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I was looking on a box of Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni I bought. The nutrition facts read "as packaged", it only contains 0.5g fat, 120 calories per serving. I assumed this means everything in the box, including the dry mix. Now I'm having second thoughts about the definition of "as packaged", since macaroni and cheese is often around 4-8g fat per serving.

  • What does "as packaged" mean? Is it just the macaroni, or does it include everything in the box as its sold?

The recipe calls for ground beef, but surprisingly this doesn't add any protein to the "as prepared" numbers of the nutrition facts.

This is what the FDA says, but I just want to be sure.

As packaged” refers to the state of the product as it is marketed for purchase. “As prepared” refers to the product after it has been made ready for consumption (e.g., ingredients added per instructions and cooked such as a cake mix that has been prepared and baked or a condensed or dry soup that has been reconstituted).

I also sent an e-mail to Betty Crocker / General Mills, and they replied (via e-mail):

The amount listed before it is prepared includes every dry component in the package. The amount listed after the product is prepared includes the dry product and all ingredients added.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If an item of food is stored for a long time, the nutritional values might reduce. Other processes such as freezing, thawing and cooking will also have an effect on the nutrition. Thus the figures given on the box are correct at the time of packaging. The figures at that time might be different from when you actually get to eat the food. In the case of your macaroni, it could absorb or loose water while in storage so the % values would only be correct at the time of packaging. Thus "as packaged" is a reference to the time of packing not the packaging itself.

As to the low fat content, dried powdered foods usually are low fat as it is difficult to make the powder with fat. They will probably have used a hard, low fat cheese such as Parmesan, or a cheese flavouring, rather than Cheddar.

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Thanks for explaining why the nutrition facts would show low fat even in the case of dry mix that includes cheese. –  mathStudent Sep 24 '11 at 12:51
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"As packaged" effectively means "what is in the package to be consumed, divided by the recommended serving size", so it would include the dry mix. (but they won't claim the fiber from the packaging, only the stuff you're supposed to eat.)

Now, if the package's instructions tell you to add 5 sticks of butter, and a quart of cream, they don't have to add that fat to the "as packaged" nutritional content ... only to the "as prepared" nutrition.

Many cereal boxes will give the "as packaged", but then also give the nutritional information when served with milk. (but they always seem to go with skim milk ... go figure)

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