(NaturalNews) A new line of convenience foods recently became available that is targeted to an even younger market. Lunchables Jr., part of the popular snack combinations from Kraft, hit store shelves across the country last month. With three varieties, Kraft has specifically targeted “Mom’s little ones” who “are always on the go.” Lunchables Jr. snack combinations are available in three varieties:
• Lunchables Jr. Ritz Sticks, Raisins and Peanut Butter – According to the packaging, this variety is a good source of fiber and contains half a serving of fruit.
• Lunchables Jr. Teddy Grahams, Kraft Mozzarella Strips and Strawberry Yogurt Flavored Dip – According to the packaging, this variety is an excellent source of calcium and protein.
• Lunchables Jr. Ritz Bits, Kraft Mozzarella Strips and Roasted Turkey – According to the packaging, this variety is a good source of calcium and protein.
The last two varieties of Lunchables Jr. listed above qualify for Kraft’s Sensible Solutions program. According to Kraft, this program makes it easier to find “better-for-you” products. Per the Lunchables Jr. website (www.lunchablesjr.com), when shoppers see the Sensible Solutions flag “they know the product has met specific nutrition criteria, on a per serving basis.”
Lunchables Jr. comes in a twin-pack, with 2 servings available for $1.50 - $2.30 per pack. The Lunchables Jr. website states that the snack combinations are a way to “begin teaching your little one about healthy snacking options and portion control.”
At snack time, it’s often a struggle to find engaging and wholesome finger foods that are also just right for little fingers and appetites. New Lunchables Jr. snack combinations are tasty and sensible snacks for active little ones ages 3-5 years.
Kraft also claims that the new snack combinations include “nutritious benefits Moms can feel good about.” Darin Dugan, the Senior Director of Marketing Lunchables, states that “(Kraft) set out to create a new product that would make snack-time both entertaining for kids and provide wholesome ingredients moms love."
The Lunchables Jr. website (http://www.kraftbrands.com/lunchablesjr/) has a section entitled “Food Art Maker” which allows browsers to use raisins, Ritz Sticks, and other options to make “art.” The website also has a “Family Activities” section which gives suggestions for different activities kids can do with their parents.
Although the Sensible Solutions flag is designed to highlight a product’s nutritional value, some may debate that Lunchables Jr. has much to offer in terms of promoting the health of children. The Lunchables Jr. Nutrition Facts percent daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet (Ritz Bits, Mozzarella & Turkey variety Nutrition Facts pictured, right), despite the fact that the product is intended for children 3-5 years old.
According to the U.S. Food & Drug administration, “the labels for foods for children under 4 cannot show how the amounts of some nutrients correspond to Daily Values--recommended daily intakes. The reason is because Daily Values for some nutrients, such as fat, fiber and sodium, have not been established for children under 4. This is because current dietary recommendations do not specify appropriate levels for young children. FDA has set Daily Values only for vitamins, minerals and protein for this age group because the National Academy of Sciences has established appropriate levels of these nutrients for this age group in the Recommended Dietary Allowances.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, children ages 2-3 should consume between 1,000-1,400 calories daily, girls ages 4-8 should consume 1,400-1,800 calories daily, and boys ages 4-8 consume 1,600-2,000 calories daily. One serving of Lunchables Jr. Ritz Bits, Kraft Mozzarella Strips and Roasted Turkey contains 130 calories, with 60 calories from fat. This variety also contains 2.5 grams of saturated fat, which is 13% of the recommended daily allowance in a 2,000 calorie diet.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends that children 2-3 years of age consume no more than 1,000 mg of sodium and at least 19 grams of fiber. For both boys and girls 4-8, it is recommended to consume no more than 1,200 mg of sodium and at least 25 grams of fiber. One serving of Lunchables Jr. contains 390 mg of sodium and zero grams of fiber.
The Lunchables Jr. product also contains ingredients which many prominent groups consider unhealthy for both children and adults. These include sodium nitrite, artificial flavor, refined flour, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (trans fat) and high fructose corn syrup.
Sodium nitrate is a chemical added to processed meats that helps maintain the color of the product. In a study by the University of Hawaii, sodium nitrate was linked to an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.
According to Carol Simontacchi’s book “The Crazy Makers,” substances such as artificial flavors and colors, along with other toxins, may be linked to anorexia, bulimia, poor cognition, mental illness, depression, headaches, fatigue, and other ailments.
Studies have linked both refined flour and high fructose corn syrup to an increased incidence of Type II Diabetes.
The following is an excerpt from University of Maryland Medical Center’s Website:
Are Trans Fats Bad for Kids?
Trans fats increase the risk for heart disease. Therefore, children who start at age 3 or 4 eating a steady diet of fast food, pop tarts, commercially prepared fish sticks, stick margarine, cake, candy, cookies and microwave popcorn can be expected to get heart disease earlier than kids who are eating foods without trans fats.
While a person may not get heart disease until they are in their 40s, some of our research here at the University of Maryland has shown that kids as young as 8, 9 and 10 already have the high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries. By starting healthy eating habits early, parents can help their children avoid heart attacks and stroke.
John is an experienced professional in the field of wellness. Along with a BS degree in Exercise Science & Health Promotion, the author also has a BA in Journalism and is in progress on a MA in Health Studies. Among the author's many forthcoming projects are an independent wellness consulting business and a health-related website, along with many articles and books.