Boxed Brownies

Betty brings Home the Brownies for less than my homemade but brings also brings home trans fat and additives. If immediate cost is your most important factor here, pick up a box.

I thought I finally found a rave product: Betty Crocker Hershey’s Original Supreme box mix, bought on sale for $1.00 – I bought 2 and used my 40 cent (do not double) coupon so 80 cents each.  I already knew “my” Hershey’s Ultimate Double Chocolate Brownies cost $1.71 to make.  Even with the added eggs and oil, Betty beat my cost by 55 cents.  It would have been very close had I not had that coupon.

I have very fond memories of my mother’s Hershey brownies…the ones she poured a whole can of Hershey Syrup into!  Plus, this is Betty Crocker, and although she’s not pictured on the box, I’ve used Betty’s cookbooks all my life and could just picture her wholesome goodness as I reached way back in almost empty shelf to get a couple of the last boxes. There’s always a big rush on this item when it’s on sale and there are coupons out there.   This is the first time I’ve ever made a boxed brownie, by the way, although I’m sure I’ve eaten them before, and I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I bought them.

I looked at the directions: 1/3 cup of vegetable oil and 2 eggs, 120 calories. Not bad. I make my brownies with butter – this HAS to be better than all that saturated fat, right?  (The box said 0 trans fat.)  Only later would I realize how wrong I was.

I tasted them. Not too bad.  Not “to die” for either.  Only later did I realize how ironic that statement was!  My son came in, looked at the pan and said, “What’s wrong with your brownies?” He grabbed himself a big old hunk, probably about ¼ of the pan and scarfed it down. “These don’t taste like usual.” (Just think about this serving size later!  That’s how America really eats.)  When I went back in the kitchen later that evening, there was just a tiny corner left.

But here’s where things really go south – I only really had a chance to sit down and decipher the box later this evening.  Serving size – 20? In a 9 x 13 pan. (It took me 10 minutes to figure out how that should have been cut, by the way.)  Knowing there was 0 trans fat, I had no real worries, even though I ate a piece twice the size recommended and my son polished off the rest of the pan. Yet there it is right on the box – partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil. Oh, and a couple lines below – mono and diglycerides and below that, an emulsifier!

Smart, smart Betty to use not only one, but SEVEN strategies to HIDE the trans fat, and some of the total fat, saturated fat and calories. Here’s what she did:

  • She made the serving small enough that she didn’t have to report the normally reportable trans fat, because there was less than .5 grams in each serving!  (Even though no one eats a serving by her standards!)  This allows her to say 0 trans fat.
  • She used non reportable types of trans fat – the manufactured products of diglycerides and mono glycerides, and maybe the emulsifier, too.
  • She portioned up the trans fat into three and possibly four different types of trans fat, each listed separately.  Each one is a very small amount, and can appear down toward the bottom of the list of ingredients.  Ingredients toward the bottom of the list are often more easily disregarded or even not seen.  Because of the varied types of trans fat, a casual purchaser may not even know they are there or what they are.
  • By listing her ingredients in two separate areas for her two types of packaging inside the box, the brownie mix and the syrup, the total trans fat looks smaller:  they are smaller in proportion to the whole box, and can go further down the list of ingredients where they will not appear in a noticeable block.
  • She has us add the oil separately.  That’s been happening for years, a marketing tool that doesn’t force us to take a good, hard look at our totals. And even vegetable oil, corn oil, and soybean oils contain some saturated fat and some trans fat. (Guess what, the trans fat in these products is normally not reportable.  A serving size is a tablespoon, and the trans fat is less  than .5 grams per tablespoon!)  There is trans fat in my bottle of Canola oil in the cupboard – I know this because they made a big point of putting on the front of the label the words: “Contains 0 trans fat per serving in a fancy little scroll near the bottom.
  • She did not tell us anywhere that she was basing her total calories on large eggs, not the more commonly sold extra large eggs. If you use extra large eggs, more commonly used for baking, you need to account for the extra fat and cholesterol.
  • She put a picture on the box of a brownie that is OVER twice the serving size, making us think that all the amounts she listed were less than they are.

Bad, bad, bad, bad Betty.

How much trans fat is in the serving or the box? We know that one of HER servings contains 1 gram of fat, and that all of it is trans fat. (We know this because there is no mono, poly or saturated fats listed.)  We also know that it could be as much as 1.49 grams of fat, and still be shown as one gram of fat. (That rounding thing again.) What do you think, should we give her the benefit of the doubt and count it as 1 gram or 1.5 grams?

Either way, that amount still sounds small, but remember her serving sizes are miniscule.  What if someone polished off most of the pan, like my son?  We need to know, right? Let’s just figure it as best we can.  I have all evening.  (If you don’t, just glance at the totals, below)  Oh, yeah, and let’s figure it with the egg and oil, too, since you’ll be eating them as well.

First, let’s get a more realistic size – we’ll pick somewhere between my son’s ¼ of a pan and Betty’s teensy tiny thing. My brownies (from the 9 x 13” pan) are cut into 15 bars – I’ll use that for my calculations. Three across the short way and five along the long side. Betty’s brownies are cut into rectangles a hair over 1” wide and a little over 4 ½ inches long.  Did I tell you it’s Friday night? Ah, yeah, maybe I should have gotten together with friends, after all.

I’ll also use large eggs and canola oil, rather than my extra large eggs. (We don’t know exactly much trans fat is in the canola oil, but up to .49 grams per tablespoon – and a serving has about a teaspoon,  about 16g trans fat)  There is definitely not NO trans fat – I know this because the label says 0 trans fat.  (I have to leave off cholesterol, because there is no way to calculate since we don’t know the proportions of the different fats.)

I‘m also not bothering with the fiber which is negligible, the sugars – who are we kidding here?  This is a brownie, and the protein – which comes mostly from the egg.)  Just for fun, I’ll throw my brownies in the mix, too, which I already KNOW has butter and saturated fat and contains 4 ounces of chocolate pieces!  They are, by the way, so good they earned me an impromptu marriage proposal once! (I’ll give you my recipe later, but remember, actual results may vary…)

The additional fat besides the saturated fat in my brownies is made up of mono and poly saturated fats (the good kind – 5 grams.)

Brownies baked in a 9 x 13″ pan, 15 bars per pan, 1 bar per serving:

Type Cal tot fat trans fat sat fat sod
Betty Crocker 284 17g 2.29g 2.33g 248mg
Mine 275 12g None 7g 173mg
Betty ¼ pan 1065 64g 9g 8g 930mg

By the way, recommended amounts of fat per day, based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, per the FDA and applauded by the Mayo Clinic?:

  • Trans Fat = 0
  • Total Fat: Poly, Mono, and Saturated Fats – 25 grams, no more than 10 grams to come from Saturated Fats.

The biggest difference between Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, Poly and Mono?

  • Trans Fat raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol.
  • Saturated fat raises bad cholesterol.
  • Poly and Mono, according to Harvard, lower disease risk.

Harvard says, “The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats and to AVOID trans fat.”

And the cost?  It varies with the chocolate, but if you were frugal and just used part of a bag of chocolate chips, say bought on sale the same day as the brownie mix you’d pay $.48 cents for the chocolate. Here‘s the pricing for the rest of the items: flour @ 1.99 lb totals $.13, sugar was $5.95 for 10 pounds so it totaled $.20, eggs $1.38 a dozen total $.23 (applies to each), cocoa was $2.39 for 8 ounces so it‘s $.30, baking soda negligible, vanilla bought on sale this week with a coupon and got a cat = 4 cents. Salt – Negligible. Butter – $.99 a pound on sale this week, $.33 for the 2/3 cup.

  • My recipe: $1.71
  • BC Recipe: $.80 plus $.23 for the eggs, plus Canola oil $2.39 for 48 ounces = 13 cents.  Total: $1.16

What else did Betty bring to the table?:  Artificial flavor, polysorbate, 60 an emulsifier, xantham gum, vanillin, an artificial flavoring, and potassium sorbate for freshness.

OK, if I’m going to eat any type of frivolous dessert, something that I’ve heard and read is basically unhealthy, please let it be really, really good!

But you decide for yourself – will you pick the brownie with trans fat that cost less or my absolutely wonderful (my son calls them “dank”) brownie with more saturated fat that cost 55 cents more a pan?

Or maybe you’ll just go find yourself a good recipe that fits in the dietary guidelines.  That, by the way, would be the sensible Frugal answer, but when chocolate is involved? Maybe you shouldn’t trust me or Betty!

Final Frugal Judgment? I can’t rave about trans fat ever so it goes in the rant column.  Here’s “my” Favorite Brownie!

Hershey's Ultimate Double Chocolate Brownie
Hershey’s Ultimate Double Chocolate Brownie

3 thoughts on “Boxed Brownies”

  1. I-did-not-know-this! I am very much flabbergasted!. What an interesting way to market your ‘healthy’ food. I don’t think we have the same rules for mentioning what is on the package (see TTIP and the protests here in Europe). I will go and pay attention! IN the shop that is, I stick to home made. Thanks for your recipe😀

    1. I guess i kinda did “market” my own, ha!:) Our laws in most states don’t make gmo products have labels, sugar doesn’t require a percentage of calories like other ingredients do (sugar boards lobbied) and the same with trans fat. The problem is big business in bed with the politicians.

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