Ahh—remember Lunchables? There was nothing quite like digging into those cute boxes of crackers and cheese, pizza bites, and salty deli meats for some finger-food munching. Unfortunately, while we didn’t pay much attention to the nutrition label back in the day, we surely do now as adults... and most Lunchables and other pre-packaged snack boxes don’t quite make the cut.
Why, exactly? Well, they often include ingredients like soybean oil, enriched flour, sugar, and artificial flavors to preserve them, says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. “I totally get that it's seems like an easy option because they are already packaged for you to take on the go, but you can grab a container and make one of these combos yourself with the same concept but better,” she says. Basically, it's time to give your beloved Lunchables a healthy makeover.
Need some inspiration? Michalczyk shares three healthy Lunchables ideas you can DIY at home. They riff on some of the most popular classics, but offer a more nutritious bent. Come snack time, you’ll feel just like a kid again.
Option 1: Healthy cheese and crackers
“Crackers in Lunchables are not very nutritious at all and often highly processed,” says Michalczyk. To upgrade your version, she recommends using a more nutrient-dense version like Simple Mills Original Sprouted Seed Crackers ($15 for three boxes). Then fix the cheese for a less processed option than the American slices offered in the original. “Think mini Babybel cheese wheels, or part-skim mozzarella slices,” she says. (Organic cheddar is a great option, too—it's ultimately up to you!) To round out the snack and make it more satisfying, she suggests pairing your cheese and crackers with a handful of nuts, grape tomatoes, or fruit like grapes, berries, or apple slices.
Option 2: Healthy mini pizzas
You might love the standard pizza in a pack of Lunchables (and we don’t blame you), but there’s not much nutrition there. Instead, grab a serving of crackers (such as Triscuits Organic Original, $13 for six boxes) and spoon on some of your favorite bottled marinara sauce. “Check the ingredients to make sure you're buying one without added sugar," she recommends. (Brands to try: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce, $7, or Otamot Essential Sauce, $22 for two jars.) Then, sprinkle on some shredded part-skim mozzarella, and top with fresh basil and a piece of uncured pepperoni. "You've got a snack-size adult pizza that your kid self would thank you for,” she says. Here for it.
Option 3: Healthy salsa dip
The original cheese and salsa Lunchable featured mini corn chips, jarred salsa, and a queso cheese dip. Delicious but...not exactly filling fare. Start again with a serving of nutrient-dense crackers, and simply dip into salsa and guacamole (like Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis, $5 for six servings) for a healthy snack that offers more protein, healthy fats, and flavor. “Each of these dips makes this snack more nutritious and are easy to take on the go,” Michalczyk says. Use remaining dip for other meals as dressings, taco fillings, and more. (Or just, spoon that guac straight into your mouth. We won't tell.)
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