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Carbo Raters

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BLAME it on Dr. Atkins.

You can barely walk through a supermarket these days without tripping over yet another new low-carbohydrate food.

Old favorites like Skippy, Ragu and Wishbone each have their Carb Options line.

Subway has Atkins-friendly wraps; McDonald's and Burger King are introducing bunless burgers.

And Hershey's chocolate bars, Heinz ketchup, Stouffer's Lean Cuisine and Doritos have carb-conscious spin-offs in the works.

With Super Bowl Sunday - the year's biggest snack-out - this weekend, and carb-cutters multiplying faster than rabbits, The Post put some of the new diet-minded munchies to the test.

Our crew of testers - twentysomething Manhattan professionals (and one student) - had no particular bond with either the Patriots, the Panthers or Atkins.

But they all love snacks and were game to see how the carb-shy versions played out.

A low-carb pizza was perhaps the most anticipated. Made possible by MiniCarb Pizza Crust Mix, its box explains that the blend of "wholesome proteins and fibers" make a pie that while "very good" is "not identical to conventional pizza crust mix."

A cooking tip suggests flipping the dough as you roll it out. "Once you get the hang of it, it is quite easy," it assures.

But roll as hard as we did, our crust never did assume the traditional round shape.

"It looks like France," one taster observed.

So what a surprise when the finished product - crowned with low-carb tomato sauce and regular pizza cheese - drew a favorable review, despite the "very chewy" crust.

"You have put it in the correct context," rationalized pro lacrosse player Rob Torti, cutting the pie slack for its dietary intentions.

That unfolded as the theme of the rest of the taste test - from tortilla chips and cookies to beer - though even with the carb-free caveat, some foods didn't win any fans at all.

But when Lydia Thew, a financial analyst, was asked if she'd eat the Skinny Carb ice cream bar instead of Haagen-Dazs, she quickly replied, "Maybe."

"You really like it?" another tester probed.

"My butt likes it," she admitted.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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