Shameless marketing directed to gullible parents

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Yes, apparently mothers dream of feeding their kids cans of prepared pasta loaded with sodium, fat and salt

“A Mother’s Dream”

While doing research for the next book, I stumbled across a story in today’s Brandweek magazine about a clever new campaign by Chef Boyardee. They claim that by adding a small amount of whole wheat flour to the pasta in its canned products suddenly makes them incredibly nutritious! It’s great for your kids. Hence, the new tagline: “Obviously Delicious. Secretly Nutritious.”

Says Brandweek: “…. the TV ad shows a father being pleasantly surprised as he finds out that Whole Grain Beefaroni contains ‘whole grain pasta.’ His wife tells him to “zip it,” or else their daughter—and her friend, who is visiting—would ‘never eat it.’ Bewildered by their behavior, the girls shoot each other funny looks across the table, and the guest remarks: ‘Your parents are freaks.’ “

I don’t think they’re freaks. They’re well-meaning types unfortunately deluded by a transparent marketing sham.

The “whole grain” version has roughly the same nutritional value of the previous incarnation, which earns a “D” grade from One can of the “whole wheat” Beefaroni still contains 62% of the recommended daily sodium intake — for an adult. Depending on the source, the recommended sodium intake for kids is about 1,000 mg to 1,500. Just one cup of Beefaroni has 750 mg.

Then there’s the saturated fat (nearly 30% of an adult’s recommended daily maximum) and trans fat (36%). There’s also a dozen grams of sugar likely from the high fructose corn syrup listed on the label, the ingredient that comes directly after pasta.

Here’s what would be even more nutritious. Make a batch of your own one weekend, and then freeze small single servings for quick meals for your kids. Hey, maybe you can have them make it? It doesn’t even have to be a secret. You’ll cut down on the sodium, eliminate the high-fructose corn syrup and you can use whatever whole grain pasta you want.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. I love whole grains, and buy lots of them. On a recent trip to Portland, it was SO awesome to visit Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie. Got away for $80.

    But it never ceases to amaze me that the supermarket aisle with all the bulk whole grains is usually empty. This is healthy, cost-effective food and people should be paying attention.

    Good article, Kat.

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