This week I spoke on the Fox 2 segment “STL moms” about pre-packaged foods marketed to children called “Lunchables.” The gist of my interview was, Lunchables are a lunch nightmare and discussed the anatomy of a kid-friendly, healthy lunch. The lunchable people heard about my interview…and I received a long, detailed email bringing to my attention all the positive, healthy changes to the cartoon-decorated, boxed meals. I applaud companies such as Kraft for making strides to improve the nutritional profile of their foods. Especially foods marketed to children. Here are some of the nutrition-related improvements mentioned in the email from Lunchable spokesperson: “In 2004 the Lunchables brand offered no Sensible Solution products. Now, the Lunchables team provides 14 Sensible Solution products that are identified with a green Sensible Solution flag indicating the product meets specific, “better-for-you” nutrition criteria, including: o       An upper caloric limit range of 250-600 calories o       No more than 30% of calories from fat and no more than 10% of calories from saturated fat plus trans fat o       No more than 480-960 mg sodium” Well, they are getting closer. However, 600 calories in a meal is still quite a bit for young children, the effort should be ZERO trans fats, and 960 mg of sodium is 40% of all the sodium one needs in a day. Take a look at the ingredient list for the “Maxed Out” Chicken Dunks.  At a quick glance, some questions should come to your mind. Why does white chicken need 12 ingredients? Why is the last ingredient, “flavor?” Isn’t the flavor of chicken, chicken? Sugar in the form of dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, or corn syrup solids is appears in almost every food.  The “chicken” nuggets are basically dipped in sugar, since the first ingredient in the dipping sauce is high fructose corn syrup. I am particularly disgusted by the “browning” of the chicken nuggests in trans fat. Ingredients: WATER: NATURAL SPRING WATER. BREADED WHITE CHICKEN STRIPS (CHICKEN STRIPS: WHITE CHICKEN, WATER, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, POTASSIUM LACTATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, DEXTROSE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM DIACETATE, LEMON JUICE SOLIDS, FLAVOR . BATTER; WATER, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, DEXTROSE , SPICES, GARLIC POWDER, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE , CARAMEL COLOR. BREADING: WHEAT FLOUR, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, EGG WHITES, WHEAT GLUTEN, DEXTROSE , SPICES, WHEY [FROM MILK], SALT, PAPRIKA, ONION POWDER, NATURAL FLAVOR. SEASONING: ENRICHED BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR [BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID], EGG WHITES, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SALT, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL , SPICES, NATURAL FLAVOR, BROWNED IN PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL ). BARBECUE SAUCE: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP , WATER, TOMATO PASTE, DISTILLED VINEGAR, WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE [DISTILLED VINEGAR, MOLASSES, CORN SYRUP , WATER, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, GARLIC POWDER, SUGAR , SPICES, TAMARIND, NATURAL FLAVOR, SULFITING AGENT], MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SALT, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, MUSTARD FLOUR, SOYBEAN OIL, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS , NATURAL SMOKE FLAVOR, XANTHAN GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, SODIUM BENZOATE [PRESERVATIVE], GARLIC POWDER, SUGAR , SPICES, DRIED SOY SAUCE [FERMENTED WHEAT AND SOYBEANS, SALT, MALTODEXTRIN , CARAMEL COLOR], PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (COTTONSEED AND SOYBEAN ), TAMARIND, NATURAL FLAVOR. CHEDDAR BAKED SNACK CRACKERS: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SOYBEAN OIL, CHEDDAR CHEESE (MADE FROM CULTURED MILK, SALT, AND ENZYMES), PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, SALT , AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, YEAST), MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (FLAVOR ENHANCER ), ANNATTO EXTRACT (VEGETABLE COLOR), PAPRIKA, SODIUM CASEINATE, LACTIC AND ACETIC ACIDS, SPICES, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR. ARTIFICIALLY FLAVORED FRUIT ROLL: SUGAR, CORN SYRUP , WHEAT FLOUR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL , CITRIC ACID, MALIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, CELLULOSE GUM, GLYCERINE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, ARTIFICIAL COLOR (RED 40). TROPICAL PUNCH ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR SOFT DRINK: SUGAR, FRUCTOSE , CITRIC ACID (PROVIDES TARTNESS), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), VITAMIN E ACETATE CALCIUM PHOSPHATE (PREVENTS CAKING), ACESULFAME POTASSIUM AND SUCRALOSE (SWEETENERS), ARTIFICIAL COLOR, RED 40, BLUE 1, BHA (PRESERVES FRESHNESS). Size: 6 OZ Upc: 4470036008 I applaud the efforts to offer healthier selections…they better, because they have a long way to go.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.