chemical-like aftertaste
My take on those products? My mouth's still mad at me. Certainly among the very worst things that have ever been in it.

Of all of the products, their Marshmallow Dip was the truest in taste. Still cloyingly sweet. Still a horrible chemical aftertaste. But then so too does actual Fluff.

These products are horror shows in bottles. While I'm all for reducing calories, you need to actually enjoy the foods you're eating, and unless you've got a tongue covered in scar tissue, enjoying these products isn't something I can readily imagine you'll be able to do.

So if you pass by Walden Farms products in the supermarket, please, for the love of all that's holy, don't stop.