After doing a presentation for the Santa Barbara Girl Scouts, a troop leader came up to me with the empty box from a Lunchables package. She said she thought that given my presentation, I should see what was actually in this product. Notice how I used the word “product” instead of “food.” These are not interchangeable.  My goal with this post is not to make any parent feel bad about feeding their child Lunchables, but rather to open your eyes to what is actually in this item.

I started my research with on the Kraft Lunchables website. When I clicked on the picture of the Bologna + American Cracker Stacker with Juice, this is what it says:

Give them the good stuff. Made with Oscar Mayer bologna made with chicken and pork, Kraft American and Ritz Crackers. Includes Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters.

Nutritional Highlights

  • Excellent Source of Protein, Calcium
  • Crackers made with 5g Whole Grain per serving

Wow, protein, calcium and whole grains? This must be the “good stuff!” Or maybe not…

Ingredients: WILD CHERRY WATER BEVERAGE WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVOR – WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CITRIC ACID, SUCRALOSE (SPLENDA(R) BRAND SWEETENER), NATURAL FLAVOR. BOLOGNA MADE WITH CHICKEN & PORK – MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, WATER, PORK, CORN SYRUP, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, POTASSIUM LACTATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, FLAVOR, SODIUM NITRITE, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SUGAR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE. PASTEURIZED PREPARED AMERICAN CHEESE PRODUCT – MILK, WHEY, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MILKFAT, SODIUM CITRATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE, WITH STARCH ADDED FOR SLICE SEPARATION. CONTAINS: MILK. CANDY BAR – CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, GROUND ROASTED PEANUTS, HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL, COCOA, MOLASSES, AND LESS THAN 1% OF WHEY (FROM MILK), CONFECTIONER’S CORN FLAKES, NONFAT MILK, SALT, LACTIC ACID ESTERS, SOY LECITHIN, SOYBEAN OIL, CORNSTARCH, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID (ADDED TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), YELLOW 5, RED 40. CONTAINS: PEANUT, MILK, SOY. 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.

So that’s the full ingredient list, all 67 of them. Let’s break it down by item:

The Drink – Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters in Wild Cherry

WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CITRIC ACID, SUCRALOSE (SPLENDA(R) BRAND SWEETENER), NATURAL FLAVOR.

We start with a “Flavored Water Beverage.” What your child is actually drinking is water with 2 types of  sweeteners, (because apparently HFCS is not sweet enough on its own) and some good old natural flavors (who knows where those came from).

The Meat – Oscar Mayer Bologna

BOLOGNA MADE WITH CHICKEN & PORK – MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, WATER, PORK, CORN SYRUP, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, POTASSIUM LACTATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, FLAVOR, SODIUM NITRITE, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SUGAR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE.

Wouldn’t it be nice, if for once, meat was just meat? No sweeteners, fillers, preservatives, or nitrates. Is that too much to ask?

The Cheese – Kraft American

PASTEURIZED PREPARED AMERICAN CHEESE PRODUCT – MILK, WHEY, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MILKFAT, SODIUM CITRATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, LACTIC ACID, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), ENZYMES, CHEESE CULTURE, WITH STARCH ADDED FOR SLICE SEPARATION.

It shouldn’t take 13 ingredients to make cheese.

The Cracker – Ritz 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.

Notice the first ingredient? It is unbleached enriched flour. That is white flour with synthetic vitamins added. They also threw in some sugar, and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) for good measure.

The Candy Bar – Butterfinger

CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, GROUND ROASTED PEANUTS, HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL, COCOA, MOLASSES, AND LESS THAN 1% OF WHEY (FROM MILK), CONFECTIONER’S CORN FLAKES, NONFAT MILK, SALT, LACTIC ACID ESTERS, SOY LECITHIN, SOYBEAN OIL, CORNSTARCH, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID (ADDED TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), YELLOW 5, RED 40.

The only thing this candy bar is missing is the artificial sweeteners. It has almost all the other favorites – preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, and hydrogenated oils.

Once your child finishes the box, they will have consumed 22 grams of sugar and only 1 gram of fiber. That sounds more like a dessert than lunch and that doesn’t take into account all the artificial additives, colors, and preservatives. After seeing the breakdown of what’s in Bologna + American Cracker Stacker with Juice, does it change the way you think about Lunchables? Should this product be considered lunch for our children? The food manufactures are extremely smart. They know we are all busy. They know we are looking for shortcuts and ways to simplify our lives. They know we want to feed our children well, so they plaster statements like “Made with Whole Grains” and “excellent source of protein and calcium” on their products and marketing materials. Don’t fall prey to their tricks anymore. Make the commitment to read the label and understand what’s REALLY in your food.

Photo Credit: Like_the_Grand_Canyon via Flickr