The 1991 incarnation of Betty Crocker is more mindful of nutrition


Betty Crocker arrives in the kitchen, carrying a large box that has been packed carefully with a dozen cupcakes.

She's dressed as she is in her picture, the one you see on all the Betty Crocker cookbooks: tailored red jacket, white blouse and dark skirt. And the cupcakes look like -- well, they look like you'd expect them to look: devil's food with plenty of white frosting spread on top.

It all looks like a 1950s scenario.

But it's not. Betty Crocker 1991 is really Marcia Copeland, who struggles with weight just like most of us and is director of the Betty Crocker Food and Publications Center in Minneapolis. And the cupcakes are 94 percent fat-free, another new product reflective of the increased awareness that less is better -- less fat, that is.

"Fat is just such a big problem," she says, unpacking the cupcakes from the box. "We know we don't want as much fat as we used to eat, but we still want our cake . . . and we're getting older. I think most of us assume we're going to be healthy for our first 50 years [of life], but now we're aiming at the second 50 years."

Ms. Copeland is the fifth "Betty Crocker" serving as official spokeswoman for the company and its products. (The picture, however, is a drawing that has been updated several times since it first appeared in 1936.)

"I'm the first Betty Crocker who has a family [husband and 20-year-old son]; I think that makes a difference," she said. "The real world is people who are running to PTA meetings and juggling time. Sometimes I hear criticism about some of our things like Hamburger Helper, but there are a lot of people who need it. You can't walk away [from shortcuts].

"There was a survey -- and I believe it -- that said that 30 percent of people want dinner on the table within a half hour after they get home. They've got to have shortcuts, simplicity."

Hastily prepared meals plus the desire to cut back on fat are the two reasons why Ms. Copeland is taking her cupcakes on tour.

A cupcake made from the new, light mix recipe contains 4 grams of fat and a total of 190 calories, compared with 12 fat grams and 260 calories in the regular mix. The nutritional labeling on the light-mix box says the mix recipe contains 6 grams of fat per 100 grams baked cake, which are the figures used in the 94 percent fat-free claim.

Ms. Copeland has cut back sharply on fat intake and recently lost 43 pounds by following the guidelines and recipes in the "Cook and Lose Weight" Betty Crocker cookbook.

"There were 27 who went on this [lose-weight] program, and we lost a total of 260 pounds. My cholesterol was 241 when I started, and now it's 141. When you're in a test kitchen you can eat all day long. I had to learn how to pace myself, and I also had to learn how to reward myself with things other than food."

She points to a large, dangly pin on her red jacket.

"This was one of my rewards -- I gave myself a reward after each 10 pounds."

Cutting back on fat, rewarding herself with dangly jewelry, juggling career with family and touting low-fat cupcakes: That's Betty Crocker in her 1991 incarnation.

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