Friday, August 24, 2012

Resist the Lunchables

With back to school time in full swing, let's talk Lunchables. I'll start on my soapbox. I figure it's best to come out swinging and lighten up from there! I've read and heard more than a handful of people talking about giving their children Lunchables for snack and/or lunch. The conversations are sort of matter of fact, you know, like it's the norm. I also see ones where it seems the parents are either near burnout or have given up.

What confuses me the most is the amount of people okay with feeding their children this highly processed, who knows where the "food" came from, always has a treat, salty tray of food product. I can understand the temptation to reduce some of your workload during the school year as well as save a buck or two but does it have to come in the form of highly processed food that is not providing proper nutrition to the kiddos and ruining their palate at the same time? For me, it's about nutrition as well as teaching my kids healthy eating habits. Processed meat, cheese and crackers with a water (with "Kool-Aid to sprinkle in a little flavor and fun") and some Jell-o and cookies to top it off is not healthy and certainly will not assist our children with learning how to make healthy food choices.

I usually say this somewhere in a post like this - I'm the Medium Food Mama, not Totally Green, Organic and Crunchy Mama. I appreciate the need for some convenience and the occasional packaged food (can we say Mac & Cheese?) but providing a steady diet of highly processed "kid food" is not good for anyone. I also understand budget. And it truly frustrates me that crappy food is the cheapest food. Better organized people may beg to differ with crappy food being the most affordable because well, you can grow some of your own produce, join a co-op or eat organic rice, beans and veggies most of the time BUT it's just not feasible for a lot of folks. I looked into a co-op myself and it was too expensive to join. I also make a lot of my own versions of convenience foods, not all of it turns out to be less expensive. I walked by a cold case of Lunchables at Target this morning and the price I saw was $1.52. A "meal" (in a lot of people's minds) for a buck fifty is likely gonna trump a sandwich on whole wheat with organic turkey, organic produce and avocado with a side of organic fruit for a lot of people. Unfortunately.

The Lunchables facebook page has almost 590,000 likes. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has over one million. Pages for companies that offer healthier convenience foods for kids like Plum Organics (84,800), Annie's Home Grown (285,800), Amy's (49,300), Clif Bar (110,850) and Nature's Path (267,700) have significantly less followers. So is it about money or lack of nutrition knowledge or just plain denial? I'm not sure yet. From my rookie research though, I lean towards it being a bit of each with a little nostalgia and comfort mixed in.

The challenge of eating healthy on a budget and with little ones that may be a little picky is not going to go away but in my opinion items like Lunchables can. There are plenty of alternatives to these yucky little trays. Here's a few links to give you some ideas.

Mom's Plan
Easy Lunchboxes
The Nourishing Home

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