Pre-made lunch vs. homemade lunch

SO, WHY DO PEOPLE BUY Lunchables and Uncrustables?

Maybe to save time?

Well, if you look at ingredient highlights for each below, it’s clear any time saved in making and packing a lunch is completely negated by the sugars, hydrogentaed oils, and ingredients which have been linked to serious health issues.


  • The turkey contains dextrose (a corn sugar) and artificial smoke flavoring, which has recently been called out in Europe as potentially being linked to serious health problems.
  • The cheese is noted to be a “pasteurized prepared cheese product” which is different from actual cheese.
  • The crackers have sugar and hydrogenated oils
  • The cookies have sugar and high fructose corn syrup as well as hydrogenated oils
  • The drink mix contains two sugars, two sweeteners (acesulfame potassium and sucrolose, both calorie-free artificial sweeteners deemed safe in limited amounts by the FDA but with potential side effect which are still being researched) and two dyes.
  • All told, this lunch contains six instances of sugars, two instances of hydrogenated oils, and five substances that may or may not cause serious health problems.


  • The bread contains high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils
  • The peaunut butter contains sugar and dextrose (a corn sugar)
  • The jam contains high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar
  • This sandwich contains six instances of sugars

Maybe because of the “pester factor”?

Everyone likes to indulge their kids with special treats. But this isn’t a treat, it’s lunch. As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids about eating and nutrition. Let’s not leave the job up to big food companies. What to eat, how to prepare it, when and how to eat it, and how much to eat are all valuable parts of our food culture that are becoming lost as more people rely on heat and eat meals, fast food, and processed food items like these. Packing lunch is a relatively easy way to pass along some good food culture to kids.

Maybe it’s cheaper?

There’s no denying that pre-made lunches like these can seem cheaper than the healthy, organic, homemade alternative. But since they are filled with added sugars and refined carbs, they aren’t as filling or satisfying, leaving kids hungry, sleepy, and/or cranky in the afternoon. Also, the potential health problems linked to eating refined carbs and added sugars on a daily basis — like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes — are much more costly in so very many ways. (Not to mention the additives whose side effects are still being researched.)

SO, HOW DO THESE PRE-MADE LUNCHES COMPARE price-wise to a healthy, organic alternative?


Lunchable lunch $3.00 ($2.33 on sale)
Six cheddar cheese pieces, six turkey discs, six crackers, a 6.5 oz bottle of water, a pack of Nilla wafer minis, four ounces of apple sauce, a pack of Kool Aid tropical punch powder

Healthy alternative lunch $3.98
Antibiotic-free turkey and cheddar sandwich on organic whole wheat bread, water in a reusable bottle, apple slices (organic), and an organic (and/or homemade) cookie. (I allocated 2 oz each of turkey and cheese.)

– 2 oz Applegate Farms Roasted Turkey Breast (antibiotic and nitrate free): $1.24
– 2 oz Organic Mild Cheddar Cheese (rBGH-Free): $1.06
– 2 slices Organic Whole Wheat Bread (no HFCS): $.42
– Water: $0
– 1 Organic Apple, sliced: $.89
– 1 Cookie (organic, no HFCS or hydrogenated oils): $.37

Difference: $.98 ($1.65 on sale)


Uncrustables lunch $2.99 for 4 ($.75/each)
Contains: peanut butter and strawberry jam on white bread

Healthy alternative lunch $.90
Organic, natural peanut butter (without sugar) and organic jam (without HFCS) on organic whole wheat bread (no HFCS). (I based prices on serving sizes indicated on product labels.)

– Organic Peanut Butter (2 tbsp): $.27
– Organic jam (1 tbsp): $.21
– Organic Whole Wheat Bread (2 slices): $.42

Difference: $.15

THE BOTTOM LINE: To save $.15 and 10 minutes, the Uncrustable isn’t worth it. The ingredients are nutritionally poor compared to the healthy alternative. The $1 saved with a Lunchable may make it seem like a better choice for the food bill. But from a nutritional, health, and food culture standpoint, it can’t compare with the healthy alternative lunch. It’s definitely not the better choice for our kids.

5 comments for “Pre-made lunch vs. homemade lunch

  1. layla kidd
    April 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    This mother’s video needs to be up on teacher’s websites! I especially agreed with the point that parents need to be ‘stronger’ about not giving in to children’s wanting junk food because of packaging and sugar content! Well done!

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