DIY: Homemade Healthy Lunchables (that look just like store bought)

Pin It

Homemade Healthy #Lunchables by 100 Days of #RealFood

The number one way to know what’s really in your food – and how highly processed it is – is to read the ingredient label. There are some products that you just know are total junk food without even seeing what’s inside like Doritos, Coca-Cola, and pretty much any Little Debbie Snack. Then there are others that I don’t think are so obvious (to the average shopper), for example… Cheese and crackers? Peanut butter and jelly with fruit? All white chicken strips with a smoothie? C’mon, you have to admit those combinations sound more innocent and not nearly as bad as a Swiss Cake Roll.

It’s no secret that these are some of the combinations packaged up and sold as Lunchables. I can totally see the attraction to buying these “lunches” for your kids. There is no question that they are convenient for the adults and desired by (most) little ones. But, at what point do we stop letting the benefits of convenience outweigh the importance of our children’s health? I know we are all busy. Let’s face it though, we all have the same 24 hours in a day and it’s up to each individual to prioritize what is important in their own life. I don’t think one Lunchable is going to put anyone’s health over the edge, but please tell me that we can all agree this is not what we should be feeding our children on a weekly basis. Let’s take a look at what’s inside.

Lunchables Contain…

Ingredients you know are bad:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Hydrogenated Oils
  • Artificial Flavors
  • Mechanically Separated Chicken
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Sodium Nitrites

Ingredients you do not cook with at home:

  • Sodium Diacetate
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Thiamine Mononitrate
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Calcium Propionate
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • BHA and BHT

Ingredients that are mysteriously evasive…probably for a reason:

  • Flavor
  • Natural Flavors

I also find it interesting that the ingredients for Lunchables used to be listed on their website – because I saw them there with my own eyes earlier this year – but when I went to “copy and paste” the ingredients for this blog post they had strangely disappeared. Clearly the Lunchables people don’t want us parents spending too much time thinking about this stuff. So I took the liberty to type them up for you (below) straight off the package.

Lunchable 1: Chicken Strips with Smoothie

Out of the three lunches highlighted here, this is the one that took me the longest to replicate. But (to make things more manageable) you could prepare the chicken nuggets and smoothies in big batches ahead of time and store them in the freezer. You can get the “knockoff” divided containers I used online or at Target or Walmart.

Homemade Healthy #Lunchables by 100 Days of #RealFood

Lunchable Brand Ingredients:
Fruit Smoothie – Water, Strawberry Puree, Banana Puree, Apple Juice Concentrate, Orange Juice Concentrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Fruit & Vegetable Extract For Color.
Breaded White Chicken Strips – Chicken Strips – White Chicken, Water, Potassium Lactate, Modified Cornstarch, Contains Less Than 2% Of Salt, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Sodium Phosphates, Carrageenan, Sodium Diacetate, Lemon Juice Solids, Flavor. Breading – Wheat Flour, Dextrose, Yellow Corn Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Wheat Gluten, Egg Whites, Whey [From Milk], Spices, Caramel Color, Salt, Paprika [Color], Onion Powder, Extractive of Paprika, Celery Seed Extract. Batter – Bleached Wheat Flour, Food Starch-Modified, Yellow Corn Flour, Dextrose, Flavor, Garlic Powder, Extractives of Paprika, Monosodium Glutamate, Caramel Color. Seasoning Blend – 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 Soybean Oil.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies – Sugar, Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, Folic Acid), High Oleic Canola And/Or Palm And/Or Canola Oil, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Leavening (baking Soda And/Or Calcium Phosphate), Salt, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin – An Artificial Flavor, Chocolate.
Ketchup With Starch Added – Water, Tomato Paste, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Sucrose, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Modified Food Starch, Soybean Oil, Sodium Benzoate And Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Dextrose, Onion Powder, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Spice, Natural Flavor.

Homemade Version Ingredients*:
Fruit Smoothie – Bananas, Peaches, Raspberries, Kale, Milk.
Chicken Strips – Chicken Breasts, Egg, Butter, Breadcrumbs (Unbleached Whole Wheat Flour, Malt Extract, Yeast, Sea Salt), Paprika, Garlic Powder, Parmesan Cheese (Pure Cow’s Milk, Salt, Rennet), Sea Salt.
Dark Chocolate – Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa, Raw Cane Sugar, Vanilla Extract.
Ketchup – Tomato Puree, Sugar, White Vinegar, Salt, Onion Powder, Spices.

*Organic ingredients were sourced when possible. Not all ingredients in the “Homemade Version” are technically 100 Days of Real Food approved, but are still far superior to the store bought version.

-

Lunchable 2: Ham and American Cracker Stacks

Call me old fashioned, but (in an ideal world) I think everyone’s lunch should contain some sort of fresh fruit or vegetable. So I took the liberty of adding organic grapes to this one.

Homemade Healthy #Lunchables by 100 Days of #RealFood

Lunchable Brand Ingredients:
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies - Sugar, Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, Folic Acid), High Oleic Canola And/Or Palm And/Or Canola Oil, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Leavening (baking Soda And/Or Calcium Phosphate), Salt, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin – An Artificial Flavor, Chocolate.
Cooked Ham – Water Added – Chopped and Formed – Smoke Flavor Added – Ham, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of Sodium Lactate, Potassium Chloride, Modified Cornstarch, Sugar, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Ascorbate, Flavor, Sodium Nitrite, Smoke Flavor.
Pasteurized Prepared American Cheese Product – Milk, Water, Milkfat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Whey, Whey Protein Concentrate, Contains Less Than 2% Of Sodium Citrate, Salt, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid As A Preservative, Cheese Culture  Enzymes, Oleoresin Paprika (Color), Annatto (Color), With Starch Added For Slice Separation.
Crackers – Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Shortening (Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil With TBHQ And Citric Acid Added To Help Flavor), Sugar, Leavenings (Baking Soda And/Or Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Whey (From Milk), Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Enzymes.

Homemade Version Ingredients*:
Dark Chocolate - Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa, Raw Cane Sugar, Vanilla Extract.
Organic Ham – Pork, Water. Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Sea Salt, Honey, Cane Sugar, Celery Powder.
Cheddar Cheese - Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Cheese Culture, Rennet, Annatto Color.
TJs Whole-Wheat Wafer Crackers - Whole Wheat, High Oelic Safflower Oil and/or High Oelic Sunflower Oil, Salt.
Grapes – Grapes

*Organic ingredients were sourced when possible. Not all ingredients in the “Homemade Version” are technically 100 Days of Real Food approved, but are still far superior to the store bought version.

-

Lunchable 3: Pizza with Pepperoni

A lot of people seem to think of pizza as “junk food,” but if it’s made with 100% whole-wheat crust, organic cheese and sauce, and accompanied by a “real” vegetable then what’s so bad about it? I say dig in and, if you are a pepperoni fan, treat yourself to an organic version (Applegate makes one) on occasion.

Homemade Healthy #Lunchables by 100 Days of #RealFood

Lunchable Brand Ingredients:
Pizza Crust – Wheat Flour (Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Whole Wheat Flour), Water Sugar, Glycerin, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Yeast, Vital Wheat Gluten, Mono- & Diglycerides, Salt, Xantham Gum, Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Enzyme.
Pizza Sauce – Water, Tomato Paste, Sugar, Contains Less Than 2% Of Modified Food Starch, Garlic Powder, Salt, Onion Powder, Spice, Citric Acid, Dried Basil, Sea Salt, Potassium Sorbate Added As A Preservative, Xantham Gum, Natural Flavor.
Pepperoni Made WIth Pork, Chicken And Beef – BHA, BHT And Citric Acid Added To Help Protect Flavor – Pork, Mechanically Separated Chicken, Beef, Salt, Contains 2% Or Less Of Pork Stock, Spices (Including Mustard), Dextrose, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Oleoresin of Paprika, Flavoring, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite, BHA, BHT, Citric Acid.
Pasteurized Prepared Mozzarella Cheese Product – Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Water, Milk Protein Concentrate, Salt, Cheese Culture, Whey Protein Concentrate,  Sodium Citrate, Milkfat, Sorbic Acid As A Preservative, Enzymes, With Cellulose Powder To Prevent Caking.

Homemade Version Ingredients*:
TJs Whole-Wheat Pita – Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Honey, Yeast, Sea Salt, Ascorbic Acid.
Pizza Sauce – Tomato Puree, Oregano, Salt.
Pepperoni – Pork, Sea Salt, Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Dextrose, Celery Powder, Spices Paprika, Paprika Extract, Garlic, Lactic Acid Starter Culture.
Mozzarella Cheese – Cultured Pasteurized Part Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes.
Carrots – Carrots

*Organic ingredients were sourced when possible. Not all ingredients in the “Homemade Version” are technically 100 Days of Real Food approved, but are still far superior to the store bought version.

 

Full Disclosure:  I clearly had to purchase Lunchables in order to write this blog post. While taking the photographs and making the “knock off” versions I allowed my children to sample everything you see pictured here. I hope to raise children who don’t just avoid highly processed food “because mommy said so,” but instead because they realize it is far inferior. My older daughter didn’t really like most of what she tried (and now knows what this stuff tastes like!), but my younger daughter, on the other hand, would eat anything and everything I put in front of her…including these. That is why I don’t buy this stuff. If it’s not around it is rarely ever an issue. Always a work in progress around here. :)

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

196 comments to DIY: Homemade Healthy Lunchables (that look just like store bought)

Leave a Reply