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Quick Summary

I'm logging what I eat and gamifying it to some degree.

  • Why do carbs and protein in "as prepared" meal kits consistently get reduced from "as packaged" in the nutritional information?
  • Which should I log for consistency?

Background

For health reasons I am now tracking calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients in the food I eat. Generally speaking I make a "recipe" in my app and put in the raw ingredients to calculate all of these. I am not holding too strictly to reported calories because I always try to give myself a buffer. But macronutrients are important for me and it's a bit harder to buffer those. I hate seeing my "budget" go in the red on those so I treat it like a game of sorts.

After a couple of months of doing this, for inspiration, I have subscribed to a meal kit service that provides the ingredients, recipe, and full nutritional information. What is confusing/interesting is that the micro- and macro-nutrient information is provided both for the raw/packaged ("as packaged") ingredients and the final result ("as prepared").

In some cases it's pretty obvious why there is a difference - we supply our own olive oil, salt, etc. so fat and sodium are normally higher. But in almost every recipe, the carbohydrate and/or protein numbers for "as prepared" are reduced from "as packaged" even when the recipe does not call for trimming any proteins or discarding significant amounts of carbohydrates.

Examples

  • A fish and pasta recipe has carbs go from 59 to 57g
  • A Mediterranean bean recipe goes from 84g carbs to 82, and 35g protein to 34
  • A beef and rice bowl recipe goes from 74g carbs to 72 and 53g protein to 52

The bean recipe does have you wash the beans. There's no trimming of meat or anything obviously reducing the protein content in the beef and rice bowl.

Questions

  1. What might be going on?
  2. Which one is more consistent/accurate for food logging purposes? It's double-edged because I am trying to eat more protein and fewer carbs, so a reduction in both will affect my numbers in a good way (carbs) and bad way (protein). Per the third link below, it's probably looking for too much precision, but I still have to pick one to log and one some days it will affect whether I reach my goals.

Related Questions I've Reviewed

  1. nutrition facts: what does "as packaged" mean? - does not seem like it's describing exactly what's happening here?
  2. How to calculate the calorie content of cooked food? - not as concerned about calories
  3. Recipes - Adding up calories and nutritional info? - this describes what I do for "normal" recipes (log the raw ingredients) but I'm curious/unsure about it with the meal kits

Edit: What the company says

I asked the meal kit company for an explanation. They did not address protein but had this to say:

The total amount of carbohydrates as packaged may be higher than the total amount of carbohydrates as prepared. The carbohydrates are reduced when the meal is prepared due to trimming of produce to yield only the edible portion.

The total caloric values listed ‘as prepared’ reflect nutrition information for the meal, including ingredients intended to be added during cooking (e.g., calories, fat and sodium from added salt and oil used), as well as any fats that may naturally cook off during the cooking process. ‘As packaged’ reflects only the caloric value of the ingredients that are packed in the box and the resulting ‘as prepared’ values may be higher or lower to reflect changes and additions during the cooking process.

In general, when food has been cooked, the nutrient values may change. Our ‘As Prepared’ nutrition data takes that into account.

I am not sure the carb answer is reasonable. One recipe has no cutting or prep of produce, one involves only removing the very tip of zucchini, and one involves removing just the bottom root of bok choy.

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    Isn't this something you should ask your meal kit service? It's their description, after all.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 15:28
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    I think it's worth saying that the differences you're describing – while certainly a puzzle you're entitled to be intrigued by – are extremely small (2.8% in the biggest case), and are certainly dwarfed by the differences between any natural products anyway.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 16:58
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    But my assumption is just that they compiled their 'as packaged' data from one information source and their 'as prepared' data separately, rather than trying to calculate one from the other. And difference sources will differ because, again, these are natural products.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 16:59
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    @dbmag9's right, I'm sure. Imagine you were just frying 100g of onion. There will be measured data for the nutrients in 100g of raw onion, and in the same amount of onion after frying. But the measurements will necessarily have been taken on different samples, even if on the same day in the same lab, as the food is destroyed in the calorie-measuring process. This same natural variability means that going to more than 2 significant figures is bound to be excessive.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 7:12
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    @stevev you've given examples that go down, but it's not clear that that's always the case, given the rest of the question. There's another possibility: that they're assuming all ingredients (in particular categories) get trimmed by some percentage, even if that's not always true. But are you weighing every ingredient yourself? Because the portions supplied won't be accurate to the gram anyway
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 17:10

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