Prepackaged lunches are convenient and appealing to kids, but they aren’t a healthy idea for your children to take to school, according to a UGA nutritionist.
“They’re pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to lunch foods for school children,” said Connie Crawley, a Cooperative Extension food, nutrition and health specialist, after a review of products such as Oscar Meyer’s Lunchables.
“The prepackaged lunches don’t even pretend to be nutritious,” she said. “Generally, they’re very high in sodium, low in fiber and very high in fats, particularly saturated fats.”
The nutrition content of the products varies greatly, Crawley said, but all on the poor end of the scale. Most are low in calcium, an important nutrient for growing children. They generally contain no milk, fruit or vegetables and come with sugary fruit drinks instead of juices.
The lunches also have ample packaging, and buyers end up with more packaging than food, according to Crawley. They also don’t fit easily into an insulated lunch box.
“You’re definitely not getting a bargain,” she said.
Crawley recommends that parents pack lunch for their children themselves, and that raw vegetables including carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes are good options. Leftovers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a bagel with cream cheese are also good choices.
Include low-fat milk with a cold source in an insulated lunch box. Or have your children get milk at school.