Printer Friendly

Pita the poor frozen sandwich.

It's not often that you uncover a "Timeless Food Truth," but we think we've got one.

We call it the "Conservation of Fat": Some foods have more fat, and some foods have less fat, but the total amount of fat in the universe remains the same.

How else can you explain the fact that as fastfood burgers and sandwiches have begun to slim down, a host of new frozen sandwiches has started greasing up?

And boy is there a host. The $265-million-a-year frozen sandwich market includes every conceivable (read "microwaveable") combination of meat or poultry and bread, with a sprinkling of vegetables thrown in. There are hamburgers and cheeseburgers, pita breads with taco and pepperoni and cheese fillings, and pastry shells full of chicken, turkey, and ham and cheese.

Some of them try to trick you into thinking they're better than they are. Others are unashamedly awful. Some are low in fat (but high in sodium); others are low in sodium (but high in fat). A few have no meat (but not many vegetables); others have a modest amount of vegetable (but they're smothered in cheese).

It's clear that the frozen sandwich category has a long way to go. Out of more than 50 products we looked at, only three chicken breast sandwiches deserved Best Bites. (And they're not even available nationally yet.)


Greasy used to be the only way you could get your burgers at McDonald's & Friends. But the introduction of the McLean Deluxe last March wiped some of that grease away.

By adding water and a small amount of a safe vegetable gum called carrageenan to its ground beef, McDonald's managed to cut the fat in its Quarter Pounder from 20 grams to 10. (although not quite lowfat) hamburger. The lowest-fat frozen microwave hamburger we found was Jimmy Dean Mini. The 3 1/2 Minis it would take to weigh as much as a McLean Deluxe would give you 18 grams of fat.

Cheeseburgers are even worse: You'd be better off buying a greasy Burger King Cheeseburger Deluxe than a greasier MicroMagic frozen Cheeseburger.


Of course, nobody expects a frozen burger to be anything but a salt-and-grease bomb. But stuffed pita bread conjures up images of healthy food.

Well somebody ought to tell Pitaria Pita Stuffs that greasy and salty foods like chili dogs, ham and cheese, and pepperoni don't get any better when you wrap them in pita.

For a (somewhat) more virtuous stuff, try Ken & Robert's Veggie Pockets. Like most other frozen stuffed sandwiches, they use a wrapper that looks more like pastry dough than pita. But unlike most others, that wrapper has some (organic) whole wheat flour in it.

And the ingredients in all three varieties -- Pizza, Tex-Mex, and Greek -- are refreshingly free of synthetic dyes, flavors, and preservatives. They do use tofu cheese, though, which explains why they had too much (largely unsaturated) fat for a Best Bite recommendation.


All of the frozen stuffed pocket sandwiches are too fatty and/or salty; the cheese, added salt, and pastry dough see to that. Of course you'd never know it by looking at the packages. Industry leader Hot Pockets has no nutrition numbers. Some Quaker Oven Stuffs boxes have numbers, while others (guess why) don't.

One line that does give you some (very selective) numbers, Chef America Lean Pockets, deserves the "Deceptive Packaging of the Month" award.

According to the box, Lean Pockets are "FAST AND HEALTHY." The company got it half right: They heat up in just under five minutes.

But healthy? They're as "healthy" as artificial colors and flavors, as healthy as sulfites and nitrites, as healthy as MSG, as healthy as egg yolks, and as healthy as preservatives like BHA and BHT. (That probably takes care of the "...we start with only the finest ingredients" claim, too.)

And what about the "LOWFAT" that's emblazoned on the front of the package? True, Lean Pockets average a tad less fat than some of the other stuffed pockets. But the FDA says that for a food to call itself "lowfat" it can't have more than two grams of fat per serving. A serving of the lowest-fat Lean Pockets (Turkey, Broccoli & Cheese) has nine grams of fat.

Did we miss something? Only that Lean Pockets contain meet, so they're regulated by the USDA and not the FDA. And in USDAland, your grandmother's meat loaf would probably be "lowfat."


The only Best Bites went to three skinless chicken breast sandwiches by Tyson. At five to six grams of fat and just over 500 mg of sodium each, they're about like a Burger King BK Broiler with no sauce.

Tyson's buns give you more fiber than most (they add some oat bran, oat fiber, oatmeal, and sesame seeds to their mostly refined wheat flour). Exactly how much we couldn't tell; the box carries no nutrition labeling and the company wouldn't give us fiber information.

Also, the sandwiches are a little heavy on extra-curricular ingredients like potasssium bromate (in the bun) and MSG (in the pattie). There is one nice thing about them, though: the packages don't come with heat susceptors -- metallic grey surfaces on which the food heats and which may release potentially harmful chemicals.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:nutritional content of frozen sandwiches
Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:The ten worst additives.
Next Article:Name your (food) poison.

Related Articles
Fast foods: 1989 "best" and "worst." (includes fast food nutrition quiz)
Frozen novelties: the DoveBar's revenge.
Desperately seeking sandwiches.
Fast food follow-up: what's left to eat?
Pick a pocket.
Between the slices.
Guide to Vegetarian Frozen Entrees.
Breakfast before you know it.
Diner sandwiches revisited.
Hot, fast sandwiches.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters