Photos from food ads vs. the real thing

Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread

We’ve heard your complaints. About a far-from-full carton of frozen Szechuan chicken: “I guess you need two boxes if you want the full serving.” About crackers: “I found crackers 1/4 the size of the one pictured on the box—a shock!” About a turkey dinner with appetizing slices on the box and brown blobs inside: “Outrageous!”

So we went shopping and bought a cart full of foods you told us look nothing like their pictures, plus others we thought might be candidates. Some products appeared very much as pictured, so you may have bought a single problem package: a carton of mint-chip ice cream with “not one chocolate chip anywhere in the contents! Not one!!” Other products weren’t sold any more, among them Ruffles Beer Battered Onion Rings. The bag boasted a big photo of fried onion rings, which annoyed three readers who opened it to find what unnoticed tiny type revealed: flavored potato chips.

Still, we found plenty of products whose photographs looked far more enticing than the reality inside. One staffer prepared packages of the nominated foods, and three staffers judged them to be either as pictured, close, or not close. Here we present the not-close contenders. The moral: Don’t judge every product by its picture.

MORE AT Consumer Reports

'Lean' is right.

The photo on the Lean Pockets box (above left) shows a chunky filling that’s oozing out. In our sample, the pocket was far from full.



Baked Naturals Cheese CrispsHoley moly.

The actual Pepperidge Farm crisps are smaller than shown, have little holes that aren’t pictured, and appear to be coated with less cheese.


(See also: 8 times you shouldn't pick the fat-free option)






Banquet pastaTry to twirl this.

The real Banquet pasta has less sauce, the meatballs are smaller and more shriveled, and the spaghetti is in pieces, not long strands.

Tabatchnick soupNow you see it, now you don’t.

Where did those distinct red and green vegetables go? The actual Tabatchnick soup, a New York reader noted, is “brown mush with carrots. You couldn’t even identify individual lentils. Boo hiss.”


Healthy Choice Top ChefMay we have seconds?

The Healthy Choice product is shown overflowing from a bowl, but open the box and you realize that’s a really little bowl. In the one sold with the product, the food comes up barely a third of the way to the top.






Little Debbie Cloud CakesSize matters.

Some products get away with a blown-up picture by saying “enlarged to show texture.” This Little Debbie snack doesn’t have that disclaimer, yet the real cakes are about half the size shown.









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