Lunchables have always seemed like a fantastic idea and lunch solution for busy parents and even adults on the run. But, recently there has been a massive increase in concern surrounding the actual nutrition in these trays.
Sure, you get a very convenient, quick, and easy lunch solution to help you save on a lot of meal prep time, but is it really worth the extremely high fat, sugar, and sodium content they contain?
This has forced many to start looking at alternative options, mainly, making their very own DIY Lunchables.
So, how do you make your own Lunchables? To make DIY Lunchables, we suggest using a ratio that includes choosing 2 fruits and/or vegetables, 2 proteins, and 1 carbohydrate. This formula creates well-rounded meals that can be easily customized into dozens of delicious combinations.
In this article, we will be looking at exactly why you should consider making your own Lunchables and where to start.
We have also included some delicious ideas and tips you can follow to create a well-balanced, nutritious, yet still absolutely delicious lunch.
What Are Lunchables?
Lunchables are an extremely popular and well-known product in the United States. But, if you’re on the hunt for them in other parts of the world, don’t be surprised if they’re nowhere to be found.
They are manufactured by Kraft Heinz in Chicago and feature an array of popular varieties.
What they basically are is an on-the-go sealed tray of food that contains a bunch of snack items such as combos of meats, cheeses, and crackers as well as a variety of types of pizzas and even nachos.
Lunchables actually have about 30 different food combinations! Some of these trays even contain drinks and dessert items.
A few of the most famous and popular Lunchables include;
- Turkey And American Cracker Stackers; crackers, turkey slices, slices of American cheese, Reese’s peanut butter cup, and a Capri Sun.
- Extra Cheesy Pizza; Kraft cheese blend, pizza crust, and pizza sauce.
- Nacho Cheese Dip & Salsa; round tortilla chips, nacho cheese dip, and salsa.
- Mini Hotdog; two mini hot dogs and buns, a Hershey bar, ketchup and mustard, and a Capri Sun.
Lunchables‘ Questionable Nutrition
While these pre-packaged ready-to-go lunches can feel like a saving grace for busy parents, you’re likely to be a bit concerned after looking deeper into the nitty-gritty health components.
The first area of alarm is the amount of saturated fat and sodium these lunch trays contain.
It has been reported that one pack on average contains 9 grams of saturated fat alone! They also contain almost two-thirds (2/3) of sodium for a child’s maximum recommended daily intake.
Additionally, it has been reported that one Lunchable (such as the dessert trays) can contain roughly 65 grams of sugar – that’s more than 4 tablespoons!
And, then you don’t even want to start talking about all of the flavor enhancers, stabilizers, and preservatives the manufacturer adds to make sure the food is tasty and can last a lifetime!
The bottom line is that while they’re perfectly fine as once in a while treat, they’re not something that’s going to support your overall health if you’re eating them on a regular basis.
Benefits Of Making Your Own Lunchables
By now you’re probably ready to retire Lunchables from your weekly grocery list, but what else could be as easy to grab and go?
Don’t worry, we have you covered. Keep reading to find out how simple it is to create your own tasty (and nutritious) versions.
As you embark on your DIY Lunchables adventure, here’s a bit more motivation to take the plunge.
- This is a much healthier option compared to buying Lunchables and you know exactly what (and the quality) you are putting inside.
- You have much better control over portioning and your diet (or your kids’ diet).
- They are extremely customizable and you will never run out of options.
- You can cater to an individual’s dietary requirements. For example, use gluten-free or nut-free items for people with intolerances and allergies.
- It is a fun activity to do with the kids or your partner and it is very interactive. It can also help teach them to be decisive, make good dietary decisions, and how to plan in advance.
- Speaking of advance, you can also prepare a whole weeks’ worth in one day!
- It is a much more cost-effective way to make lunches and your money is being spent on high-quality ingredients that provide significantly more nutrition.
How To Make Your Own Lunchables At Home
Lunchables are extremely easy to make and customize at home – it will actually shock you! The most difficult part is in choosing exactly what to add and how much of it.
Now, naturally when it comes to quantities, a 5-year old won’t be able to eat as much as a 30-year old adult. So, use your discretion when working with quantities – you know what is reasonable and what is not.
And, if you are still unsure, you can go to hundreds of sites that will give you an in-depth guideline on quantities.
Okay, so deciding what to put into your lunch box. We always use the golden ratio which includes 2 fruits or vegetables, 2 proteins, and only 1 carb.
You can use this as a guideline of what type of food to include. It still gives you a ton of flexibility while simultaneously limiting you to overeating and packing.
Now that you have the ratios down, how do you actually pack it? We love using reusable muffin cups to separate the ingredients or food items inside a lunch box.
You can also buy lunch boxes that already have dividers, and even better yet, adjustable dividers!
This is the simplest solution but you also don’t always need it. Sometimes, the foods won’t affect each other too much and you can pack them in two small containers instead of buying new ones.
Best DIY Lunchables Ideas
Let’s look at some delicious ideas for Lunchables and variations you can try.
Remember to follow the ratio of 2 fruits or vegetables, 2 proteins, and 1 carbohydrate and it will be as easy as grabbing it off the shelf!
Another great idea is to make your own parent-approved list for the kids and allow them to choose what they want from each column.
This way you can ensure that you stick to a budget, keep your whole family on a healthy diet, and make it fun and easy for everyone.
Fruits Or Vegetables
Now, you don’t have to choose one fruit and one vegetable. You can choose two fruits for one day and the next two vegetables. Like we keep saying, it is completely customizable!
We highly recommend adding unprocessed fruits and vegetables – this is very important to maintain the integrity of the nutrition component.
Also, choose something that will last the entire day without spoiling.
Some of our favorite fruits include grapes, berries, cherry tomatoes, and whole fruits like bananas, citrus, stone fruits, and pears.
Any fruit that will discolor once it has been cut should be left as is until you are ready to eat it. Once cut it loses flavor and moisture.
Some of our favorite snacking vegetables are mini cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower bites, and even bell peppers.
You should also consider seasonality. This means you should look at what is in season during the time of year you’re in.
For example, don’t expect to find great quality strawberries in the middle of winter. Not only will they cost you a fortune, but they will also not taste the way the fresh summer berries do!
The best produce is always in-season produce!
Choosing a protein can be quite difficult, but you can really get creative here.
Some of our favorite options include;
- Cured meat slices (pepperoni, chorizo, salami)
- Sausages (chicken sausage, pork bangers, hotdogs)
- Chicken nuggets
- Beef patties
- Eggs (boiled)
We like to use mini versions of these or slices, but alternatively, you can simply portion and divide larger items like beef patties.
This can be literally any form of carb you’d like. You can even use gluten-free alternatives if you don’t want to have any gluten in your diet.
We like using individual pieces of bread like pitas, buns, or even toasted wraps. You can also add crackers, pretzels, or chips.
Any of these are good as long as you monitor the sodium intake and make sure the processed products don’t contain anything you don’t want them to.
Luckily, there are thousands of options to choose from at your local grocery store.
You can of course add some other things if you really want to treat yourself or if you feel like you need more variety.
Cheese is one of our personal favorite options and again, you can choose virtually anything you would like. Just make sure it is a cheese that can withstand room temperature when you are on the go without a fridge.
Sauces can also be easily added in small containers and will be fantastic alongside foods like nuggets or fresh-cut vegetables.
We are obsessed with hummus, homemade ketchup, and even homemade mayonnaise.
Another great addition would be a drink. Naturally, water is the number one choice, but you can also substitute soda with sparkling water for the same fizz.
Fruit juices are also a good option, but try using freshly squeezed juice and adding some in moderation. Fruit juices tend to be very high in sugars, albeit natural.
Lastly, you can add a sweet treat to your lunchables box, but make sure they aren’t too unhealthy.
Remember, the main reason we are creating our own is to control the nutrient intake. So, delicious options would be sugar-free cookies, dark chocolate pieces, or even healthy muffins.
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