The New Lunchables with Fruit. Is this the Best Kraft Can Do?

It’s back to school season and we’re taking a look at foods many parents are likely to pack in their kids bags. Lunchables is a very successful brand that we have reviewed in the past. Our conclusion then was that even a sandwich with peanut butter and jelly was better for your child.

That’s why we were pleasantly surprised to see that Kraft has recently introduced 4 new Lunchable products, each with a “full serving” of fruit. The fruit serving is courtesy of Dole, for example pineapple chunks in juice.

From the Lunchables’ website for Ham+American Cracker Stackers:

Piled high with the goodness your kids will enjoy every time. This lunchtime option is a delicious combo of lean ham and crackers made with 5 grams of whole grain per serving. Plus, it’s packed with Dole mandarin oranges in 100% fruit juices.

 

Nutritional Highlights

  • Crackers Made with 5g Whole Grain per serving
  • Good Source of Protein, Vitamin C

Is this really something worth packing in your kids’ backpacks?

What you need to know:

Here is the ingredients list:

Pineapple Tidbits – Pineapple, Pineapple Juice, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Citric Acid.

Cooked Ham – Water Added – Chopped And Formed – Smoked Flavor Added – Ham, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of Sodium Lactate, Potassium Chloride, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Diacetate, Salt, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Smoke Flavor.

Reduced Fat Pasteurized Process American Cheese – Part-skim Milk, Skim Milk, Milkfat, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Cheese Culture, Sorbic Acid As A Preservative, Lactic Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Enzymes, Vitamin A Palmitate, Apocarotenal (Color), With Starch Added For Slice Separation. Contains: Milk.

Crackers – Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Leavening (Baking Soda And/or Calcium Phosphate), Whey (From Milk), Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor. Contains: Wheat, Milk, Soy.

Natural Flavored Strawberry Fruit Stick – Strawberry Ingredients Made With 90% Fruit Ingredients (Pear Puree From Concentrate, Pear Juice From Concentrate, Strawberry Juice From Concentrate, Blueberry Juice From Concentrate) (Natural Source Of Vitamin C), Natural Cane Sugar, Tapioca Starch, Rice Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Strawberry Flavor, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Sodium Citrate, Pectin, Purple Carrot Extract.

As you can see, while boasting the fact that the crackers are made with whole grains, Kraft uses partially hydrogenated oils (aka Trans-fat) in their production. Not cool. And those 5 grams of while grains translate to merely 2 grams of fiber.

Just seeing that the ham  is “chopped and formed” should give you a hint as to the quality of the meat. But the nitrites are what you should be worried about. They are used as a preservative but are potentially carcinogenic.

Lastly, the “Naturally Flavored Strawberry Fruit Stick” is basically an amalgamation of sugars (we’ve marked them all in bold). The vitamin C which is highlighted as a marketing message is a fortification.

On the positive side, Kraft has made some strides here:

The inclusion of more fruit in the pack is commendable. The fact that artificial colorings are not used in the fruit snack is worth mentioning as well. (UPDATE: The PB&J Lunchables does use Red #40. Bummer).

Our verdict: still not good enough for our kids. Keep trying Kraft, hopefully you’ll get there…

What to do at the supermarket:

While the cutesy package is super convenient for parents, it is very expensive for what you get. You can pack a better lunch for you child easily, with just a bit of preparation. Buy crackers without trans fats. Choose quality meats without nitrates or nitrites. And as for fruit snacks, how about fruit as snacks?

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  • jnwalsh1

    Gross. Is it that difficult to cook up some chicken breast and dice it and put it in a container? Cube a melon or pineapple and put it in a container?

  • Jim Cooper

    The American Cancer Society no longer thinks that nitrites in preserved meats are a cancer risk.
    However, you got everything else right except for the snide remark about Red #40 which  does not seem to have any problems.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy – The Frugal Dietitian

    Interesting you wrote even a peanut butter sandwich would be better BUT so many school districts are refusing to allow kids to bring in peanut butter to school because of peanut allergies. PLUS a recent study showed that perishable food items in lunches were at unhealthy temps. by lunchtime.  It may be best to really tackle the issue of affordable, healthy school lunches made at the school.

  • Leslie

    I wish they would just put a real whole grain cracker in there.  Overall, I don’t love these things, but as a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, I don’t think they are the worst choice in the world.  I usually opt for turkey over ham because it is *usually* lower in sodium and often is nitrate free.

    Nancy – I did read about that school study about lunch temperatures, but the thing is, kids have been eating room temperature lunches for decades.  I certainly didn’t have a freezie pack in my lunch as a kid, and most of the kids now are bringing insulated lunch ktis with freezie packs.  I think that if kids were getting sick, we’d be hearing about it (frankly, it would be a widespread issue).  I don’t think it’s something we need to worry about.  Yes, the bacteria on your food can double every four hours when it’s in the unsafe zone, but assuming the food was safe to begin with, it’s probably still not going to make you sick.  In Canada, very, very few schools have a school lunch program – EVERYONE brings their lunch in elementary school.  We don’t seem to have huge problems with lunch-related foodborne illness.  

    • WF

      Actually, depending on temperature, bacteria on your food can double as fast as every 10 minutes!

  • jennifer

    baby steps.  100% real actual fruit is a blessing. The American kids palates need to be trained for the taste/textures of actual fruit flavor instead of HFCS.  I’d love to see you review the same thing in turkey. It has orange slices 100% instead and I bought 1 time last year for a field trip. My 6 year olds 1st lunchable ever. Had I not, he would have been quite literally the only child without one. No joke. He was the only one with a non traditional kind but no one cared/noticed

  • http://www.facebook.com/cynthia.kapela Cynthia Burgess Kapela

    There’s no denying that kids go gaga over cutesy packaging and the “do-it-yourself” idea of the Lunchable.  Personally, I think the most unhealthy portion of the Lunchable is the blasted packaging.  First you have the plastic tray and plastic cover that holds everything in…then inner packaging for the fruit stick, the cup of fruit, etc.  What a waste.  I take my daughter to the Lunchables section of the grocery and tell her to pick out her favorite ones.  Then we go buy the separate ingredients throughout the store to make our own lunchables to pack in our own reusable containers.  We buy English Muffins and pizza sauce for the pizza lunchable, little buns and meat and cheese for the sandwich lunchable…then we make our own fruit cups, pudding cups, applesauce cups or whatever for a little dessert.  Nothing beats homemade and being a part of the process decreases what’s leftover in the box at the last bell.

  • LER

    A healthier alternative are GoPicnic’s (www.GoPicnic.com) gluten-free meals that are
    pre-packaged, ready-to-eat and require no refrigeration or preparation.
     They’re great for lunches or healthy eating on the go because they are
    portable, compact and convenient.   All
    four gluten-free meals include a protein, whole grains, fruit and sweet treat
    for dessert.  Plus, they’re under 500
    calories each and contains no trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or added
    MSG, and no artificial colors or flavors.  I use them in-between
    activities, when I don’t feel like making lunch, airplane and car travel and in
    hotel rooms to avoid vending machines, room service and mini-bars.  I also like them for the beach!