Chef Boyardee’s Whole Grain Hoax

ConAgra’s Chef Boyardee brand is out with a whole grain canned pasta product – Chef Boyardee Pasta, Whole Grain, Beefaroni – and they’re letting the world know about it. Take a look at this  “silent” commercial where parents are hiding the whole grain truth from their daughter. If she thinks it’s healthy, she’ll refuse to eat it.

OK, we’ll just out and say it – double dumb family.

Once, for thinking that duping a child is the only way to get her to eat healthfully. Twice for buying into the whole grain health halo (see below). We dug around the nutrition facts and ingredient lists of the original vs. the new beefaroni, and found the following…

What you need to know:

Ingredients of the original product: (3 grams of fiber)

Tomatoes (Water, Tomato Puree), Water, Beef, Enriched Macaroni (Semolina Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2] and Folic Acid), Contains Less than 2% of: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Enzyme Modified Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes]), Flavorings and Soybean Oil.

Ingredients of the whole grain product: (3 grams of fiber, just as before)

Tomatoes (Water, Tomato Puree), Water, Beef, Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Wheat Flour), Less than 2% of: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Flavorings, Enzyme Modified Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Water, Sodium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum), Potassium Chloride, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, Soybean Oil.

Here’s why we don’t like this product (not that the original was any good either):

1. You’re paying for a lot of water – it’s the first ingredient!

2. There may be some whole wheat, but the amount must be so low that it doesn’t add any more fiber to the meal. Note that the product is not 100% whole grain, there is still enriched flour here. The company is marketing “whole grain pasta” because they know people are looking for whole grains to increase fiber intake. But fact is this is mixed whole & enriched wheat pasta. There IS NO additional fiber. Scam.

3. For some reason, 5 additives that were not used in the original product have been added here: Potassium Chloride, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate. These are all flavor enhancers that you wouldn’t add to a home cooked meal. They weren’t even added to the original Chef Boyardee recipe.

4. 750 mg of Sodium per serving (that a third of the daily maximum). This is lower than than the original formula (990 mg), and perhaps explains all those additives added – they help fill in the void of the missing salt. But why not use real spices such as basil, oregano, parsley, as well as garlic and onion?

On the plus side, the new formula has only 3.5 grams of saturated fat vs. 4.5 grams in the original. Either ConAgra is using leaner cuts of beef or they cut back on 20% of the beef content.

Bottom line: Chef Boyardee’s Whole Grain Beefaroni is just another example of unjustified health halos for highly processed food products.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you want to reap the benefits of a whole grain pasta product, make sure it’s 100% whole grain. Going the canned route – watch for crazy high sodium counts, you really want to keep it under 500mg per serving.

  • Amorette

    Classic food industry flavor disguises.

    Disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate, notice “sodium” within their names…this is still sodium, just chemical derivates, so they replace salt with a flavor enhancing salt compound. These compounds are usually used along with monosodium glutamate (MSG) to create an earthy flavor. If that’s the case, why not add mushrooms?

    The “whole grain” product may have 200 grams less than the original, but it still account for almost 1/3 of your recommended daily intake. Not something you would want to feed your family.

  • Chris MacDonald

    Entirely shameful!
    This is sort of behaviour that earns the makers of processed foods their negative reputation. It’s one thing to produce foods that have low nutritional value — everyone likes an unhealthy treat now and then — but no one wants to be misled about the food they’re eating.

    Chris MacDonald

  • WilliamB

    “If she thinks it’s healthy, she’ll refuse to eat it.”

    My first thought, even before seeing the ingredients, was “Well then, I guess she’ll have no problems with this product.”

  • Kelton Baker

    Just think, if feeding your children a meal strongly resembles the act of opening a can of dog food for your pet, something’s definitely missing.

    • Anonymous

      Kelton if you check into most canned dog food you wouldn’t serve that up to your dog either, generally it’s garbage.

  • kc

    @Kelton Baker
    AMEN! Serving up a big heaping helping of GMO corn in GMO corn sauce, with added GMO corn.

  • Lew

    Potassium chloride is better than sodium chloride, and I add it to home-cooked meals.
    Morton has a product called “Salt Balance” which tastes just like regular salt but
    has less sodium per gram (293mg vs 388mg) and supplies some potassium (133). I would
    be happy to see potassium chloride replacing some salt in anything with added salt.

  • Beta_t

    I do think the commercial is cute though, especially when it gets to the part where the kids think the parents are nuts, LOL.

  • reJoyce Health

    I LOVE this post as the Chef Boyardee commercial is one of my #1 pet peeves these days. Whole grain or not – it’s still cheap junk in a can that’s contributing to the U.S. obesity & diabetes epidemic. Thank you for going into such detail in exposing the truth. The other thing I hate about their ads is that they think it’s “cute” to keep the word healthy a secret from kids – the worst thing we can do to our children is not have them embrace healthy foods & habits.
    Thanks again – keep up the great posts!

  • Derek

    I thought it was just me, that I was going crazy seeing all these ‘Whole Grain!’ foods popping up.

    The most unhealthy processed foods are donning brown/green backgrounds and pictures of wheat. It’s borderline misinformation.

  • T Gariepy

    question: if you took a can of tomatoes (sp? I always get it wrong) .. how much water would be in it as compared to this? Tomatoes are pretty juicy right?

  • L Rapo

    If you read the can of ABC’s 123′s original vs. whole grain You will find that the Whole Grain has MORE SUGAR and MORE SODIUM also the lable shows less minerals. What a SCAM ! Im so dissappointed, if they are triing to trick us, What arent they telling us. To think i paid .50 cents more a can.