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5 More Bad Foods and Fast Foods to Avoid

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

John McGan has written a series of nutrition articles and reviews of new foods and lists bad foods and fast foods to avoid. He also explains why fast food is bad for you and has comparisons of good food and bad food. This particular article is on grocery store convenience food that falls into the category of bad food!

With the busy lives people lead nowadays, convenience foods are flying off grocery store shelves. But are consumers paying too high a price in terms of money and health for quick and easy food?

The new Banquet Homestyle Bakes Cheesy Ham & Hashbrowns dinner is supposed to have easy preparation for walk-away convenience. My family would rather walk away from any dinner table where this slop is served.

The box contains a package of shredded and dehydrated potatoes, a can of cheddar cheese sauce with ham in it and a packet of crumb topping. The cook puts the potatoes in a baking pan, spreads on the sauce, mixes in 2 cups of hot water and tops it with the crumbs. It bakes for 35 minutes.

I made this for the guys one evening before I left for a dinner meeting. When I came home, exactly one scoop had been taken out of the pan. I found evidence of canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

“It was pretty bad,” my husband said. “See for yourself.” I took a bite and had to agree. It was salty, starchy goo. The nutrition isn’t any better. One box makes about five servings, each with 1/2 cup filling, 1/3 cup potatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons of crumbs. A serving has 240 calories, 11 grams of fat (3 saturated), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 990 milligrams sodium (41 percent of the daily allowance), 31 grams carbohydrate (3 fiber, 2 sugars) and 6 grams protein.

The only thing this meal has going for it is that it’s cheap. The suggested retail price at Wal-Mart was $3.38, but I bought it on sale for $1.50. At least I didn’t waste a lot of money.

Nasty Little Elves

Oh sure, those Keebler Elves may look cute and helpful, but that’s the front for their covert operation of seducing consumers into eating high-fat treats such as their new Vienna Fingers Mint Fudge Thins.

The "Thins" remind me of Pepperidge Farm Milanos, except the Keebler variety’s cookie crust isn’t as delicate and melt-in-the-mouth, and instead of a sandwich it’s cookie on one side and chocolate on the other. That means they could be a chocolate mess if eaten out in the summer heat, or if placed in the hands of small children.

A package costs about $2.50 and contains about 48 cookies. A four-cookie serving has 160 calories, 7 grams of fat (3.5 saturated), zero cholesterol, 115 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrate (less than 1 fiber, 10 sugars) and 1 gram protein. Our family’s opinion is they’re not good enough to justify eating that much fat.

Testing, Testing

I noticed a package of brown spaghetti on the pasta shelves and checked it out. It’s made by Creamette, and the package boasts that it’s “made exclusively from 100 percent Semolina from Hard Amber Durum Wheat, the best wheat available.” It also says it is “a low fat, sodium free, cholesterol free food.”

Great, but would my kids like it?

I decided to do a taste test. That night for dinner I served the brown spaghetti beside ordinary store brand white spaghetti. Both boys preferred the white spaghetti. I also liked the white spaghetti better than the brown. The brown was chewier and had an unpleasant earthy taste. My husband was so tired and hungry he didn’t even notice there were two different piles of pasta on his plate.

The nutrition information is surprising. I paid $1.29 for the 1-pound box of brown spaghetti with eight 2-ounce servings. Each serving has 210 calories, zero fat, cholesterol or sodium, 42 grams carbohydrate (2 fiber, 2 sugars) and 7 grams protein. The 3-pound box of store brand white spaghetti cost 89 cents. Each box has 24 2-ounce servings, and each serving has 210 calories, 1 gram of fat, zero cholesterol or sodium, 41 grams carbohydrate (2 fiber, 2 sugars) and 7 grams protein. And guess what it says on the package of white spaghetti? It’s also made with 100 percent durum semolina!

Durum, according to Wellness Foods A to Z by Sheldon Margen, M.D. and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, is "...a hard spring wheat with a high protein content and golden color." So, although the more expensive pasta is brown, it has almost the same nutritional value as the generic variety. The store brand is also about four times less expensive, and my family liked it better.

Hefty Hero

The Swanson’s line of Hungry-Man entrees makes my job so easy. It’s hard to believe people would eat these regularly. Several new Hungry-Man dishes even boast about having “1 lb. Of Food.” It is nothing to brag about. (To read what John McGran recently said about Swanson's even bigger XXL servings click here.)

I bought a box containing two Hearty Hero Cheeseburger Sandwiches for $4.69. Each sandwich is one serving, and consists of two “Charbroiled Beef Patties with American Cheese on Oven Baked Bread.” The sandwich is easy to prepare in the microwave, but tastes like soy burger. I looked at the ingredient list and, sure enough, the patties contain soy protein concentrate.

The nutrition information is disgusting. Each sandwich has 730 calories, 43 grams of fat (17 saturated), 80 milligrams cholesterol, 1,450 grams sodium, 56 grams carbohydrate (4 fiber, 10 sugars) and 29 grams protein. That’s 87 percent of the daily saturated fat allowance! And 61 percent of the sodium allowance! So, the sandwich doesn’t taste that great and gives you almost your whole day’s supply of saturated fat and salt. It’s a loser in any healthy diet.

No wonder the guy on the box doesn’t have his shirt tucked in. He must be hiding his belly.

Reader Request

A reader asked me to check out Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinners, both the original flavor and the new Premium Thick n Creamy version with 40 percent more cheese than Kraft Original. The Thick 'n Creamy style does taste creamier than the original kind, and has about the same nutrition information. But they're both unhealthy.

I paid 99 cents for the creamy style, and 89 cents for the original. Each of them makes about three 1-cup servings. Here's how they compare: The original version, per prepared serving, has 410 calories, 18.5 grams of fat (6 saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 750 milligrams sodium, 48 grams carbohydrate (1 fiber, 7 sugars) and 11 grams protein. The creamy style, per prepared serving, has 410 calories, 18.5 grams fat (5 saturated), 15 milligrams cholesterol, 780 milligrams sodium, 50 grams carbohydrate (2 fiber, 9 sugars) and 11 grams protein.

Both are right around 30 percent of the daily allowances for fat and sodium. And that's if you eat only one cup.

Breakfast Bits

Another reader, a 16 year-old female, asked for healthy breakfast suggestions. I told her what I learned last year from nutritionists and dietitians when I wrote an article about breakfast. It doesn’t matter if the breakfast is cold or hot, they said. And while low fat foods are better choices than those high in fat or with lots of sugars, it’s even more important that people just eat something in the mornings, to give them energy, brain power and to get their metabolisms off to calorie-burning jump-starts.

With that in mind, I’ll tell you about two new breakfast products my family tried.

The boys liked Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Frosted Double Chocolate Snak-Stix. We paid $1.75 for a box with six 1-pastry servings. Each serving has 200 calories, 5 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), zero cholesterol, 240 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrate (less than 1 fiber, 20 sugars) and 3 grams protein.

Is this the best choice for breakfast? No. Is it better than nothing? Yes. Do I let the boys have this every day? No, of course not.

A better choice is Dannon’s new Light ‘n Fit Creamy nonfat yogurt. This stuff tastes wonderful. Hubby and I polished off a package of four servings (2 each of peach and strawberry), that cost $1.78, in two days. Each 4-ounce serving has 60 calories, zero fat, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 80 to 85 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate (6 sugars) and 6 grams protein. It also has from 6 to 15 percent of the daily allowances of potassium, calcium, riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and phosphorus.

Becky Billingsley, a.k.a. The Check-Out Chick, is the mother of two, a wife for 20 years and a food writer. Like most busy moms, she often relies on convenience foods to get meals on the table in a hurry. She worries about whether these items provide proper nutrition and if she sacrifices too much of her grocery budget in exchange for ease of preparation.


The following joke was sent in by Allie. It barely passes the good taste test, but what the heck... I hope you like it too.

What is the difference between roast beef and pea soup?
Anyone can roast beef...

OK, quickly moving along... reader Elora submitted this knee-slapper:

A man is concerned that his wife is losing her hearing so he asks his doctor for advice. He jots down the advice and heads for home where he finds his wife cooking in the kitchen. After re-reading the doc's advice, he stands 10 feet behind his hard-at-work wife and asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?" There's no reply. He moves to 8 feet behind her and asks again, "Honey, what's for dinner?" Still no reply. He moves 5 feet behind her and again asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?" And STILL no reply. So he steps right behind her and asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?" In a flash his wife turns around, smacks him on the head with a big wooden spoon and shouts, "FOR THE FOURTH TIME... WE'RE HAVING CHICKEN!!!"


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