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Where Do I Begin?

The folks at ConAgra appear to be quite proud of their Kid Cuisine products.

Aimed at elementary school students, these ready-to-eat lunches are — believe it or not — advertised as healthy items.

Let’s analyze one variety. How about the Dip & Dunk Toasted Ravioli?

The initial descriptive sentence says it all: “This meal features breaded real-cheese ravioli…”

Beside the slightly disturbing fact that we have to be assured this product contains “real” cheese (as opposed to… cheez?), I find the breading of ravioli rather odd — and unnecessary.

The nutrition label displays 9 grams of fiber (good!) and one tenth of the daily potassium requirement (not bad!), but also a third of a day’s worth of sodium (yikes!) and 18 grams — 4 and a half teaspoons’ worth — of sugar.

Oddly enough, Conagra advertises this product as containing 20 percent of MyPyramid’s suggested daily servings of grains. How this is a selling point beats me; no one in this country has any problem getting their recommended servings of that food group!

The ingredient list, not surprisingly, is very long (the cheese ravioli, for instance, contain a garlic puree made with high fructose corn syrup) and includes one of my pet peeves: unnecessary sweetening.

It turns out the side of corn isn’t simply corn kernels. Nope, it’s corn with water and sugar.

Sugar? Added to corn?

Then there’s the “fruit shaped and fruit flavored” snacks. In other words, it looks like a fruit and tastes like a fruit, but it’s just sugar.

This product could easily be tweaked to provide similar flavors with a superior nutrition profile. My suggestions:

* Replace the breaded ravioli with baked, 100% whole grain cheese-and-broccoli bites.

* Offer corn kernels in their naturally sweet state.

* Replace the fruit snacks with unpeeled apple slices.

Those three changes could slash the sugar content approximately by half and lower the sodium by roughly 150 milligrams.

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One Comment

  1. n/a said on March 22nd, 2009

    Got an idea for a source of protein for my daughter that I can take with me out and about during the day that doens’t require refrigeration?

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