Lunchbox Wars: The Cracker Lunches

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Are your kids drawn to those brightly packaged boxed lunches inconveniently displayed right at kid’s eye level in the refrigerator section of the supermarket? Mine are. They know the answer is going to be no, but they sometimes ask anyways: “Can we get one of those mom?”

Imagine my girls’ surprise yesterday when I stopped our cart right in front of the display and told them to go ahead and choose one! (Really?! No, I haven’t lost my mind… you’ll see).

What did they choose?
Surprisingly, of all the varieties available, they both chose similar lunches (on left).  They both have deli meat, processed cheese and crackers.  One has an artificial fruit juice flavored water and sour candy; the other sugar free gelatin, bottled water and two dry chocolate chip cookies. Neither have fruits or vegetables!

Why did I buy my kids a processed lunch?
I didn’t really buy them for my girls, I bought them for me – so I could remake them with better ingredients and show you how! See, I haven’t lost my mind!

Round 1 – Contents

My versions: one packed in reusable EasyLunchboxes, the other in a Lock & Lock divided bento box. Both contain smoked ham from the deli, yellow & white sharp cheddar cheese, and whole wheat crackers. I’ve also added baby carrots to my stacker remake, and replaced the candy with Annie’s Homegrown Organic Fruit Snacks – still a treat, but one with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, that’s made with fruit juice.

My version of the combo replaces the cookies & gelatin with apple slices. I used cookie cutters to cut some of the cheese in heart and star shapes, and arranged the food more pleasingly. In my cracker deli box remake I rolled the ham and skewered it on toothpicks, like party food.

Round 2 – Nutrition

The nutritional content of both packaged lunches is nearly identical, and the same is true for my remakes. My versions have twice as much fiber thanks to the addition of the carrots and apple.
All four lunches have about the same amount of protein. But the processed lunches have 25% more calories, 30% more fat and are 25% higher in sodium. They are also 30% higher in carbohydrates, probably since they have twice as much sugar as my homemade versions!

Round 3 – Taste

No contest – the homemade versions win! My 10 year old boy and 9 year old girl got the “MOMables” for lunch, and the little girls got the packaged lunches they chose. While they were excited at first, the novelty wore off once they tasted the ham (water added, flavor added) and American “cheese product”.
They tried to trade for the better versions their siblings had, but nobody was willing. My 9 year old did say she’d take the ham they didn’t want – but after taking one bite she gave it back.

The winners are the homemade “MOMables”!

Which would you rather give your kids? And which would they rather find in their lunch bag?

This test reminded me to not sacrifice taste for convenience.  You too can make your own fresh & healthy “MOMables” like these, and more, with the help of MOMables menu plans! And if you want to make them cute, that’s easy too, all you need is a cookie cutter and a little imagination.

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