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Healthful new foods -- & sinful ones

Our taste-testers sample the latest snacks, convenience items

THIS WEEK at the 9th Spring Fancy Foods Show in Chicago, an international who's who of food-product manufacturers, hundreds of new products are being unveiled.

One look at the roster of goodies shows this spring's crop has one recurring theme: health, health and more health.

From antioxidants to gluten-free, high fiber to low fat, America seems to be on a mission to slim down, stay healthy and keep kids from growing obese.

Other new products in the marketplace capture the convenience niche, from smaller, pre-portioned, calorie-conscious snack packages to on-the-go bars and a bevy of diet dinners.

The Daily News headed to the supermarket to scope out this spring's new arrivals - including some not-so-healthy, yet yummy, options - and brought the products to our newsroom staff for our quarterly Yo! Food taste test. Here are our results:

_ Entenmann's Ultimate Chocolate Truffle Cake, $5.49, one-pound cake. What it is: A four-layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing.

What they thought: A hit. Dubbed "death by chocolate" and "ridiculously gooey," the cake had the perfect consistency and taste. Everyone said they'd buy it, including one fan, who gushed that it was "Duncan Hines-level delicious."

_ Health Valley Low Fat/Moist and Chewy Granola bars., $3.69, box of four or six.

What they are: Low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium bars that contain several B vitamins and protein.

What they thought: They sure are fruity, but in an artificial-tasting way. Most said they wouldn't buy it, or they'd relegate that snack to the kids. It also lost points for being too "stiff."

_ Ritz Toasted Chips., $3.09, 9-ounce bag.

What it is: Thin crackers flavored with Southwestern-style ranch spices. Claims to have 40 percent less fat than potato chips with 6 grams per one-ounce serving.

What they thought: Everyone raved about these addictive half-cracker, half-chip snacks. A few thought there was too much powdered flavoring on top, and one was put off by the "high fructose corn syrup" in the ingredients, but overall, a winner.

_ Kashi Go Lean Rolls (chocolate peanut, chocolate turtle and caramel peanut flavors), $1.79 per bar, 9 ounces.

What it is: Ahealth bar with a chocolate coating outside, peanut butter or chocolate center inside, rounded rather than flat.

What they thought: Caramel peanut got a thumbs-up, but the chocolate peanut was "awful," according to testers. It had a "stale" taste and was too dry. Another tester told it like it is: They "look better than they taste," especially for $1.79 a pop.

_ Sandies Shortbread Fudge Drops, $3.99, 40 cookies.

What it is: Shortbread cookie rounds with a chocolate dollop in the center.

What they thought: These got a mixed review. Some thought they were a "good classic cookie," while others fussed that there wasn't "enough butter flavor." (What can we say? We like our desserts heart-stoppingly rich.) Overall, not many testers would buy them and certainly wouldn't pick them over a classic likeOreos.

_ Wish Bone Salad Spritzers, French Flair and Raspberry Bliss flavors., $3.19, 7-ounce spray bottle.

What it is: One way to keep track of calories is to spray them on your salad one shot at a time. Each 10- or 15-ounce shot equals only about a gram of fat.

What they thought: Though the consensus was that the bottleswere shaped to look like bug spray, the salad dressings were deemed good overall. One tester asked to take the leftovers home.

_ Minute Maid Fruit Falls Tropical Water Beverage., $2.99 for 10, 6.75-ounce pouches.

What it is: Afive-calorie-per-serving flavored water pouchthat claims to be a source of calcium and 100 percent of a day's worth of vitamin C.

What they thought: Once again, as is the custom when our intrepid testers are handed flavored waters, theythese came up with a big, fat zero. Sour, pointless, and not to mention almost impossible for a kid (ahem, or adult) to puncture with the accompanying straw, this wonone got a thumbs-down.

* Hint: Drink Water, Not Sugar drink., $1.69 per 15-ounce bottle.

What it is: Flavored water seems to be all the rage. This one is made of purified water and natural flavors, not artificial sweeteners.It comes in eight varieties from pomegranate/tangerine to lime and tropical punch.

What they thought: Lest we sound like a broken record when it comes to fancy waters, this was described as "suspicious: pomegranate that's not red?" and "a nostalgic reminder of the dentist's office." Enough said.

_ Lays Lightly Salted with Sunflower Oil, $3.49, 8.5 ounces.

What it is:Chips that sub sunflower oil for hydrogenated oil, and claim to have 50 percent less sodium in the lightly salted version.

What they thought: They were good, and didn't taste much different thanfrom regular potato chips. The only complaint? The sour cream and onion variety was too flavored. Testers suggested that someone tone down the taste a little bit.

_ Boston Market Beef Sirloin with Homemade Mashed Potatoes, $3.69, 8 ounces.

What it is: Aa microwaveable dinner featuring two favorites from the take-out chain restaurant.

What they thought: A huge hit! At just 290 calories and 12 grams of fat, the dinners wowed testers were wowed by thewith authentic, homey taste. But the 1,200 mg of sodium per meal gave some testers pause - that's nearly a whole day's supply.

_ Smart Ones Bistro Selections Grilled Mandarin Chicken, $3.79, 8 ounces.

What it is: A280-calorie microwaveable dinner with 4.5 grams of fat, fromWeight Watchers.

What they thought: This was a thumbs-up as well. A good way to enjoy a low-fat meal on the go. The chicken "looks like chicken" and the texture was right on. *