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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It's Slim Pickings for Dieters at Moscow Stores

Russians and foreigners alike know that Russia needs reform. Some Russians -- those who can afford it -- have seen the fruits of reform most prominently on the full supermarket shelves. But some Westerners think reform in food supplies should be of a more personal nature -- around the tummy, hips and thighs.

Whether they are interested in maintaining basic health or looking good, foreigners who are addicted to the special low-fat, low-cholesterol foods found in supermarkets of the West will feel ill-served by Moscow's supermarkets.

Although there are special Russian stores which are specially stocked with "dietetic products," the products are normally intended to make sick people healthy, rather than make fat people thin.

"Russians don't think about fat," Sedmoy Kontinent's commercial director Anna Kel said. "They think about how good it is that products have appeared on the shelves. That's the next stage, to think about health."

When ordering products for her store behind Lubyanka Ploshchad, Kel said she always requests the minimum possible order of diet products. "They just don't sell well in Russia."

However, they do sell well in the United States, and in the last five years an entire parallel industry has sprung up to supply fat and cholesterol-conscious Americans with sin-free, or at least sin-reduced, food.

Among the best places to find diet food in Moscow, accordingly, are stores that stock primarily American products: Nik's, Lux and Global USA import most or all of their goods from the states, and Americans will find that many brands on offer are familiar. While its stock is more multinational than that of the other stores, Sedmoy Kontinent also carries a large number of dieter-friendly products. Several other stores carry a few products that dieters will find helpful.

Dairy Products. Low-fat yogurts are convenient snacks and easy to find; check the dairy shelves at just about any supermarket, including Sadko Foodland, Progress and Stockmann. Danone, Frutti's and Valio all make yogurts which contain practically no fat. A 150-gram cup costs 75 to 85 cents.

While products made with whole milk are a major source of fat, they can often be substituted with skim-milk products or replaced altogether. Thick Russian smetana, or sour cream, for example, can be substituted with plain yogurt, which is sold at most supermarkets.

Danone, whose products are found at most stores, as well as Russian stores and its own store on Tverskaya Ulitsa, makes a sour-cream substitute of fermented milk that it sells under the brand name Fjord. Russians call this thick, gelatinous substance prostokvasha, and it is on sale at Super Siwa, the Garden Ring, and other stores. Super Siwa also carries several low-fat milk products, including natural yogurt (no sugar or fruit) and cottage cheese (95 cents for 200 grams) and a cholesterol-free margarine named Flora ($1.50 for 400 grams).

Since most Russian stores import cheeses from France or Germany, the reduced-fat cheeses often found in the United States aren't to be had. However, both Sedmoy Kontinent and Lux sell Greek feta cheese, which is lower in fat than most other cheeses ($17.33 per kilogram at Lux). Sedmoy Kontinent also sells Geramont-brand cheese, a French cheese which contains 28 percent fat, half that of other cheeses ($3 for 200 grams).

Danone sells fromage onctueux (cream cheese), a lower-fat option under the name Jockey ($3.50 for 500 grams at Sedmoy Kontinent). Plain old skim milk sells at Sedmoy Kontinent for $1.50 per liter, while 2 percent milk sells for $2.

Dessert Foods. Both Sedmoy Kontinent and Lux sell half-gallon-size cartons (1.89 liters) of low-fat Yarnell's ice cream. It comes in fruit flavors and sells at about 2 1/2 times the price of its high-calorie counterpart ($8.50 at Sedmoy Kontinent, $9.27 at Lux). Nik's sells cartons of low-fat Baskin-Robbins ice cream in more decadent flavors, such as praline and espresso 'n' cream for $8.37 per pint (0.47 liters). Nik's sells Sunshine Golden Fruit fat-free raisin cookies ($3.84 for an 224-gram bag). Stockmann's sells relief for a health-restricted sweet tooth in the form of vanilla sandwich cookies made with fructose ($2.30).

Breakfast Foods. Kellogg's cereals, including their health-conscious varieties such as Special K, Crispix, and Rice Krispies can be found at most of the supermarkets listed here. Nik's sells reduced-fat Hungry Jack pancake mix ($4.66 for enough to make 55 pancakes), and Global USA sells Aunt Jemima Butter Light syrup to go with it ($2 for 360 milliliters). Lux sells naturally sugar-free Nabisco Cream of Wheat ($3 for a 392-gram box). Diet muesli can be bought at M-Leader for $8.50 for a 375-gram package.

Snack Foods. Nik's sells a wide variety of Sunshine cookies and staple Quaker's puffed wheat cakes ($9.68 for a 12-pack). Lux carries lots of dried fruits and nuts in its produce sections. The Garden Ring offers Pringles Light potato chips ($2.95). M-Leader sells diet chocolate bars for $3.50 (100 grams) and diet crackers.

Drinks. When buying juices, check their sugar content -- juices with lots of sugar in them often have a high calorie count.

While Nik's carries cranberry juice actually labelled "reduced calorie" ($6.32 for 3.8 liters), most grocery stores also carry sugar-free juices.

Sedmoy Kontinent, for example, carries Sun Pride apple juice ($3 for 2 liters) and Zuess fresh-squeezed orange juice ($3.50 per liter), among others.

Alcohol is also a major source of calories, and Sedmoy Kontinent carries several types of alcohol-free brew for Moscow's health-conscious beer lovers. It offers both pale and dark brew from Tourtel, a French brewery ($1.10 per bottle), Lowenbrau pale ($1.55 per bottle) and occasionally offers a nonalcoholic brew from the Czech Budvar brewery.

Other Sundries for Dieters. Stockmann sells low-fat creamy salad dressing $5.25 per bottle, Schwartau sugar-free jams ($2.95) and, for bakers, glutane-free flour ($5.80).

The Garden Ring carries a few Weight Watchers' products, jams and marmalades ($3.65), and Perfect Balance breakfast cereal ($5.75 for 375 grams). Its stock also satisfies coffee addicts with sugar-free instant cappuccino ($6.95), Coffee Mate Lite ($4.35) and "light" sugar ($8.75 for 75 grams). A light olive oil can be had for $4.95. Gluten-free bread sells for $4.95 a loaf.

Vienna House and Novoarbatsky Gastronom do not carry low-fat products, they do sell foods for diabetics, including sugar-free canned goods, candies and jams.

Foodland in the Sadko Arcade offers an extensive line of Japanese products, such as tofu.

Diet frozen meals are only occasionally sighted in Moscow, so lovers of Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice meals may have to cook light for themselves.

Danone, Ulitsa Tverskaya 4. Tel. 292-0512/0627.

Garden Ring, 1 Ulitsa Bolshaya Sadovaya. Tel. 209-172.

Global USA Import, 35 Ulitsa Usacheva. Tel. 245-5657; 78 Leningradsky Prospekt, Tel. 151-3354.

Lux, 4 Michurinsky Prospekt. Tel. 932-1300.

M-Leader, 39 Leningradsky Prospekt. Tel. 213-3513.

Nik's, 11/1 Velozavodskaya Ulitsa. Tel. 279-1614.

Novoarbatsky Gastronom, 13 Novy Arbat. Tel. 291-5828.

Sadko Foodland, 1a Krasnogvardeisky Proyezd. Tel. 259-5656. Sadko also at Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya 16. Tel. 243-6659/1016.

Sedmoi Kontinent, 61/1 Leninsky Prospekt, tel. 137-0093 or 0094; 12/1 Bolshaya Lubyanka, tel. 928-9527; 18 Ulitsa Miklukho-Maklaya, korpus 2, tel. 330-6020 or 3030.

Stockmann's, 4/8 Zatsepsky Val. Tel. 233-2602 or 231-1924.

Super Siwa, 9 Slavyansky Bulvar. Tel. 445-0570 or 3790.

Vienna House, 27 Ulitsa Petrovka. Tel. 200-6962.