School’s back in session! For some of you, that means the work is just starting, and it’s time to pack some delicious, healthy snacks for your little monsters! If you don’t have kids, don’t worry: you’re all invited to join us in this little jaunt down memory lane…and the rather questionable lunchbox choices of our past!
So, here they are: five of the worst possible lunchbox choices, that we either made for others or enjoyed ourselves!
As a staple in lunchboxes across the United States, the iconic Lunchables is, sadly, one of the worst offenders on this list. Although incredibly practical for parents (and wholeheartedly approved by most kids), Lunchables and the like are classic examples of convenience over proper nutrition. At a glance, they contain all a kid could need to make it through the day: crackers, cheese, some protein, sugary treats and ‘juice’. But a closer inspection reveals just how bad these portable little ‘combo meals’ really are.
Highly processed `proteins’. Juice drinks that are barely more than sugary water. Crackers jam-packed with salt and hydrogenated oils. And loads of harmful additives! There are very, very few options in the ‘lunch kit’ market that are not downright awful (nutrition wise) but oh, do kids love them. And so did we! Thankfully, Lunchables are some of the easiest meals to ‘swap out’ for much healthier alternatives!
PRO-TIP: Make your own ‘Lunchables’ with whole grain crackers, low-fat cheese (or hummus!), healthy tuna sada or baked chicken, baby carrots, dark chocolate and ‘100% juice’ juice boxes (or water)
Woooooh! Remember these? Although you might have cherished memories of gulping one of these down (or of the WEIRD TV commercials featuring the torture of animated SqueezIt bottles by thirsty teens), let me tell you, it’s a blessing they’re gone. For your sake. For the sake of every child you know. These gimmicky drinks were so laden with sugar (and less than 10% actual fruit juice) that they could supply you with over 100% of the daily value of sugar you needed with just one bottle. No wonder we were so hyper.
PRO-TIP: Go for 100% juice, water, or fat-free or 1% milk — even chocolate milk is better than these things!
Fruit by the Foot / Fruit Roll-Ups / Gushers
Alright! Here’s the one item that made parents feel like they were being slightly more responsible by feeding their kids ‘healthier’ sweets. The one that made kids think they were more mature because they were enjoying a fruit product! These three products are essentially the same (sugary, fruit-flavored water), and sadly, like many items on this list, delicious cavity-magnets! Since part of their appeal was also their constant stickiness, these snacks could also pull out fillings or erode enamel from being stuck on the teeth for too long. All in all, it’s safe to say dentists were not the biggest fans of these fruity sweets. The good news: you can make home-made versions of it, and they’re usually way healthier too.
PRO-TIP: Have some real fruit instead or search for fruit snacks made with 100% juice. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, make your own by following the recipes in the links above!
Sunny Delight (Sunny D)
Talk about every dentist’s nightmare. Sunny Delight (or Sunny D for our younger audiences) is the iconic orange drink of our childhoods…and probably why some of us developed diabetes later on. All phentermine users know how important it is to cut down on sugar to lose weight. And the problem with Sunny D is that the sugar content is incredibly high, while the actual fruit juice in them is…well…even less than SqueezIt’s. Yikes.
PRO-TIP: Crazy idea! Go with the 100% orange juice! (No, the 30-40% juice products don’t count.) Sure, they might cost a few more dollars, but think about it as an investment in your health. Of course, water is still king. You can also try real oranges, or clementines, Nature’s easy-to-use citrus fruit!
Another staple of the 90’s era lunchbox, Dunkaroos practically guaranteed that you were the king/queen of snack trading in the lunchroom. These were cookies with dippable frosting, so convincing your parents to include it as part of your lunchbox was probably no easy feat, but oh SO WORTH —ehem, so not worth ruining your health for. After being discontinued in the U.S. in 2012, rumors flew about Dunkaroos’ availability north of the border. This led to the adult-targeted, nostalgia-fueled ‘Smugglaroos’ campaign, which encouraged our Canadian neighbors to bring over Dunkaroos to the sugar-starved masses down south!
PRO-TIP: You can make healthier oatmeal cookies at home, or buy honey graham crackers instead! And if you want to recreate that dipping pleasure (for you or your kids), try using low-fat vanilla or strawberry yogurt instead! Yum!
We sure enjoyed some of these foods, even if they make us wonder how we miraculously survived them. But if you need easy and healthy back to school snacks ideas for the little ones (or have cravings for some yummy snacks yourself!), be sure to check out our article on it!
Did we skip some of your favorite (and probably unhealthy) childhood snacks? Do you have healthier alternatives to recommend? Then comment below!