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.