Food producers bet on little lips, big sipsIncreasingly...

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June 06, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Staff Writer

Food producers bet on little lips, big sips

Increasingly, food producers are recognizing that children ages 4 to 12 have discretionary income -- as much as $15 billion in 1992 -- and often make food- and beverage-purchasing decisions. National Beverage Corp. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., maker of Shasta and Faygo, is targeting the young market with Kid Cans, a series of carbonated soft drinks with names based on the Mario Brothers of video game fame, now stars of a major motion picture.

The drinks come in kid-size 8-ounce cans in four flavors: Mario Punch; Luigi Berry; Princess Toadstool Cherry; and Yoshi Apple. The vitamin C-enriched drinks are produced at regional bottling sites, including the Shasta bottling plant in Baltimore. They'll be sold in four packs that will cost about $1.50, and will be available at supermarkets and convenience stores. Introduction of the drinks, not surprisingly, was timed to coincide with the release of the Disney movie "Super Mario Bros.," which opened in Baltimore last weekend. There's also a sweepstakes giveaway; look for details at the purchase site.

No question about it, nutrition can be a confusing topic. Is margarine good or bad for you? What are Omega-3 oils? What, exactly, does caffeine do in the body? Is sugar an important nutrient? Do diets work?

It's hard for the average person to keep it all straight. A good

place to turn for straight answers to nutrition questions is to Ed Blonz' book, "The Really Simple, No-Nonsense Nutrition Guide" (Conari Press, 1993, $8.95 paperback). Mr. Blonz is a nutrition specialist and syndicated columnist based in Berkeley, Calif.

The book begins with chapters on "What your body needs" (protein, fat, carbohydrates, water, vitamins and minerals) and "How food works in your body" ("The wonderful world of digestion"). Mr. Blonz also covers what you should eat to improve your health, potential problems with what you eat, and how to become a smart food shopper; he concludes with an eating plan. An appendix contains answers for commonly asked questions and a glossary of food additives.

Information throughout is, as promised, delivered without jargon or political baggage and always with good humor and wit. For instance, in the chapter headed "Sugar: The Sweet Truth," Mr. Blonz first explains what sugar is and how it's absorbed into the body, and why no one needs it (bread, pasta and rice are better sources of glucose).

"The bottom line is that a diet high in sugar is not healthy. But sugar is neither a poison nor an unsafe food additive. The problems associated with sugar are likely the result of over-consumption -- and the fact that those excess calories tend to displace other foods offering a greater variety of nutrients," he concludes.

"If you yearn for something sweet, fruit is the best way to go. Not only is fruit sugar not as concentrated, by itself it's a type of sugar the body can process without causing a glucose overload."

The book is available at bookstores, or, for credit-card purchases, by calling Conari Press at (800) 685-9595.

What to fix? Why not sumptuous seafood?

It's happened to all of us. It's time for dinner, and the mind simply goes blank. What on earth to fix?

That's when the series of "365 Ways" cookbooks comes in handy. There's a recipe for every day in the year, in categories from appetizers to entrees. Chicken, pasta, one-dish meals, Italian recipes have been subjects of previous books in the series. Now there's "365 Ways to Cook Fish and Shellfish," by Charles Pierce (HarperCollins Publishers, $16.95). Mr. Pierce is a New York dweller who studied at La Varenne cooking school in Paris, and his recipes have an easy elegance that makes them ideal for busy people. Here's a sample:

Fettuccine with crab and leeks

Serves four.

3 tablespoons butter

5 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, well-rinsed, drained and thinly sliced

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 pound fresh crab meat

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound dried fettuccine

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in cream, raise heat to high, and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in crab and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside, covered to keep warm.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook fettuccine until tender but still firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Pour crab and leeks over pasta, toss and serve.

Here's a bit of good news: Dieters can also be chocoholics -- with Nestle's new Sweet Success weight-loss products. Like other diet-shake-and-snack plans, Nestle's involves three shakes a day, plus snacks and a balanced dinner. The difference is the flavors. No bland vanilla or sugary strawberry here. Instead, Sweet Success comes in powdered or ready-to-drink forms in creamy milk chocolate, dark chocolate fudge, classic chocolate chip, rich chocolate almond, and chocolate raspberry truffle. Snack bars come in brownie, chocolate chip and chocolate peanut butter flavors. A 12.4-ounce canister of powdered shake mix costs about $6 to $7. Look for Sweet Success where other diet-plan foods are sold.

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