Velveeta Cheesy Skillets vs. Hamburger Helper: Trans-Fat Showdown

Happy 2012, folks. It’s back to business here at Fooducate. Today, a sobering look at the “Dry Dinner Mix” market, estimated at $138 million annually. Hamburger Helper has been dominating the market for decades, but earlier this year Kraft introduced a “worthy” competitor based on their stalwart Velveeta brand. The strategy has paid off for Kraft:

Within three months of the July launch, the Skillets captured more than 8% of the overall $138 million dry dinner mix category, according to market-research firm SymphonyIRI Group, which tracks sales at most retailers. read more from WSJ Online…

We decided to compare two similar products:

- VELVEETA CHEESY SKILLETS DINNER KIT – ULTIMATE CHEESEBURGER MAC.

- HAMBURGER HELPER – CHEESEBURGER MACARONI

What you need to know:

Here’s the Hamburger Helper ingredient list:

Enriched Macaroni (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Corn Starch, Salt, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Ricotta Cheese (Whey, Milkfat, Lactic Acid, Salt) (Dried), Onion (Dried), Tomato (Dried), Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic (Dried), Citric Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Paprika, Maltodextrin, Spice, Color (Yellow Lakes 5&6, Yellows 5&6), Monoglycerides, Whey, Natural Flavor, Yeast Extract, Disodium Phosphate, Egg

Here’s the Velveeta ingredient list:

cheese sauce (milk, whey, water, whey protein concentrate, canola oil, milk protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, salt, contains less than 2% of milk fat, lactic acid, sodium alginate, sorbic acid, paprika, annatto, natural flavor, cheese culture, enzymes),

enriched macaroni product (wheat flour, niacin, iron, vitamin b1, vitamin b2, folic acid),

seasoning mix: (whey from milk, dried onions, cheddar cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), maltodextrin, partially hydrogenated soybean, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed soy protein, milk, lactose, dried tomatoes, salt, sugar, contains less than 2% of sodium phosphate, black pepper, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor, citric acid, dried garlic, spices, sunflower oil, cheese culture, milkfat, mustard seed, yellow 5, yellow 6, lactic acid, enzymes, sodium citrate.)

As you can see, both are highly processed products. Both contain partially hydrogenated oils = trans-fat. Both use artificial dyes to create a “golden” hue to their sauces. If you are sensitive to MSG, both products contain that too (underlined). And both products are high in sodium

Both are terrible choices to add to to your hamburger meat. Unfortunately, the convenience factor trumps all for many busy parents.

What to do at the supermarket:

Steer clear from prepared mixes that contain such long ingredient lists. Watch for partially hydrogenated oils and high levels of sodium.

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  • Bladedragonlord

    If you want to make an awesome hamburger, you really don’t need these types of products. 500 grams of roughly ground mince, salt and pepper to taste, mix well by hand. I use a piece of cut off plastic drain pipe (90 centimetres?) to shape the patties, use baking paper cut into squares 2 pieces for every patty, they won’t stick then and then freeze them until needed, makes quite a few awesome hamburgers, shallow (deep) fry them in Olive Oil, drain and place on buns with heaps of lettuce and tomato, cheese if you like, any mustard and ketchup to suit! Yummo! :)

    Image here… http://www.madebyblade.com/deep_fried_hamburger.jpg

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Bladedragonlord. It’s easy to so something with 500 grams of ground beef.
    Saute some onion and/or garlic. And beef and brown it. Put some spices or some tomato-y thing (real chopped tomatoes / tomato paste / crushed tomatoes) maybe a veggie or two… and you’re good to go. Something like this http://www.ruthsrealfood.com/2011/08/whats-for-lunch.html 

  • FoxyKate

    I grew up on ground beef with onions, tossed with elbow Mac and a can of tomato soup. It’s still a crappy meal, but there’s gotta be a way to healthy it up while still maintaining the convenience factor.

  • Crystal

     
    Wow, I just learned something from reading this. MSG has a different name in the hamberger helper. I did not know that MSG can also be called hydrolyzed soy protein. My husband has a severe reaction when it comes to MSG so I am always reading labels when I go shopping. Quite often I will buy something that doesn’t say it has MSG and he will still have a reaction to it. I am wondering if that is the reason why, is because MSG is being called something different. These 2 products I never buy anyways because it has way too many ingrediants. And I was always told if you cannot pronounce whats in your food, don’t buy it.

    • http://www.awakenedwellness.com/ Rachel Assuncao

      Hey Crystal – you might want to google ‘names of MSG’ or something similar to learn all of the different names.  It’s hidden under a long list of other ingredients too. It causes me migraines, and the bottom line is that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t eat most processed foods because of it.

      • Guest

        You give me a migraine with your food snobbery. You might want to google ‘orthorexia’.

      • FedUpWithFoodies

        Migraines are not caused by MSG. That is a stupid myth.

        You might want to google ‘hypochondriac’, then google ‘orthorexia’

        Stupid foodie turds.

      • FoodieNonsenseBlows

        Orthorexic asswipe

      • Guest

        Hey Dumbass – you might want to google ‘hypochondriac’, then ‘orthorexia’. Migraine headaches are not caused by MSG, idiot.

    • Dfrisicaro2

      Crystal, goggle Dr. Mercola non GMO shoppers guide. He has a very up-to-date and detailed listing of all gmo products. I think you will find it the best comprehensive listing on the web.

    • Laurenswann

      MSG and hydrolyzed soy protein are not the same ingredient, but the hydrolysis does release free amines that can trigger the same sensitivity reaction as MSG in susceptible individuals. FDA has written label violation warning letters for products claiming “MSG free” but also contain a hydrolyzed vegetable protein or autolyzed yeast extract for that very reason

      • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

        Thanks for the clarification Lauren!

  • Crystal

     
    Wow, I just learned something from reading this. MSG has a different name in the hamberger helper. I did not know that MSG can also be called hydrolyzed soy protein. My husband has a severe reaction when it comes to MSG so I am always reading labels when I go shopping. Quite often I will buy something that doesn’t say it has MSG and he will still have a reaction to it. I am wondering if that is the reason why, is because MSG is being called something different. These 2 products I never buy anyways because it has way too many ingrediants. And I was always told if you cannot pronounce whats in your food, don’t buy it.

  • Andrea

    Ok. So somebody give us time constrained folks some good, tasty, QUICK ideas on how to put together similar style meals that are healthier than box meals. Im all for healthy but i have to shop cheap & use little time when i cook most of the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1235452674 Therese Jones Schmidt

    I use Wildtree whenever I want to make something fast.  Here’s the ingredients for their Stroganoff Skillet Mix:  Sour Cream Powder (cream, non-fat milk solids, citric acid, lactic acid), Natural Butter Flavor, Sea Salt, Tomato Powder, Cornstarch, Mushroom Powder, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Dill, Lactic Acid.

    Granted, I’m not thrilled with the “Natural Butter Flavor” but compared to the rest I think it’s a better option.  Check out their other stuff at mywildtree.com/TSchmidt

  • Lauren

    And then you add hamburger meat, I’m guessing not grass-fed. Oy, as a working parents I guess I don’t think it’s that inconvenient to put a baked/sweet potato in the micro or boil water for pasta.

  • Jim

    Double blind studies have not shown that ANYONE has MSG sensitivity. After all, it occurs naturally in cheeses, broccoli and tomatoes.

    • Frugal Hausfrau

      Jim, there are a lot of things that occur naturally in our foods that people may have sensitivities to:  some people notice nothing, others can die. Besides which, if the belief is that just because something occurs naturally it should be ok to eat and no one should have reactions to it, think of peanuts.  There are a lot of “natural” things that aren’t good for you:  poisonous plants, arsenic, uraniam, selenium, mercury, etc., etc.  There are some “natural” things that are ok in small amounts – like vinegar.  A bit is wonderful, but drink a jug of it and you could die.  In the 80′s when Herbal teas became popular, there were deaths from people that simply drank too much of certain blends. 

      I look at studies, but with a curiousity – who was in it?  why was it done?  is it valid?  what are the figures?  Without knowing these things, we can’t possibly judge the validity of a study ourselves.

  • Frugal Hausfrau

    I have a blog on Eating Better for Less – it does take some time to cook, but there’s a lot of easy ways and shortcuts to get by.  If you’re concerned about no time to cook, choose no cook or little cook options.  Don’t know how to cook?  Learn – I figure it like this:  If your “bar” is a boxed dinner, you’d have to throw together a pretty bad dish to not be better than these manufacturers!  I just linked to this site because I did a “rant” on a Kraft Cheesy Skillet dinner.  The one I chose, Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli cost twice as much home-made and takes a few minutes less.  Here’s the URL:  http://frugalhausfrau.wordpress.com/rants/kraft-velveeta-cheesy-skillets-dinner-kit/

  • Gemragirl

    I made the mistake of buying the Ultimate Cheeseburger Mac last night for a quick dinner.  Within an hour of eating the mess, I was violently ill.  I am very allergic, not just sensitive to MSG.  I was ill for about 5 hours.  This morning when I could finally stand on two feet, I took the box from the trash and No where on the ingredients was MSG listed! That is when I went in search of answers.  I found them.  I am contacting Kraftfoods today along with making a complaint with the FDA.  This is a type of false advertising, especially after the FDA has been so determined in making sure all ingredients are listed on products.

    • Jim

      Since MSG occurs naturally in dozens of common foods, it is probably not the MSG you reacted to. In fact, there are few if any documented allergies to MSG. It is probably something else in the food.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dennis-Mattson/1057336804 Dennis Mattson

    Dear god, someone help me… I was too lazy this weekend to cook from scratch, found myself on the dreaded Hamburger Helper Isle, and found these.. picked up a box… after 5 years eating clean… Stared at the EVIL box, debating to just throw it into the trash… I’m preparing it now… PRAY FOR ME !!!!!!