February 24, 2014

What are you putting in your kids’ lunchboxes?

We compare popular lunchbox foods in our “Eat This, Not That” feature.

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

The early morning rush can be downright frantic — getting everyone dressed, fed and out the door with their homework in their backpacks and a nutritious homemade lunch in their hands is no easy feat. In fact, some days it seems downright impossible.

Which is why conveniently packaged snacks, sandwiches, drinks and even fruits and veggies get so much real estate at supermarkets. But not all convenience foods are created equal.

We’ve pitted some of the most popular lunchbox items against one another in a head-to-head comparison of calories, fat, carbs, sugars and sodium. May the best fruit snack win.


Eat this: Capri Sun Reduced Sugar Lemonade

Serving size: One 6-ounce pouch

Calories: 60

Fat: 0 grams

Carbohydrates: 17 grams

Sugars: 16 grams

Sodium: 15 milligrams

Not that: Hershey’s Chocolate 2 Percent Milk

Serving size: One 8-ounce container

Calories: 200

Fat: 5 grams

Carbohydrates: 32 grams

Sugars: 25 grams

Sodium: 175 milligrams

Even considering the 2 extra fluid ounces in the serving, the milk has more than twice the calories, 5 fat grams (versus zero),more carbs and sugars and exponentially more sodium. Better suited for a special occasion than the everyday lunchbox.


Eat this: Pringles Cheddar Baked Crispy Stix

Serving size: 1 pack

Calories: 80

Fat: 3 grams

Carbohydrates: 10 grams

Sugars: 1 gram

Sodium: 150 milligrams

Not that: Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Cheese Flavored Snacks

Serving size: 1 package

Calories: 160

Fat: 11 grams

Carbohydrates: 13 grams

Sugars: 0 grams

Sodium: 250 milligrams

For half the calories — 80 versus 160 — and only 3 grams of fat versus 11, The Pringles stix are likely to win more parental approval than the Cheetos hot cheese. Add to that, 100 milligrams less sodium and a few less carbs, and it’s a definite win.

Convenience sandwich

Eat this: Hormel REV Peppered Turkey and Mozzarella Wrap

Serving size: 1 wrap

Calories: 220

Fat: 10 grams

Carbohydrates: 14 grams

Sugars: 4 grams

Sodium: 950 milligrams

Not that: Lunchables Pizza with Pepperoni

Serving Size: 1 package

Calories: 330

Fat: 13 grams

Carbohydrates: 32 grams

Sugars: 5 grams

Sodium: 700 milligrams

With more than 100 less calories and 3 less grams of fat in a meal, the Hormel wrap also has less than half the carbs of the ever-popular Lunchables pizza. Both are low in sugar and the wrap has a lot more sodium, but overall, it still takes top honors.

Mac and cheese

Eat this: Velveeta single-serve Shells & Cheese made with 2 percent milk

Serving size: 1 package

Calories: 180 calories

Fat: 3 grams

Carbohydrates: 31 grams

Sugars: 4 grams

Sodium: 640 milligrams

Not that: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese single serve Cheddar Explosion

Serving size: 1 package

Calories: 220

Fat: 4 grams

Carbohydrates: 38 grams

Sugars: 6 grams

Sodium: 580 grams

It’s a tight race here, but Kraft’s blue-box version of a single-serve mac and cheese loses to its Velveeta counterpart in almost every category — Kraft’s only “win” here is a 60-gram shortfall on sodium — marking the creamy signature shells a slightly better bet.

Fruit snack

Eat this: Dole Fruit Sqish’ems Apple-Strawberry

Serving size: One 3.2-ounce pouch

Calories: 60

Fat: 0 grams

Carbohydrates: 14 grams

Sugars: 13 grams

Sodium: 0 milligrams

Not that: Mott’s Applesauce

Serving size: One 4-ounce container

Calories: 100

Fat: 0 grams

Carbohydrates: 25 grams

Sugars: 24 grams

Sodium: 0 milligrams

With zero fat grams, these fruit snacks may seem comparable, but a serving of Dole Fruit Squish’ems has 11 less grams of both sugar and carbohydrates, plus it also has 40 fewer calories than its competitor. All of which makes it a better lunchbox extra.


Eat this: Little Debbie Fudge Rounds

Serving size: 1 cookie

Calories: 150

Fat: 6 grams

Carbohydrates: 23 grams

Sugars: 14 grams

Sodium: 85 milligrams

Not that: Tastykake Kandy Bar Kakes with Reese’s Peanut Butter

Serving Size: 1 cake

Calories: 230

Fat: 12 grams

Carbohydrates: 26 grams

Sugars: 19 grams

Sodium: 150 milligrams

The primary difference between these desserts lies in the calorie counts and fat content. With 80 less calories, 6 fewer grams of fat and even 5 fewer grams of sugar than the Tastykake dessert, the Little Debbie snack takes the cake in the dessert category.

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