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Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Lunchable?

Not long ago, I wrote about The 20 Worst Kids Foods. Oscar Mayer Lunchables Maxed Out Cracker Combo, Turkey & Cheddar won the dubious honor of being the “Worst Prepared Lunch.”

But, apparently, my information was out-of-date. A publicist for Lunchables soon notified me that the “Maxed Out” line had been eliminated (presumably because of all of the bad publicity surrounding it). Last year, it was replaced with a new line offering healthier options such as lean meats, spring water, and apple sauce.

Some moms have reviled Lunchables since they were introduced in the late 80s. Why? Because they contain processed meat, crackers and candy. But, Lunchables are working to change their bad reputation. In press materials, they highlight the fact that many of their lunches don’t contain high fructose corn syrup and have less salt, fat and sodium.

The New Lunchables Lunch Combinations are “just like the kinds of foods kids would bring from home, and offer combinations Mom can feel good about,” according to the press release.

It’s true that The Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Combos Meal boasts a whopping 13 grams of protein, but it also contains 780 mg. of sodium. That said, while I don’t plan on buying Lunchables anytime soon, I’m not sure that the lunches I send them to school with are any healthier. I plan to check out The Family Kitchen for some kid-friendly lunch ideas before they go back to school in the fall.

Recognizing the booming market, more and more supermarkets and selling their own ready-to-ead kids’ lunches. According to the Orlando Sentinel, supermarket chain Publix will begin selling healthy, pre-packaged lunches for kids later this month.  And Walmart recently started selling prepackaged kids’ sandwich kits at about 2,100 of its stores.

Now that more moms with school-aged children are working, they often rely on prepacked kids’ meals to pack a lunchbox. The average child ate 25.4 such meals from March 2009 to March 2010, according to market-research firm NPD Group. That’s up from 22.3 three years earlier.

Ironically, mom Michelle Johnston, said that some of the new healthier options might be a little too healthy for her three kids.

“My kids wouldn’t want to eat the carrots,” she said. “I know those would be thrown away.”

Do you give your kids pre-packaged lunches?

Photo: flickr/stalepopcorn

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