Livid About Lunchables

by Ilinap on September 13, 2010

I’m going to don my shield and chain mail to withstand the barrage that’s sure to follow. I’m going to come right out and say it.

Lunchables are garbage.

In the privacy of my own home I tell Mac Daddy that I think Lunchables are poison and should be outlawed. He told me that’s too much hyperbole to put on my blog so um, I’m asking you to strike that from the record, mkay? If you know me IRL you already know that I drag around my soap box like a fourth appendage and wax on about the evils of Lunchables. Forget the new packaging with the “cool look that lets you see all the good stuff inside!” for a moment and just hear me out. I’m ranting and raving about Lunchables because I care about what we feed our children. I care about our children’s health. I care about how we teach children about healthy choices, nutrition, and well being. I care about how food companies are fleecing American moms. For that matter, food companies aren’t discriminating; they’re fleecing every market segment out there. If you eat, you’re being fleeced. Mac Daddy would roll his eyes at that statement and shout Hyperbole! at me. I say hyperbold this, dude. Lunchables are crap, and the marketing behind them play into our lousy prioritization in this country that puts five days a week of kids’ extracurricular activities and keeping up with the Joneses ahead of family meal time. Who the hell are the Joneses anyway?

Lunchables have zero nutritional value. Have you checked out the ingredient list? Can you pronounce half of it? AND WHY IS IT ALL IN CAPS? Damn, that’s annoying.

Take this for example (taken from the Kraft website, not from my own gray matter):

Ingredients: INGREDIENTS: WATER – SPRING WATER. APPLESAUCE – APPLES, WATER, CONCENTRATED APPLE JUICE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C). SUB BUN – ENRICHED BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR ([WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE VITAMIN B1, RIBOFLAVIN VITAMIN B2, FOLIC ACID], MALTED BARLEY FLOUR), WATER, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: SOYBEAN OIL, YEAST, DOUGH CONDITIONERS (MONO & DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, ENZYME MODIFIED SOY LECITHIN, DATEM), SALT, GUAR GUM, MODIFIED CELLULOSE, CALCIUM PROPIONATE PRESERVATIVE), XANTHAN GUM, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, ENZYMES. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY. OVEN ROASTED TURKEY BREAST – CURED – SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED – BROWNED WITH CARAMEL COLOR – TURKEY BREAST, WATER, POTASSIUM LACTATE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, DEXTROSE, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SMOKE FLAVOR, CARAMEL COLOR. REDUCED FAT CHEDDAR PASTEURIZED PREPARED CHEESE PRODUCT – PASTEURIZED PART-SKIM MILK, WATER, MILKFAT, SODIUM CITRATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, SALT, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE, WITH STARCH ADDED FOR SLICE SEPARATION. CONTAINS: MILK. NILLA WAFERS – UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, WHEY (FROM MILK), EGGS, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES (EMULSIFIER). CONTAINS: WHEAT, MILK, EGG. NONFAT MAYONNAISE DRESSING – WATER, VINEGAR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOYBEAN OIL*, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, CELLULOSE GEL, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, XANTHAN GUM, EGG YOLKS*, MUSTARD FLOUR, LACTIC ACID, PHOSPHORIC ACID, CELLULOSE GUM, VITAMIN E ACETATE, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, DRIED GARLIC, DRIED ONIONS, SPICE, YELLOW 6, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR), BLUE 1, WITH POTASSIUM SORBATE AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA AS PRESERVATIVES. *TRIVIAL SOURCE OF FAT AND CHOLESTEROL. CONTAINS: EGG. TROPICAL PUNCH ARTIFICIAL FLAVORED SOFT DRINK MIX – SUGAR, FRUCTOSE, CITRIC ACID (PROVIDES TARTNESS), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), VITAMIN E ACETATE, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE (PREVENTS CAKING), ACESULFAME POTASSIUM AND SUCRALOSE (SWEETENERS), ARTIFICIAL COLOR, RED 40, BLUE 1, BHA (PRESERVES FRESHNESS).

So why all the CAPS, Kraft? Why can’t you make this easy to read and tell me clearly what ingredients are in each item? What are you trying to hide? My general rule of thumb when it comes to what I ingest, feed my family, or clean my house with is that I gotta be able to pronounce what’s in it. And why, pray tell, must there be a packet of Kool Aid included in the Lunchable? What’s the matter with plain ol’ water? In deciphering the ingredient list I see a lot of chemicals, some fake color additives, a host of known or suspected carcinogens, fake sweeteners, and little real food. I’m a big believer in the short ingredient list. The smaller the ingredient list, the bigger the nutritional punch.

Lunchables are devoid of any value other than convenience. It’s like feeding a dish of flavorless chemicals and slippery faux meat to your child. Kraft only pretends the meal is wholesome. Gawd, I want to barf at the marketing fleece job here! Seriously, Kraft describes this product as “wholesome.” More like a whole lot of crap and some real food. Lunchables pack one quarter of a child’s daily sodium in one nifty little bento wannabe package. There’s also sugar, fat, and a negligible amount of fiber. You know fiber, the good stuff that no one gets enough of and leads to increased Metamucil sales as we creep up into the higher age brackets.

Lunchables prey on parents who struggle to find enough minutes in the day to work, clean, car pool, care, nurture, cook, sign permission slips, exercise, stand in the DMV line, and pack lunch. The list never ends, and every parent lives the life of Sisyphus. Sigh. Moms and dads pack enough into one day so the thought of packing lunch is often too much to bear. I’m guilty of it. In fact, Mac Daddy is master lunch packer in our house. He knows how much it pains me so he takes it upon himself to just do it. I might have to start calling this man of mine Nike. Sure, it would be easy to grab a stack of Lunchables and call it a day. But cost aside, we wouldn’t feed that to Bird and Deal. Period. Another rule of thumb, I don’t feed my sons anything I wouldn’t eat myself. Just say no to slimy lunch meat!

Look, I know all about the time crunch. I get it. I live it. I really do. There are many other ways to win the lunch box battle that doesn’t involve a Lunchable. I know it’s hard to not give in to convenience. And sure, we all slip. A slip and a habit are not the same. Kraft is exercising its crafty marketing savvy and appealing to our lack of time. I beg you. Don’t succumb. Opt for the old stand by of PB&J. Throw in some yogurt, a banana, and a granola bar. Make your own Lunchable with crackers, deli meat (nitrite free!), cheese cubes, and some grapes. I wrote a post for Foodie Mama a while back that might inspire some new lunchbox creations.

I just think that as a culture we are getting away from real food. We continue to let convenience trump common sense. In the end, it’s the kids who pay. The health of our children bests corporate wealth. Every. Single. Day.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

IlinaP September 13, 2010 at 10:01 PM

I’m livid about Lunchables. Tired of frankenfood invading our homes and schools! http://bit.ly/bhDBeh

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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Miss Britt September 13, 2010 at 10:07 PM

Preach it, sister!

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billbarnes04 September 13, 2010 at 10:10 PM

Great post! #realfood RT @IlinaP: I’m livid about Lunchables. Tired of frankenfood invading our homes and schools! http://bit.ly/bhDBeh

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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marciebarnes September 13, 2010 at 10:14 PM

No hate from here πŸ™‚ RT @IlinaP I’m livid about Lunchables. Tired of frankenfood invading our homes and schools! http://bit.ly/bhDBeh

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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Susan @Whymommy September 13, 2010 at 10:21 PM

And the people all said, AMEN!

I agree. 100%.

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@sweetbabboo September 13, 2010 at 10:23 PM

Amen. This is my first year packing a lunchbox (2 days of preschool), but I tend to lean towards the leftovers for lunches. It’s easy, super convenient, and most importantly healthy.

-Abby

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Claire Russell September 13, 2010 at 10:29 PM

Ilina I am sooooo happy that you wrote this post because I hate lunchables! I wouldn’t even feed it’s contents to my dog! I, like you, completely agree, why not make your own ‘lunchable’ meal, a healthy alternative. I opt for a cheese stick, whole wheat ritz crackers, (nitrate free) cold cuts and box of raisins or fruit cup. No offense to my friends who find lunchables a convenient meal, I just can’t do it….I also can’t bring myself to purchase Spaghetios..but that’s for another post! πŸ™‚

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Melissa (adventuroo) September 13, 2010 at 10:42 PM

I SO hear you. Lunchables are disgusting. I have to pack N’s lunch one day a week and it’s always healthy– it doesn’t take that much longer and it’s SO much better for them.

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adventuroo September 13, 2010 at 10:43 PM

Livid About Lunchables http://bit.ly/9Wc5Mu (from @ilinap) Amen, sista!

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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Ash September 13, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Sing it sister.

Ah, another silver lining to food allergies. No one even bothers to ask for this crap.

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Morgan B. September 13, 2010 at 11:04 PM

This is a great post! I was recently discussing my school lunch issues with a teacher friend of mine.
I’m constantly worried that I’m not providing enough variety for my pre-schooler. I joked that my daughter’s teacher is totally judging me. My friend looked at me and with a straight face said, “Don’t worry. We only judge the parents who pack Lunchables.”

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Casey September 13, 2010 at 11:06 PM

I love this post. I have taken major shit from so-called friends over my “real food crusade”. One evn said my kids must not have a pulse & implied that i’m ignoring my kids to make time to cook healthy meals from scratch. It can be done, simply & with little time expended. And isn’t nutrition important to parents anymore? My son came home last week & said the kids in his class all eat Lunchables. He was rather miffed at me for not sending them in his lunch but I would rather he be annoyed with me than suffer diabetes & hypertension from a lifetime of bad food choices that I set him up for. I tell my family the rule of 90/10. Eat healthy 90% of the time & a little fun won’t kill you.

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Casey September 13, 2010 at 11:07 PM

I love this post. I have taken major shit from so-called friends over my “real food crusade”. One evn said my kids must not have a pulse & implied that i’m ignoring my kids to make time to cook healthy meals from scratch. It can be done, simply & with little time expended. And isn’t nutrition important to parents anymore? My son came home last week & said the kids in his class all eat Lunchables. He was rather miffed at me for not sending them in his lunch but I would rather he be annoyed with me than suffer diabetes & hypertension from a lifetime of bad food choices that I set him up for.

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Casey September 13, 2010 at 11:08 PM

I love this post. I have taken major shit from so-called friends over my “real food crusade”. One evn said my kids must not have a pulse & implied that i’m ignoring my kids to make time to cook healthy meals from scratch. It can be done, simply & with little time expended. My son came home last week & said the kids in his class all eat Lunchables. He was rather miffed at me for not sending them in his lunch but I would rather he be annoyed with me than suffer diabetes & hypertension from a lifetime of bad food choices that I set him up for.

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Casey September 13, 2010 at 11:09 PM

I love this post. I have taken major shit from so-called friends over my “real food crusade”. One evn said my kids must not have a pulse & implied that i’m ignoring my kids to make time to cook healthy meals from scratch. It can be done, simply & with little time expended.

Reply

kim/hormone-colored days September 14, 2010 at 4:22 AM

Years ago my oldest (then about 6 pr 7) begged for Lunchables. I said I would not buy them and then relented one day, just so they wouldn’t be like a forbidden fruit. The taste was not appealing as the packaging. I meant the lure of the packaging, but I’m not sure the pressboard would have tasted much worse than the “pizza” thing we bought. My boys hated it and our discussion ended there. No more begging for Lunchables.

I do feed my kids some packaged and convenience foods, but this particular item is never in my cart.

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Anonymous September 14, 2010 at 5:42 AM

Nike would be infinitely better than Mac Daddy. Speaking of unhealthy food, doesn’t “Mac Daddy” originate from his association with McDonald’s?

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ilinap September 14, 2010 at 8:29 AM

@Anonymous I always wonder why people leave anonymous comments. Just curious is all. I’d have the same beef regardless if we were feeding our children fast food, pizza, or ice cream as a meal staple instead of as a once in a while treat. Choosing convenience is the only option sometimes, whether it’s a fast food restaurant or packaged food at the grocery store. But I don’t agree with the marketing practices that are shady in the overall food industry. To call Lunchables “wholesome” is a flat out lie. As far as I know, no fast food chain, pizza joint, or ice cream brand goes that far.

And so happy to hear so many people as outraged as I am!

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April September 14, 2010 at 11:58 AM

The girls ask me for Lunchables every few months, but I’ve NEVER said yes to those! Not only are they not healthy, they’re expensive! No reason to say yes.

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Amy @ YodelingMamas September 14, 2010 at 1:23 PM

My mom used to buy me Lunchables and I refused to eat them. They taste terrible! (Ok, this was 20-something years ago, but I’m guessing they haven’t improved much.) I still get nauseated by bad sandwich meat. Thanks for raising our awareness…there are so many simple healthy options. Really!

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IlinaP September 14, 2010 at 2:42 PM

Wonder what my foodie pals think of this post: @jenniferperillo @chefdruck @typeamom @jenschall @ginavon @justcrumb http://bit.ly/bhDBeh

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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Grumble Girl September 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM

Dude. That trash is completely appalling, and I can’t believe it’s even for SALE. Oh my god… terrible “food.” I’ve never bought one. I make everything from scratch at our house, outside of the odd jar of tomato sauce… my kid wanted Ritz with that “cheez” in the middle, and I told him no, because it’s not food.

How hard is it to make a sandwich? Or put all the sandwich ingredients in a container with some carrots and cucumber and cheese and crackers? For goodness sake… I never even notice them at the grocery. Uch.

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trianglexplorer September 14, 2010 at 3:09 PM

@IlinaP – Great Post! http://bit.ly/bhDBeh I love me some SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED – BROWNED WITH CARAMEL COLOR MEAT … NOT!

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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ginavon September 14, 2010 at 3:16 PM

@Ilinap I think you are SPOT ON the money. I couldn’t agree more. Great post- Livid About Lunchables http://bit.ly/bhDBeh

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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Gina von September 14, 2010 at 3:21 PM

You’ve hit the nail on the head. I could not agree w/you more. I hate that a company is leveraging that parents have so little time and that parents are mistakenly caving in to the cool marketing bells and whistles. It is not my favorite task, I will admit. I am starting to teach them how to prepare their own healthy lunches as to me this knowledge is power. I was criticized this past weekend for bringing a healthy snack to soccer when the other team had a box of cookies. I can see that the parents who called me on it are not teaching their children about healthy living – she handed her child two Cliff bars to eat and then a Coke, oh yeah, and then some candy to finish it off. This formerly well proportioned child is now slightly over weight, and I know exactly why – so I take arms and teach my little ones what I hope will serve them best in life. It is not always the quickest options that are the best. Thanks for the great post.

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Denise September 14, 2010 at 10:35 PM

I don’t even grocery shop where you can buy lunchables, but I saw them at my small target the other day. It really is appalling the crap they put into those. How can someone sit back and feel good about a list of chemicals being fed to a child (hello president of Kraft Foods) and PARENTS. To top it off, we have the luxury of desperate bloggers tweeting their heart away at a chance to win a giveaway during a GNO. I can wholeheartedly say, never in my house, ever.

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La Jolla Mom September 14, 2010 at 11:23 PM

I can’t tell you how much I agree!!!!! I was not allowed to eat these when they came out. I remember when they were launched and I was jealous, even though I was a teenager(???). Can’t remember exactly how old. Anyway, then I flipped over the box in the grocery store and was gobsmacked by the amount of fat and calories in the package. Not to mention the whacked out ingredients.

So my daughter won’t be touching these. Ever. If I have anything to say about it!

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abby@israel September 18, 2010 at 9:09 AM

kids and pets(especially when they together) have their special charm-you forget all bad things and just stare at them with happy smile..

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Susan Payton September 20, 2010 at 3:52 PM

I saw high fructose corn syrup on the list and I was done. We outlaw it at our house bc Hub is allergic to it.

Why aren’t there any organic or natural versions of the Lunchable? We pack a sandwich but I’d let my son get them as a treat if I could feel good about them.

I think Kraft should sponsor you. For life.

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JDK April 12, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Where have you been all my life? I don’t have time to blog – Thank you for making it a priority, it’s good stuff you are writing. It’s funny all the time we put into raising our children and then let the likes of Kraft make money off our kids and our need for convenience. Our children trust us to make the best decisions for them, we just need to say “no” sometimes. (wouldn’t hurt to cut the Cable TV also, but that’s for another day).
Keep up the good work young mommy!

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Kaylana August 29, 2014 at 6:10 PM

It’s imvapetire that more people make this exact point.

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