Lunchables are a prime example of Big Food companies marketing unhealthy food like products to our children. These “meals” in a box prey on kids and busy parents with their charade of a ready to go balanced lunch. It’s easy to see the appeal, bright colors, cute little pizzas or crackers to put together, candy, and a Capri Sun – what kid wouldn’t want that! Parents are busy and like the convenience of an all in one ready to go lunchbox, again its easy to see the appeal. But at what point did this become a balanced meal?? Crackers, ham, cheese, chocolate and a sugary drink?? Where’s the fruit or the vegetable and more importantly what are all those crazy ingredients listed on the box in very very fine print??
Today I sent my kids to school with my own version of “Pizzables”. They were quite excited to get to make pizza at school and I was excited to know what was actually in that lunchbox. Here is a comparison of store bought pizza lunchables and my homemade version.
Crunch Candy Bar
Whole Grains, Fruits and Vegetables
What You Get Instead!
Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, MSG, Artificial Flavors & Sodium NitritesYou Get This Too! (If you’re a scientist you may even figure out what it is)
Cellulose, Xanthan gum, Calcium propionate,
Thiamin mononitrate, Potassium sorbate
Pizza Crust (Whole Wheat Flatbread)
Pepperoni (Nitrite Free)
Apple Juice (100% Juice)
Candy and Sugary Drink
What You Get Instead!
Whole Grains, Grapes, Olives, Marinara sauce w/ real spices, herb and veggiesYou Get This Too!
A bright colored cloth napkin and a spoon
Lunchables are not a balanced meal. Not only do they fail to provide any source of fruit, vegetable or whole grain but they replace these wholesome options with candy and sugary drinks. The excessive list of ingredients is unnecessary and exposes children to a variety of health risks. I urge you to READ LABELS when you are at the grocery store. Know what is in your child’s lunch. Any of the above mentioned ingredients in lunchables should raise red flags.
Try making your own homemade version of lunchables. It doesn’t have to be fancy or time consuming. A healthy lunch can be “thrown together” in about 10 minutes. This is a great time to get in a fruit and veggie serving. For pizzas you can easily include sliced peppers, diced tomatoes, olives and even pineapple. Carrots, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and celery are great for lunch boxes and can easily be washed and sliced the night before or that morning. Try a whole apple, orange or a banana for fruit. In just 10 minutes you can provide your child with a simple and nourishing meal. Click here for more ideas in my post Healthy Kid Lunches – Quick and Simple.
We are all busy, but an extra 10 minutes a day will make a significant impact on your child’s health. Simple changes like including a veggie and fruit in your child’s lunch will follow them well into adulthood. As parents we are setting the tone not only for what and how our children eat now, but also for what and how they will eat in the years to come.
For this lunch I used whole wheat flatbread that I purchase from a local baker. You can also make your own whole wheat pizza crust with just 4 simple ingredients. Bake it and put it in the freezer. When you are ready to use it for lunch pull it out of the freezer and simply place it in the lunchbox. The crust will thaw out by the time your kids eat lunch. The sauce is organic marinara sauce that I buy at Whole Foods for just $2.99. It is made with all organic veggies and herbs and very cost efficient. The pepperoni I used is made by Applegate and is free of nitrites, nitrates, and antibiotics. The cheese is raw cheddar from our local farmer’s market that I purchase in a block and shred myself to avoid additives such as cellulose (most commonly made of wood pulp). Grapes and olives are just that, grapes and olives. The juice is 100% organic apple juice, store brand.