Is That Right? New Lunchables Are 'Wholesome'
You've got to hand it to the folks at Kraft. They are pretty darned crafty.
The company's recently added a new line of Lunchables to its repertoire. Earlier incarnations of the packaged-lunch products have often been cited as poor choices for kids' lunches because of all the calories, fat and sodium they contain and the sparse nutrition they offer.
Kraft's Web site says the new offerings are "wholesome," which my Webster's dictionary defines as "promoting health or well-being of mind or spirit" or "promoting health of body." That's a very clever way of suggesting health-promoting qualities without actually coming out and making a health claim. "Wholesome" has the added advantage of bringing to mind the word "whole," which, as applied to foods, is one of the current top buzzwords implying healthfulness.
Kraft notes that its new Turkey + Cheddar Sub Sandwich Lunchables product, for example, now features "spring water" and applesauce, "bread made with whole grain," "turkey made with 100% turkey breast," plus 2% cheddar cheese. Rounding out the little lunch is a serving of Mini Nilla wafers and a sleeve of Tropical Punch Kool-Aid powder.
The new package has 360 calories, 70 of them from fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium (25 percent of the Daily Value). This may well be an improvement over the previous turkey-and-cheddar-cracker-based Lunchable, which comes with a 100-percent-juice Capri Sun beverage, has 420 calories, 120 of them from fat, 750 mg of sodium, and just a single gram of fiber. The older cracker variety (the sub sandwich is a new innovation) remains in the lineup.
But I invite you to scan the rest of the ingredients in the new Turkey + Cheddar Sub Sandwich Lunchables. Does it look "wholesome" to you? Kraft has managed to turn a simple turkey and cheese sandwich, something every caretaker able to buy a Lunchable ($3.49) can easily afford and quickly slap together to stick in a lunchbox, into a chemistry set. Just reading the list of ingredients -- I stopped counting at 119 -- is exhausting; perhaps they figure we'll just give up.
The applesauce is made with apples, apple juice concentrate, water and ascorbic acid (or Vitamin C, which likely accounts for the meal's providing 100 percent of the Daily Value for this nutrient, for which the other variety, even with its real fruit juice, only offers 25 percent of the DV). So far, so good.
But as for that lovely "spring water," Kraft takes its time mentioning the artificially sweetened drink mix that comes with it. The touted 2 percent cheddar cheese turns out to be "2% milk reduced fat cheddar pasteurized prepared cheese product." And about that "bread made with whole grain." Would that be the white wheat bran that appears far down the list of the bread's ingredients, long after the "enriched bleached wheat flour"? Or the malted barley flour, which, while it does impart some fiber, is added to baked goods mainly to keep them soft and moist? Or the wheat germ, of which the bread contains 2 percent or less? In any case, the whole meal -- applesauce and bun included -- provides just 4 grams of fiber, or 16 percent of the DV.
When my kids were really little, I'll admit I succumbed once or twice to their requests for Lunchables; they were in turn succumbing to peer pressure, particularly from the example of one child who was so "lucky" she got to take a Lunchable to school every day. While my family's outgrown Lunchables altogether, I can still sympathize with the parent who occasionally caves and provides a Lunchable as a treat.
But to pretend that these meals are "wholesome" strikes me as absurd. What about you?
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