It’s the Cheesiest

Packaged foods are sure taking a beating this week. First came Michael Pollan’s admonishment in The New York Times Magazine not to eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, like Go-Gurts. Now Anastacia Marx de Salcedo (writing in Salon) turns in a nice indictment of Annie’s Homegrown Macaroni and Cheese. No Go-Gurts or mac ‘n’ cheese? What the hell am I supposed to feed my kid?

But I digress. Marx de Salcedo hits Annie’s on several fronts, from its marketing (she hates the bunny) to its core customer base (“organo-hipster mamas and papas”) to its nutrition profile. Here’s where things really get tough for true believers in packaged health food. Except for some food coloring, the ingredients and nutrition in Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese are basically indistinguishable from those in Kraft’s:

Annie’s has the same number of calories (Annie’s 270, Kraft 260), the same amount of sodium (Annie’s 550 mg, Kraft 580 mg), protein (Annie’s 10 g, Kraft 9 g) and fiber (Annie’s 1 g, Kraft 2 g), and a bit more fat (Annie’s 4.6 g, Kraft 2.5 g) and saturated fat (Annie’s 2.5 g, Kraft 1 g). But, you sputter, grasping at your last, best argument, ‘Annie’s is organic!’ Not so fast, my friend. Only packages labeled organic are organic. Annie’s are labeled ‘totally natural,’ which means, uh, which means … whatever you want it to mean, boys and girls!

Marx de Salcedo isn’t suggesting we abandon a perfectly good comfort food in the middle of winter: She merely suggests we make it from scratch, providing us a recipe for white sauce in case we can’t find our copy of Joy of Cooking under all the piles of Elmo pajamas and My Little Pony figurines.