Are Lunchables Safe to Eat?


School field trip. Three words which were sure to elicit excitement from any school aged child. An event signaling a break from partially congealed lunch and the monotony of school work.

A quick trip to the grocery store with my family and plopping my purchased Lunchable in a brown paper sack and I was ready to go. Many of us can reminisce on the satisfaction of peeling the sealed package apart and the whiff of the contents that tickled our senses.

Today we are going to dig deep, addressing questions that many of us have as our roles have changed, from child to adult and even parent. As a new mom, I have been known to plug random questions into search engines before handing something to my son. Purchasers of this quick and convenient collection of bite size snacks are no different.

Don't miss fun Lunchable trivia here!

How long can Lunchables stay out of the fridge?

Kraft Heinz, the makers of Lunchables state that they can remain out of the fridge and at room temperature (between 68-74 degrees Fahrenheit or 20-23.3 degrees Celsius) for three to four hours.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) perishable food guidelines recommend no more than two hours at room temperature. 

We have all done it, rushed into the house to put groceries away and inadvertently forgot to place something in the fridge. Sometimes it is something as simple as salad dressing and other times it is an entire gallon of milk. Whether it is the Lunchables Duo Dunkers, Turkey & American Cracker Stackers, or the Pizza and Treatza, the guidelines would be the same.

Assorted Lunchable meal kits.

How long are Lunchables good for out of the fridge?

If you are planning to pack a Lunchable, put it in a lunch bag with an ice pack in order to keep the item fresh. I have included a link where Everything Pantry discusses buying a neoprene lunch bag.

Can pregnant ladies eat Lunchables?

Pregnant women can have some pretty crazy cravings during pregnancy. For me, it was McChicken sandwiches. Apparently, some pregnant women really crave Lunchables, but should they eat them?

Pregnant ladies can eat Lunchables if the contents is approved as safe for pregnant women to eat. Since Lunchables contain 2-3 foods in one package, each food must be evaluated based on official prenatal dietary guidelines from a trusted medical source.

During my pregnancy, I was inundated with the “do’s and don’ts” as I am sure many others are. Doctors, friends, and even random people on the street feel obligated to give you their opinions on what you should be eating or not eating.

My doctor and I followed the guidelines from the Mayo Clinic which state that uncooked luncheon meats or hot dogs should be avoided to decrease the risk of exposure to listeria infection, a serious foodborne illness. If you pluck a Lunchable off of the shelf and see that it contains deli meat, you can either not eat that particular content or simply pop it in the microwave until it is steaming hot, and then enjoy it.

Nacho Lunchables for pregnant women

Nacho Lunchables are safe for pregnant women to eat.

Cured meat in Lunchables

You might think that since the ingredient label lists some of the Lunchables show the deli meat as having been “cured” that it is safe to eat. That is not the case. Cured meats are not cooked, so they may carry a risk for toxoplasmosis. Either avoid that meat or microwave until steaming.

Reviewing the ingredient lists on popular Ham and American and Turkey and Cheddar Lunchable both contain pasteurized cheese, and would be safe to consume. 

Lunchables are not bad during pregnancy if the cured meat in the Lunchable is not consumed. Lunchables, overall, do not offer a nutrient-dense food source for pregnant women, as well as being highly processed. Other, more healthy food options should be sought out. 

When in doubt about the contents of any food and the safety for you and your baby during pregnancy, refer to the Mayo Clinic for the most updated, nutrition information for pregnant women.

Pregnant women and Lunchable cravings

The top craved Lunchables by pregnant women are nacho and pizza Lunchables. I won't judge if you don't judge my weird pregnancy cravings! Many women want to know if those two Lunchables are safe to eat when pregnant.

Pregnant women should avoid Pizza Lunchables that contain the ingredient pepperoni. However, the "Extra Cheesy Pizza" Lunchable contains no cured meat and is safe for pregnant women to eat.

It's not only about pregnant women having the no-meat Lunchable options. There are lots of kids out there in the "cheese only" pizza crowd.

It is safe for pregnant women to eat Nacho Lunchables. They contain no cured meat or other ingredients that pregnant women should avoid.

About the only things a pregnant woman can eat in a Lunchable are the crackers and cheese. My advice is to be prepared and surround yourself with healthy food options before those cravings strike!

Pepperoni and no meat Lunchable varieties.

Pepperoni and no meat Lunchable varieties. Pregnant women should avoid Lunchables containing pepperoni; they can enjoy the meat-free option.

Can toddlers eat Lunchables?

Meal time can be stressful enough without adding in the tot sized finicky eater at the table. At one point in my son’s life it seemed that he lived off of fig bars, cheese and toast. Exasperated I went to my doctor and expressed concerns about his nutrition.

She said that since I was still breastfeeding he was getting his nutritional needs met and that many toddlers are finicky eaters by nature. When it comes time to wean, we would need to work harder to ensure a healthy variety on his plate, but we cannot force him to eat.

Fast forward and I'm into baby-led weaning, left with a toddler and a mini-ferocious appetite. I like the variety of now being able to feed my 1-year-old food directly from the table, but I need something more convenient when I'm on the run. 

It's safe for toddlers with food eating experience to eat Lunchables. However, toddlers should be supervised by adults while eating Lunchables to be alert for choking or eating issues. Lunchables contain both hard and soft food, and food in friendly toddler-size portion servings.

Bottom line, If you can get your toddler to eat them, go for it. 

With that being said, use discretion with serving Lunchables, as they can be high in processed ingredients, sodium and unhealthy artificial trans fats. Here is an easy tool to look up the food score of what you intend to purchase. You might find it helpful when trying to make smart decisions when buying food for you and your family.

An alternative would be to buy a box of crackers, some cheese sticks, a package of deli meat and have fun making tiny stackable sandwiches with your child. The convenience of the Lunchable is hard to beat, but with some planning and some Ziploc bags you can replicate the meal for a fraction of the cost.

Marketing Lunchables to kids and toddlers

While we're on the subject of toddlers, I want to point out that the Lunchable product is strongly marketed to kids. This is apparent in their products that include candy, as well as their website. I was even surprised to find that the official Lunchables website has a separate parent portal and a kid portal. 

They have a marketing promotion right now encouraging kids to build with the Lunchables (yeah, encouraging the kids to play with their food!). From a parent's perspective, this is not all bad, it gets those creativity brain cells pumping!

Is it OK to eat expired Lunchables?

There are three different food date labels that manufacturers tend to use, including the manufacturers of Lunchables.

It is OK to eat expired Lunchables if the odor, flavor, and texture, are equal to the same characteristics of a non-expired Lunchable. Expiration dates are only guidelines. Physical inspection is always the best indicator if an expired Lunchable should be consumed.

“Best if Used By/Before” would indicate that the flavor of the product would be best if consumed on or before that date. It is not a safety date.

“Sell-By” date is a guideline for the stores for their inventory management. It is not a safety date.

“Use-By” date is the guideline or recommendation on when to use the product for it to be at its peak quality. It is not a safety date (except when used for infant formula).

The USDA notes that food is still safe to consume after expiration dates have passed but to be sure to look for an off odor, flavor or texture which would indicate that the food should not be eaten.

By all means, while cleaning out drawers in your fridge and unearthing foil wrapped questionable items; if you find the unopened Lunchable goodness in there, as long as it doesn’t look like it has turned into the latest science experiment, enjoy it!

If you're looking for lighter information, don't miss fun Lunchable trivia here!

About the author 

Caytlin Matt

Caytlin is a stay-at-home mom, and some days is just thankful that her family is wearing clean clothes. She is learning how to cook a variety of nutritious foods for her finicky food flinging son. She has a background as an event planner and a paralegal, both which are excellent in assisting her in organizing her ever expanding pantry, closets, fridge and freezers.

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