Nurture Life vs. Lunchables
Kids, Nutrition, Picky Eaters

School Lunch Showdown: Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition

When life gets busy (like it always does!), the easiest lunches for kids are totally prep-free, pre-packaged, and grab-and-go. For many families, these adjectives likely call to mind the same school-year standby: Lunchables. But did you know that they also describe Nurture Life’s Cold Lunches?

Our Cold Lunches are equally hassle-free, only they’re head and shoulders above Lunchables in terms of well-balanced, satisfying nutrition for your kids. We’ve put our hearts into developing Cold Lunches that completely reimagine grab-and-go meals, and we want to share with you exactly what’s in them—and what’s not. 

Step aside, Lunchables, and make way for a more wholesome take on ready-to-eat school lunch ideas!

kids lunch ideas

Are Lunchables Healthy?

It’s hard to classify any food as black-and-white “unhealthy,” but most child nutrition experts would agree that Lunchables’ nutrition leaves a lot to be desired. Convenient though they may be, Lunchables focus more on kid-friendly flavor than on healthy nutrition.

That’s why these meals are often packed with:

  • Salt
  • Added sugar (even in savory meals)
  • Fat, including trans fats
  • Nitrates, nitrites and other added preservatives
  • Artificial flavors and colors

Just as important as what’s in Lunchables, though, is what’s not in them—like significant dietary fiber, 100% whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The closest thing to fruits and veggies in Lunchables? Juice packs and tomato paste—far from delivering on the 5 servings of fruit and veggies your kid should be getting per day.

How Nurture Life Cold Lunches and Lunchables Compare

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Pizza

Many of us at Nurture Life are parents too, so we totally understand the convenience of Lunchables. That’s why we wanted to create our own easy lunch solutions for kids, offering the same prep-free benefits without settling for empty calories or excessive processing. As part of our belief that kids don’t need “kids meals,” our Cold Lunches are full of creative ingredients that put nutrition first, while still delivering kid-friendly tastes. To make them extra-easy for school, Nurture Life Cold Lunches are also made in a facility free from peanuts, tree nuts (except coconut) and shellfish.

So how do Nurture Life Cold Lunches and Lunchables compare? See for yourself across three rounds of nutrition side-by-sides below!

1. Cheesy Pesto Tortellini & Chicken vs. Ham & Cheddar with Vanilla Creme Cookies

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables nutrition

Having “vanilla creme cookies” in the title is probably enough to make you question the nutrition of this Lunchable option…but to be fair, let’s look closer than the title.

What The Lunches Come With

Nurture Life Cheesy Pesto Tortellini & Chicken: Ricotta-filled tortellini tossed in nut-free pesto, grilled chicken breast & carrots

Lunchables Ham & Cheddar with Vanilla Creme Cookies: Mini deli ham slices, cheddar cheese slices, crackers & vanilla creme cookies

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition Breakdown

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition Ham & Cheese Crackers

To keep kids satisfied, you need to offer up the right portions of food at the right calorie count. While Nurture Life’s Cheesy Pesto Tortellini & Chicken and Lunchables’ Ham & Cheddar with Vanilla Creme Cookies have similar calorie counts, Nurture Life’s meal has almost three times the amount of food, 5 grams less of saturated fat and over twice the protein. This means there’s more food to keep your kid full, using ingredients that offer significantly better nutrition specs.

While Nurture Life’s Cold Lunch features three different veggies (carrots and a blend of spinach and kale in the house-made pesto), the Lunchable has zero veggies. Nurture Life also offers lean protein with nitrate- and nitrite-free grilled chicken breast while the Lunchables’ protein packs in additives like nitrites and artificial smoke flavor. 

2. Build-Your-Own Pizza vs. Pepperoni Pizza

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Pizza

How do we compare on a more apples-to-apples basis, you might be wondering? Here’s a look at every kid’s favorite school lunch: pizza.

What The Lunches Come With

Nurture Life Build-Your Own Pizza: Whole wheat pitas, shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce with butternut squash blended in, turkey & pork sausage crumbles & apple slices

Lunchables Pepperoni Pizza: White crusts, shredded mozzarella, pizza sauce & pepperoni slices

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition Breakdown

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition pizza

While both of these are a DIY pizza lunch, that’s where the similarities end. Nurture Life’s Build-Your-Own Pizza is a freshly made meal that focuses on satisfying ingredients in their most wholesome forms. From the whole grain pitas to the veggie-filled pizza sauce (tomatoes, butternut squash AND carrots), this Cold Lunch is DIY pizza at its best. And let’s not forget the fresh apple slices on the side!

Compare that to Lunchables Pepperoni Pizza, which has nitrites, artificial flavors and a very high serving of sodium (even higher than the ham and cheddar meal, at 2.2 mg of sodium per calorie!), and it’s clear which pizza offers more nutritional value. This little Lunchable is also less than half the weight of Nurture Life’s Build-Your-Own Pizza and has 9 grams less protein, making it less filling for your kid’s lunch.

3. Chicken Meatball Slider vs. Chicken Dunks

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables nutrition

“Chicken dunks” may sound fun, but these Lunchable nuggets serve up more than mealtime fun…and not in a good way.

What The Lunches Come With

Nurture Life Chicken Meatball Slider: House-made chicken meatball patty, pretzel bun, tomato sauce with butternut squash blended in, fresh baby carrots & Mixed Berry Fruit Bites

Lunchables Chicken Dunks: Breaded chicken bites, ketchup & Oreos

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition Breakdown

Nurture Life vs. Lunchables Nutrition chicken dunks

Both of these dishes feature a main chicken component, but the nutritional value you get out of each meal could not be more different. While Nurture Life’s Chicken Meatball Slider offers a house-made chicken meatball patty free from any nitrates or nitrites, Lunchables’ Chicken Dunks include breaded chicken bites that contain both MSG and caramel coloring. Starting to notice a trend here?

There are also some other big no-no’s in the Lunchables, including high fructose corn syrup and a complete lack of fresh fruit or veggies. Combine that with the 21 g of sugar, and you’ve got a recipe for a less-than-balanced lunch.

A Clear Winner for Your Kids’ School Lunches

When it comes to Lunchables nutrition vs. Nurture Life’s Cold Lunches for kids, there’s really no comparison! If we seem biased, it’s only because our dietitians and chefs have studied the numbers themselves—just like they did throughout the process of developing and refining our meals. 

We offer balanced, more appropriately sized lunch portions of freshly made foods to keep your kids feeling full longer, and we focus on reducing sugar and sodium while excluding artificial flavors and added preservatives. Plus, we do it while keeping the flavors approachable and satisfying to kids!

If you have questions about our wholesome ingredients or our convenient kids meal delivery process, please feel free to contact us at any time. Just send a quick message to support@nurturelife.com.

kids lunch ideas

RJ Bio

Rachael Janas

Rachael joined the Nurture Life team as the Marketing Production & QA Manager. From menu design to nutrient analysis, she covers all things food. Rachael is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a strong foundation in clinical nutrition and a keen interest in nutritious food with phenomenal flavor. Her passion for incorporating whole foods and creative cuisine while focusing on age-specific nutrient needs of children is essential to Nurture Life’s menu design. Rachael has been practicing dietetics since 2011, with the bulk of her experience in clinical nutrition at Loyola Medical Center, specializing in patients with cystic fibrosis as well as critical care nutrition related to lung disease and lung transplant. She also has experience in cardiac health and nutrition during pregnancy. Rachael received her B.S. from Saint Louis University in Missouri and completed a dietetic internship with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Rachael’s interests include creative cooking at home, using a variety of ingredients, spices and herbs for a unique meal each night. She truly believes nutrition and food should be enjoyable and that all food can be enjoyed in moderation.