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.