Is that right? Chef Boyardee whole-grain Beefaroni is 'secretly nutritious'
Setting aside for now the observation that the girls at the table appear old enough to read the can themselves, the message in this ad and Chef Boyardee's overarching "Obviously delicious, secretly nutritious" campaign is clear: Kids won't go near any food that's supposed to be good for them. There's plenty of debate in nutrition circles as to whether it's smart or appropriate to conceal healthful ingredients in food; I'm in the camp that doesn't support such subterfuge. (And I do object to Chef Boyardee's featuring broccoli so prominently in this print ad, when Beefaroni contains no such greenery.)
Still, Chef Boyardee is hardly alone in trying to lend its products a health halo. And using pasta made from whole grain is a step in the right direction. This canned pasta's first ingredient is tomatoes (well, water and tomato puree), followed by water, beef and pasta. Of course, those ingredients are followed by "less than 2%" of more than a dozen whose names are familiar to can-label readers, everything from high fructose corn syrup to soybean oil.
My question about this Beefaroni is this: Just where is it supposed to fit into your kid's daily diet? A serving -- one cup of pasta mixture -- has 240 calories. It provides 12 percent of the daily value for fiber and 13 percent of the DV for potassium, but 18 percent of the saturated fat DV and nearly one-third -- 31 percent -- of a day's sodium allotment.
As I wrote in the "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column a few weeks ago, each of a child's main meals should contain roughly a third of the calories he or she needs in a day (1,000 for a sedentary little girl to as much as 3,200 for a very active teenage boy) and should contribute in similar measure to the day's total nutrient needs (6 ounces of grains, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 5 1/2 ounces of meat or beans, plus 2 servings of fruit, 3 servings of dairy and a bit of healthful fat).
The Beefaroni can says a serving of what's inside provides 15 percent of the daily grains and 20 percent of the vegetables you need, along with 10 percent of the meat.
No matter how you do the math, Beefaroni's providing way more sodium and fat than is warranted by the proportions of other nutrients it supplies. And it does nothing to help meet the daily dairy or fruit goals.
I hate to be a scold, and I really don't object to feeding kids a can of Beefaroni now and then when you're pressed for time. But you should be mindful of how it fits into the day's overall nutrition needs. And, like the girls in the ad, your kids should probably have their canned pasta with a glass of milk. And an apple, for good measure.
And let's all practice saying words such as "whole grains" around our kids. I'm pretty sure they can handle it.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
August 27, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Is That Right? , Kids' health , Nutrition and Fitness
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