Venial Vegetable Trickery

Cheerios Snack Mix

By: General Mills

I Paid: $2.79 for an 8-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3stars


Marketing: 4stars

Cheerios … in a snack mix?! This crazy proposition would shake the Earth to its molten core were it not for the accompanying news that said Cheerios Snack Mix also includes the familiar and traditional Chex squares as a stabilizing element.

That was a close one.

The Cheerios offering comes in two distinct flavors: Original and Cheddar. A more honest way of billing them would be “Gardetto’s—That Other General Mills Snack Mix—Lite” or “Funky Like Old Socks, Not Funky Like Soulful.” Both are baked, not fried, and at 120 calories and eight grams of whole grains per serving, they’re not so bad for junk food.

In terms of flavor, let’s deal with Original first. Its powdery garlicness is relatively delicious and invites repeated (if not continuous) tastings, but is eerily similar to Gardetto’s. The main variations are that here the garlic salt is cranked down to a mellow, mild, possibly even child-friendly level; the texture is softer and more uniform; and the shapes (little pretzels, Corn and Wheat Chex, MultiGrain Cheerios, “bread twists,” and “snack crackers”) are slightly different.

All in all, quite a reasonable snack, if a bit castrated compared with Gardetto’s.

The Cheddar variety, by comparison, is all kinds of bad. It’s not clear precisely what went wrong, but what’s meant to be a warm, distinct, comforting cheddar taste instead has a red-light umami scent and flavor that says “slightly off,” if not “mildly rotten.”

Considering there’s an alternative that offers the same healthy baked and whole-grain attributes without tasting of old foot, it seems quite possible that the Cheddar variety is not long for this world.

Green Giant Healthy Vision, Healthy Weight, and Immunity Boost Vegetable Mixes

By: Green Giant

I Paid: $1.99 for a 7-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 2stars

In a country where the FDA is increasingly content to let anyone ply whatever health-related bunkum that seems profitable, it’s no surprise that major food manufacturers are jumping onto the bandwagon with probiotic this and antioxidant that. Green Giant has leaped squarely into the fray with frozen vegetables that proclaim themselves capable of promoting “Healthy Vision,” an “Immunity Boost,” or “Healthy Weight.”

With the caveat that I’m neither a nutritionist nor a medical professional, I’ll put forth a layman’s opinion: Trying to address specific medical problems by eating one package of vegetables is pretty optimistic, if not daft. That aside, vegetables are pretty good for you, so using trickery to get people to eat them is a venial sin at worst.

The Healthy Vision mix contains sliced carrots, zucchini quarters, and sliced green beans, tossed with rosemary butter sauce. At about 90 calories for the whole package, it’s a reasonably light side dish, if one that lacks much oomph in the flavor department: Although the carrots still retain a bit of crunchiness, the sauce is mild beyond belief and the overall texture is lacking.

The other two options are quite a bit better. The Healthy Weight version is a mix of sliced carrots, sugar snap peas, black beans, and edamame tossed with butter sauce. At 180 calories for the package, it’s the most calorific of the three, but I could envision it as either a meal substitute or a supplement. The black beans and edamame both have some fibrous soul and texture, and they push back nicely against the carrots and peas.

The Immunity Boost collection is composed of broccoli florets, julienned carrots, and both red and yellow sweet pepper strips in a garlic-herb-infused extra-virgin olive oil seasoning. Immunity Boost is a mere 100 calories and boasts crispy and well-defined broccoli, a strong red/yellow pepper scent and taste, and great overall crunch and snap.

Consuming all three varieties in one day did not, unfortunately, turn me into a supersighted, skinny, totally disease-immune dude, but it did fill me up with green and orange vegetable matter. That, by itself, is worth celebrating.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.