Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why I Think We Should Keep our Junk Food "Junky"

Recently, while I was out trolling my local supermarket, I happened to spy this new product from Kraft:

Now, the box of Three Cheese Shellls is old news, but I neglected to get a picture of just the box on the left, Kraft Dinner "Smart" Three Cheese Pasta Dinner, which claims to give you a half serving of vegetables along with your daily dose of fat and sodium. (The vegetables apparently come in the form of pureed cauliflower in the pasta.)

It turns out that spotting this product was a bit like spotting a Yeti; no one seems to have ever heard about it before, and even Kraft's own website seems to imply that it doesn't actually exist. I feel special.

I wanted to get the low-down on this rare creature, so I bought it along with the Three Cheese shells in order to make a comparison. Then, I enlisted three experts (KD Eatin' teenagers) to taste test them for me and give me their unbiased opinion.

First, the basics. On first glance, they cost the same amount, $1.39 per box. But on closer inspection, the Kraft Smart only has three servings inside instead of four, making the Kraft Smart actually eleven cents more per serving. (For eleven cents, why even bother trying to get a mre half-serving of vegetables into you? Eleven cents will buy you a half-serving of, let's say, peas or carrots.)

Considering the dry mix only, Kraft Smart actually is slightly worse for you than the regular. The calories (180) fat (2 grams) cholesterol (5 mg) and even FIBRE (2 grams) are exactly the same in both, but the Kraft Smart has 20 milligrams more sodium and a gram more sugar.

What the heck?

Sure, there are tiny amounts of some vitamins, but not nearly enough to make eating this product worthwhile, because it. Was. GROSS!

We could smell it when the pasta hit the hot water. A horrible stink, reminiscent of sweaty feet, filled my kitchen. The pasta cooked up OK, and looked pretty much like regular KD, but it was really hard to get past the smell. Harder still was the lingering, cauliflower-esque aftertaste that grew stronger with each bite. (I have to confess I stopped at three bites. That was all of it I could stand.)

Not only that, three hungry teenagers refused to eat more than a few bites of this stuff, and instead hung around starving for fifteen more minutes while I made the box of shells and cheese instead. That by itself has to tell you something.

To me, I have to say that I like my health foods healthy and my junk foods junky. That makes it easy for the average joe to tell the difference. There's nothing wrong with the occasional treat, as long as 90% of your diet is otherwise nutritionally dense. Go ahead and have Kraft Dinner once in a while, but if you do, don't try and think you're doing yourself any favours by buying products like this one that try to deceive you into believing they are "smart choices." I happen to think that companies who try and convince us that crap is actually good for us should get a good spanking.

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