According to Wikipedia every day 2.3 million Brits eat Heinz Baked Beans. From the same source I have learnt that between 1941 and 1948 the British Government classified Heinz Baked Beans as an “essential food” in their rationing system. Certainly child 1 would concur. Having been a bit of a fussy toddler when it came to food, I was delighted when he took up eating “Mandy mash” – a combination of baked potatoes and baked beans he discovered at Lyme Park one day when he decided he preferred my friend Mandy’s meal to his own and she, being the lovely person she is, let him eat her lunch. Now he is 12, Child 1 is still as big a fan of the spud and bean combo as ever but as we are in North America he eats “vegetarian beans”.

Vegetarian beans?? Can this be serious? Can a legume really need to be described as vegetarian? Aren’t beans by their very nature, vegetarian (i.e. free of animal products?) Well here’s the thing about baked beans in the US. Unless you buy the veggie kind they come with meat in them. Here they are with their British counterpart, both bought today in my local supermarket (grocery store).

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Things to note… The American can is bigger. I would never have noticed if I hadn’t put them side by side, but the Vegetarian Beans can contains 435g of beans and the British can holds 390g.  The American can contains 3.5 servings. Who ever wanted to buy something in a 3.5 serving size??

Also… The British beans – and they are made in the UK, even though Heinz is a US company – have a label redesign for export. These are Beans with Tomato sauce. Not Baked Beans. Don’t ask why.

But here’s the thing. They are just NOT the same. They don’t look the same. The don’t taste the same. They don’t even have the same ingredients. And they certainly don’t have the same nutritional content as a result. Now I am going to be a bit serious.

Although the cans are slightly different sizes the nutritional facts are based on the same serving size. That’s 130g for Brits or 1/2 a cup for American readers. I will put pictures below but here’s the basic differences:

CALORIES Brit beans – 100, with none from fat

CALORIES US beans – 140, with 5 from fat. That’s a lot more.

SUGAR Brit beans – 7g

SUGAR US beans – 14g. That’s twice as much sugar per serving.

SODIUM Brit beans – 260mg. That’s 11% of recommended daily intake.

SODIUM US beans – 480mg. That’s 20% or 1/5 of all the salt you should have in one day in less than half a can of these beans.

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Isn’t that shocking? I think it’s shocking. And of course they are not the same price. The healthier ones are imported and cost more – again, even though this is an American company we are talking about.

The Vegetarian Beans cost $1.19 a can (that’s 74 pence) and the imported beans cost me a whopping $5.38 a can, (that’s £3.36 of your British money).

So the choice is roughly twice the unhealthiness at a quarter of the price. Thanks Mr Heinz. Not.

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