Are Lunchables really that bad?

The Lunchables war has been fought between kids and their parents since Oscar Meyer's highly-processed lunch kits first entered the school cafeteria scene in 1988 (via The Atlantic). Children beg for the brightly colored boxes of deli meat and snacks, which were intentionally designed to look like a gift. Meanwhile, their moms and dads wage an internal battle; they want to pack their children healthy food...but they also just don't have time to fill a cute bento box with wholesome alternatives. 

Father-of-two Nate Spiller admitted to The Washington Post that he doles out Lunchables twice a week, and feels awful about it. "It's for convenience. When I'm lazy." 

Whether Lunchables are healthy is a question that consumes adults who are concerned about their diets, too. Reddit's u/MrCapitalismWildRide wondered if he could eat Lunchables every day, noting that the conveniently-packed meals are not only cheap, but are the very definition of portion control. His favorite variety clocks in at a mere 270 calories a serving. 

So the question is, how unhealthy, exactly, is a Lunchables lunch?

Lunchables aren't the worst thing you can eat

Lunchables weren't designed to be healthy; the CEO of Lunchables' original parent company, Philip Morris, is quoted as saying, "If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin," (via the New York Times). 

But today's Lunchables website now advertises Lunchables With Natural Meat and Cheese, available in turkey or ham, with white cheddar the same demure yellow hue as the vanilla creme cookie that accompanies it, instead of the usual candy miniature. And according to calorie aggregator My Fitness Pal, most lunch-portioned Lunchables (they also offer snack and breakfast options) clock in at under 400 calories with protein grams in the double digits. Of course, they're also high in carbs.

Even with these changes, the iconic lunch kits may always carry some stigma. But self-proclaimed "Lunchables mom" Nicki Pennington posted on Facebook that we should all remember that parents are doing the best they can to make sure their children are fed. "Here's to the lunchable moms that wake up in just enough time to pick one out of the fridge and toss in with the juice box," she wrote. 

And besides, can Lunchables really be that much worse than school lunches?