Last week, ConAgra, a huge food conglomerate, recalled 800,000 units of Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken and Rice Frozen Entrées. The fear – a salmonella infection that has spread to 14 states. Recalls happen every once in a while, and we’ve written about them in the past.
In today’s post we won’t talk food safety, but rather take this recall as an opportunity to look at what’s inside each box of convenience food, from a nutritional perspective.
What you need to know:
Each package is a single serving weighing in at 13 oz. That’s a nice portion! It’s 460 calories, with 9 grams of saturated fat (46% of the daily max).The 33 grams of protein are very filling (a half day’s worth).
But we are very concerned with sodium. At 1330mg, we’re talking more than 57% of the daily maximum of 2300mg. If you need to be on a low sodium diet of 1500mg a day, you’ll spend almost all your allowance on this single dish.
The ingredient list mention salt 4 times:
Cooked White and Wild Rice, Broccoli, Cooked Chicken (White Meat Chicken, Water, Modified Rice Starch, Isolated Soy Protein, Salt, Sodium Phosphate), Water, Pasteurized Processed Cheese Spread (American Cheese [Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Water, Whey, Sodium Phosphate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Skim Milk, Milkfat, Salt, Artificial Color), Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto), Mushrooms, Onion, Contains 2% of Less of: Nonfat Dry Milk, Butter, Modified Corn Starch, Soybean Oil, Salt, Citric Acid, Annatto Extract, Spice, Beta Carotene (Corn Oil, Beta Carotene).
You can see that the salt is used in a variety of tasks: to keep the cooked chicken moist, as part of the cheeslike spread, and added for flavor to the overall dish.
The nice orange-yellow color of the cheese comes from Annatto, so why add more artificial color (underlined).
The front of package (see picture) boasts a USDA Food Pyramid accompanied with some encouraging numbers: 25% of daily grains. 30% of daily vegetables. 30% of daily milk. 35% of daily meat.
Too bad there’s no extra mention of the excess salt- “57% of daily sodium”.
What to do at the supermarket:
Best to prepare your own dinner dishes. If you must buy prepared foods, look for sodium values lower than 600mg per serving.