The Scary Truth of Lunchables

March 28, 2013   48 Comments

Snack Girl does not enjoy flaming food products. I would much rather find food that is good and champion it.

Lunchables 2013

But, I looked at my review of Lunchables and realized that it was outdated. I needed to take a fresh look at Oscar Mayer’s products to give them a chance.

The truth is that they have gotten worse than when I checked them out two years ago. How is that possible?

Well take a look at this:

The Lunchable I reviewed had peanut butter, jam, whole wheat bread, and a cup of fruit. Okay, now there are Oreos, weird chicken things, ketchup, and a fruit smoothie. Does this look like food to you?

It cost me $3.75 versus the $2.50 I paid in 2011 and there is a blatant lie on the packaging that I would challenge if I was a lawyer.

The smoothie wrapper says that it has “no sugar or sweeteners added”, but the ingredients list includes “apple juice concentrate” and “orange juice concentrate”. What do you think happens when you concentrate apple juice (remove the water)? It turns into apple flavored sugar syrup!

I don’t see how “apple juice concentrate” isn’t a sweetener.

I am forced to repeat my list of “Five Reasons To Avoid A Lunchable:

  1. Sugar: The sugar content, 35 grams, is almost the same as a 12 ounce can of Coke.
  2. Cost: These cost $3.75. I know I can make a lunch for less than that.
  3. Packaging: There is way too much of it and it is not reusable.
  4. 590 grams of Sodium: Twenty-five percent of your daily amount in your kid’s lunch.
  5. Artificial flavors, MSG, high fructose corn, syrup, preservatives... We can feed our children better than this!

The other lunchables in the case had Capri Sun juices and candy included (like mini chocolate bars). Why would you buy this to nourish your child or yourself?

Who is buying these? At a price tag of $3.75 it costs more than my child's school lunch ($2.75) and looks much worse than the school food (and that is saying something). I can't imagine that people who are struggling to make ends meet are eating them. My guess is adults and people with disposable income. Anyone else want to hazard a guess?

Please share your thoughts on Lunchables.

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Generally speaking, I avoid processed foods but anything with high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated fat is a low quality food--end of story. I am fortunate in being retired to have plenty of time to prepare meals but surely even the busiest parent can do better than this for their children.

My kids ask for them because they see the commercials and I tell them exactly why I won't but them, nothing but sugar and crap!!

Thanks for backing me up:)

Evidently every child at my children's school! Each week I am told how all the other kids eat this garbage everyday and how my children wish they could have it :(

Oh my gosh! Glad I don't buy these! How horrible!!

And this is why children are getting so fat! Do you ever check out people's overflowing grocery carts and see all the processed food they are buying? (I'm not perfect but what I see amazes even me - soda, chips, frozen meals and maybe a couple of yogurts. No fruits/vegetables!)

My kids want them too and I don't buy but I have started making bento box lunches that are fun, portion controlled, and are filled with fruits and vegetables that look like flowers and bunnies and things. You tube has great suggestions. I keep it simple with veggie cutters but my kids still love them and the lunchable kids are jealous of my kid's lunches! :-) I now can make cute bentos in less than 10 minutes!

My Wednesdays are really busy. I work from 8-5 and then have a class from 530-830 (which I am often late for because I am rushing out of work and almost never leave at 5), and I will say that yesterday I took a lunchable to eat on the ride from work to school. Usually I eat an apple, a 100 calorie pack, or a not-much-better-than-a-lunchable nature valley granola bar, but I find that an hour before class is over I am ravenous again.

I picked up the lunchable over the weekend during my weekly grocery shopping and, as planned, I ate it yesterday at about 5 on the ride from work to class. Not only was it not satisfying and tasted like instant regret, but about an hour or so later, a terrible stomachache that left me clutching my stomach and holding my breath. I made it through class but had a stomachache all night that I can still feel a little this morning. :(

Never again!

Thanks for the bento plug I'm going to check it out, sounds fun! Btw even if these were healthy, they are gross. My son begged for the nuggets one once and I let let him have it. It was disgusting (I had to try it). Just like it looks, he doesn't ask for them anymore

I have 3 girls that want these all the time. I keep telling them that for almost 12 dollars, I could buy the stuff to make my own 'lunchable'. The difference being, they would get a larger quantity of food and it would taste so much better.

I'm not sure if you have posts about packing kids lunches. I'm rather new to your blog but I am considering bento boxes this summer. Do you or will you post any thing on kids cold lunches? I'm a single Mom on a tight budget, but I do my best to pack wholesome lunches for him.

No connection to me (I don't have any kids at home anymore) but this site has great ideas for school lunches:…

she uses bento boxes and is very VERY creative, and her suggestions are tested by her kids!

Every day I see lunchables at lunch and now snack time in my kindergarten class. It's peer pressure, even at that early age. Once in a while, a kid who usually eats healthy will have one, take a bite and refuse to eat the rest, but that's rare. Unfortunately, they are considered a big treat. So, to counter this subtle advertising, I do a thematic unit on healthy foods.

I have been raising my 7 yr old grandson since he was about 18 mos. old and am trying to do a better job food-wise than I did years ago with my own kids. I worked full time and went to school part time while raising my kids and thought I never had time to fix "healthy" meals. I remember when Lunchables first came out and my kids begging for them, which I of course bought (and back then, in the beginning, they were probably tons healthier than they are today....but still crap!) along with a LOT of other processed foods and fast food. Today, both my kids are in their mid-20's, constantly battling their weight and their addiction to junk food and soda. My grandson? When given the choice of Goldfish crackers or maybe a cookie for a snack, asks instead for tomato slices with a little fat-free ranch dressing to dip them in, or some cantaloupe, or some string cheese. Seriously. That tells me that if they learn to eat good from the beginning, they tend to prefer it and will (hopefully) stick with it for a lifetime!

My husband, daughter and I all went to the grocery together last weekend. My daughter knows I won't buy them, and believe me, she's tried talking me into it. I've heard many of the comments that I see above, "all" the kids in my class get to eat them - why can't I? Well, she sweet talked my husband into buying one and ended eating it that night for dinner. It had "chicken" nuggets in it that didn't even need to be heated. Scary! I did heat them for a few seconds. Literally, 5-10 minutes after eating them, my daughter was in the bathroom getting sick. I was able to refrain from saying, "I told you so," but I don't think I needed to. Something tells me she won't ask for one again! :-)

It says NO ADDED SUGAR OR SWEETNER! Reducing the fruit to concentrate isnt adding its just the fruit itself turning into sugar. Now with that said LUNCHABLES ARE CRAP! End of story :( my grandson wont even eat one! I bought several thinking it would make life easier at lunch time but he's 2 and went right for the cookie or candy:( waste of money for sure! Now he eats pbj:)

I totally agree with you. I have twin girls. One of them is always wanting lunchables. No matter how many times I've explained why I don't want to buy them, she still wants them. Funny thing is, when she packs her own lunch she does pretty good, health wise. My other one will only eat the meat out of them because the cheese tastes gross and she doesn't like the crackers. She would rather have me cut up cheese, salami, and put some crackers together.

Just a FYI - regardless of where they are bought they are a waste of money. HOWEVER, I have NEVER bought them full price. I would buy them on sale or what is even better (price wise) is Grocery Outlet. Again, no excuse but they would be under $2 usually.

I would LOVE some good nourishing ideas for kids lunches. The many things I've seen online and tried with my kids, who are not what I consider picky eaters, have failed.

We are far from perfect in our household about food but we are constantly trying to improve and find healthier choices that still fit into a very buys (10 min to get out the door) type schedule.


I recommend the Greenlites bite website that Jeanne referenced above. She has excellent suggestions for kids lunches that her kids eat!…

This is my go-to school lunch spot…

OMG that's all the "food" you get for that money. I never buy the big ones because they never have enough food and they are expensive. I will admit to buying the small ones w/ just the crackers, cheese and meat occasionally for lunches or snack for something different.

This is the 'new food group' formulate--sugars/ fats,sodium,and cholestrol. The fault is with--food products, merchandising/advertising,the consumers, and 'spoiled chidren'--it is always all about the money,it is the advertising that sells with the hope that the unaware buying public will cave into packaging slogans and the idea of a quick and easy lunch-to-go. Your health is not their priority. Buyer be wise. Parents you are in charge. What has happened to the brown bag lunch? With a little planning getting back to basics--veggies, grains,and lean proteins--does not have to be borning. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away . . ." Be strong, be healthy,live longer, and be happy, too!

The company no longer makes the ones my kids liked and asked for. Thank goodness they don't ask for them anymore! I'm a teacher also, and most elementary schools in our area have a snack time: sugary cereals, chips, pudding cups.The school-sponsored opt in for $35/year program had orange slices the last time I checked. On the other hand, my son's middle school started a program with grant funding and it's always a fruit or vegetable. He didn't like the mango or the jicama, but everything else is a hit, and he loves it when other students won't eat their snack--they give it to him. The biggest problems for the school have been prep time (peeling and portioning) and getting new equipment (apple slicers/corers).

I don't have kids (yet) but I find that buying bento boxes makes packing lunch easier, portion-controlled...and could possibly be positioned as a customized Lunchable (?) I bought a set from that are BPA-free and it's just enough room for a sandwich or some kind of leftover + 1/2 c. of cottage cheese or something and some cut up veggies. Saves me money and I'm not using baggies all the time. Bigger than Gladware, too.

I just bought my daughter her first lunchable last week after absolutely refusing for the last six years! Sadly, it seems that most if her friends have them all the time so we both bent to the peer pressure lol. Well, she didn't like it and had a bad stomach ache as well as some, er...bathroom issues for hours after school (and thank goodness she didn't have to go through that at school!). I got one for my 3 year old at the same time and he took one bite and wouldn't touch it again - and I just couldn't give him the schpeel about wasting food - we threw it out! I think their taste buds are programmed to detect crap... :)

Thanks for the review! It's mind boggling that they've gotten worse, but are trying to convince us that they're better then ever!

"tasted like instant regret..." @Holly, i love it. can't say it any better than that. my fave of all time is the "easylunchboxes" bento box. you can get them on amazon or at their own website. our prek now sells them as a fundraiser, too. highly recommended by many! i found them here through snack girl, and am a fan to the end. worth every penny! mine are still in great shape and are over 2 years old and each gets used 2-3 times a week and washed in the dishwasher (bottom rack!) each time. tough as nails and such an awesome lunch packer!

I just don't understand how this is supposed to in any stretch of the imagination be LUNCH... at that price, it should be, but this would not be enough food for anything beyond a 2yr old... and if it was my middle son... it wouldn't be better than a first course... and he wasn't big on meat... so... yeah... even if we are okay with the chicken nuggets (horrible as they probably are and very little of them being chicken)and the smoothie... there's nothing else but cookies! it is not as if it is hard to provide a veggie that keeps well in such a container... or a fruit... why no pouch of apple slices (really, are we saying Oscar Mayar is not capable of being like mcdonalds?... heck, I'd like to see a yogurt parfait option instead of the smoothie for kids who can have dairy... and I bet there is dairy hiding in that smoothie)... but why can then not divide the chicken compartment in half and fill the other side with baby carrots and/or celery... substitute some ranch instead of the oreos for kids who like to dip their veggies and there you go... a better alternative. Of course, the amount of waste just kills me, so I wouldn't buy it.. but for that OMG we're out of stuff, I just got home late from work, what are we gonna do for your lunch tomorrow run before school, it would at least be less bad.

Peer Pressure is a huge force! My mom used to buy these for us as kids (1990s) about once a week because my school didn't have a lunch program and she got tired of making sandwiches. They were considered a treat and I only remember cheese and crackers and a capri sun. But they were great for the bartering system! I had a friend who always brought an amazing homemade on wheat tuna salad sandwich and I'd trade my processed crap for something delicious. I don't remember liking the lunchables, just the packaging made them alluring, and they were in high demand. Bring a lunchable and I had my pick of everyone else's lunches.

For simple, quick bento lunch ideas, try the ideas at For some more fancy, but still quick ideas try the blog Wendolonia. There are lots of ideas on both sites for reusable containers and you can make your lunches as healthy as you like.

Even as a kid I knew lunchables were garbage. I'm just happy that some families and schools are taking the garbage out of our kids mouths and helping against the fight of childhood obesity.

So glad you posted should go to the schools and a copy should be send home to all the parents.....those are absolutely daughter refuses to buy them for her daughter...she comes home and tells her about all her friends having these cool daughter send her to school with healthy food, and always fruit & vegs. and she buys milk at school, yet she thinks her friends have better to eat than she does LOL.....we laugh ......she can't understand now, but will when she has kids of her own.....

I remember eating these as a kid, but I would never touch them now. I cannot believe the price point. I cook my lunch for the week on Sunday, and feed myself for an entire week for about the cost of one of these processed meals.

I am proud to say I have never thrown money away on a lunch able. The kids asked for them only once in a while but they always looked gross to me so I never gave in. I sort of see the convenience appeal, but really - how much time does it take to just make a pb&j on wheat bread & throw it with some fruit and maybe a granola bar in a lunchbox?! It takes no more effort really!

At our local Publix I have seen lunch abeles for 1.00 each. This was at the beginning of the school year, probably to get people hooked in. I see kids lunches and th en can easily correlate the behaviors I see in the classroom to what they have for lunch and the things they tell me they have for breakfast. My poor kid gets organic, home made, healthy every day. She would probably love to have a lunchable. Oh well. They are crap.

Lisa, this blog may help some of your readers above. I linked to this post if that's OK. You really ARE one of my favorite bloggers.

You list a "pb&j with fresh fruit" as a healthy alternative to the lunchables meal, and you list 35 grams of sugar as a reason to avoid it. If you combine a regular sized apple, 2 tablespoons of strawberry jam, 2 slices of wheat bread and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, I guarantee your sugar content will equal or exceed the 35 found in the lunchables. PB&J and fruit is far from a "healthy" lunch.

Matt, pb&j made at home with good bread with fruit is a healthy lunch regardless of sugar content because it is real food. The problem with the sugar content in the lunchables is that they are not satisfying meals and they don't have much fiber to go with them. So the sugar has more of an effect. The sugar content of a homemade meal with real food has less effect because it is balanced with fiber, protein, and all sorts of nutrients and micronutrients.

"tasted like instant regret..." @Holly, that was too funny. and so accurate for me, too, on many occassions! you can't say it any better than that. my fave of all time is the "easylunchboxes" bento box. you can get them on amazon or at their own website. our prek now sells them as a fundraiser, too. highly recommended by many! i found them here through snack girl, and am a fan to the end. worth every penny! mine are still in great shape and are over 2 years old and each gets used 2-3 times a week and washed in the dishwasher (bottom rack!) each time. tough as nails and such an awesome lunch packer!

The nitrates alone will give kids cancer. I am not a fan, and I'm proud to say I have never purchased these for my kids. There are far better "fast" options for lunch that are less toxic for little bodies. For very little effort and money, you can make the healthier version at home in 5-10 minutes. I do like that you checked back on your review. Very good points to be made.

We have a 5 year old in his second year of school. From day 1 I have packed Bento's for him. Don't get discouraged by the fancy bento's you see out there, I don't do any of that (1, less waste and 2 more time). The thing is he thinks it's cool. He loves opening the little containers and seeing what is inside. The ones we use are LapTop Lunches. We have 2 sets and they are more than durable. We do the fruit in one, veggie in another, snack (yogurt, cheese/crackers, raisins, etc...) in another and then his main meal. We have done wraps, sandwiches, left over's, cold pizza, grilled cheese and have even used his thermos for warm foods, pastas, oatmeal, soups, etc... Is it easy - not always, but the fact of the matter is for a child who needs 2 snacks + 1 lunch each day something like a Lunchable is not going to do it. We don't even buy Lunchables when travelling, or if we need something fast. I would rather take the 10 minutes at home to pack a bento or two for the road. The key to Bento's is to thing of the different food groups, or the colors of a rainbow and try to pack a lunch along those lines. Could it be as bad for you as a Lunchable - sure! As they say "Garbage in - Garbage out!" But when shopping if you think at the level of what would go good in a Bento that can be a healthy alternative you can pack more food for less than $3.75 of packaging and chemicals.

Years ago, I got one for my oldest. I got him the pizza one b/c he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. He said it was nothing like pizza (I make my own) and he didn't like it. My younger two don't even ask for them. Maybe they're spoiled, but they love asking for different foods from home, and me curbing the less healthy requests, steering them toward better ones, and...I never say no dessert. Usually it's a small healthy cookie I've baked, but they see it as a treat and that's what matters. Lunchables have earned every bit of their bad rep! There are so many creative moms out there cutting their kids' meat and cheese into cute shapes, with luck Lunchables sales will decrease. :)

I am not a fan of Lunchables for a regular school lunch for my child. I don't mind giving it to him once a week. I agree that it is about the same as buying a fast food meal. I can make lunch for my son for much cheaper, the problem is he doesn't eat it...ugh!

Go to walmarts and see how much healthy food you can buy there, its very sad. Shame on walmarts for encouraging so much poor nutrition.I will work more hours to pruchase healthy food elsewhere for my family.

This is so sad. I have never bought these. I know it's junk. I know my child will eventually ask for them because everyone is eating them and I have to tell her it's junk so she can repeat it to her friends and make me look like the "bad mother". I hate that companies market this junk to kids.

Nice to find a group that feels the way I do about the garbage packaged as "food" out there, fighting the same battles I am with my girls. This summer my husband and I are taking on a huge "fun in the garden" project aimed directly at making real food more cool than "Lunchables."

PS Read about Snack Girl in Salt Sugar Fat Michael Moss, a must read.

I read your column regularly and know now very well about the many, many reasons not to buy lunchables. Thus, I was truly shocked when my spouse and child came home from the grocery store the other day with a lunchable meal in the bag "as a special treat". yuck! and it even included candy -- as if my kids need any more sugar (my kids love sugar). It was a little better than the one you last profiled (it cost $3 not $3.75; and had a little less sugar), but still.... I conveyed all the good reasons for NOT buying lunchables (including the poor nutritional value, all that packaging and the non-recyclable, "fruit-flavored" Capri sun drink) and asked kindly that they not be purchased again.

The fruit smoothie in he lunchables tastes terrible I never want it ever again and for your sake please don't drink it it taste like butt

DIY Lunchables are easy with my EasyLunchboxes compartmentalized containers:

As a school teacher I see these EVERYDAY in the lunch room and usually with kids with behavior problems! I am sure that these things are maybe 50 cents to make and are terrible for the enviroment and child! Steer clear and save yourself a forture by the end of the year.

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